Harnessing the power of stories

Few Cannes Lions speakers this week will have received the kind of rapturous reception reserved for Malala Yousafzai, fearless youth activist, Nobel Laureate and recipient of this year’s Cannes LionHeart. As soon as she walked onto the Lumiere stage, delegates made it clear they are huge fans of Malala’s efforts to open up access to education for marginalised girls around the world.



Speaking to Nadja Bellan-White, global CMO at Vice Media Group, Malala talked about her organisation, the Malala Fund, and its ambition to place girls at the centre of important debates. “Educating girls can help us address problems like income inequality, climate change and how to reduce poverty,” she said.

“By educating girls, we can amplify their voices and get them involved in solving problems.”

Malala always strives to include girls in the decision-making process around key social issues. “because they are the future changemakers. When we did our climate report, we concluded that 12.5m girls are at risk of losing their education by 2025. During the writing of the report, we made sure girls were part of the process. They gave us amazing feedback which resulted in stronger recommendations”


In terms of the role for brands, Malala said Apple had provided vital support to the Malala Fund. More generally, she said companies need to “look at how they operate their own businesses. They also need to ensure they do not just support a campaign verbally. They need to take action to support the people they say they are helping.”


Malala believes fervently in the power of stories and has launched a digital platform and a production company called Extracurricular to capture girls’ stories around the world: “When I became an activist at age 11, I didn’t have data, I just had stories and passion. We want to capture more stories about issues that concern girls like health, gender and climate; because individual stories are a powerful way to connect us and bring people together to drive change.”