The Marie Claire Future Shapers awards are back for 2020 – and in a seismic year for activism, we've honoured Marcus Rashford MBE with our first-ever Male Ally award for his tireless campaigning towards positive change.
Marcus Rashford MBE has been honoured with a Male Ally award – the first of its kind – in the Marie Claire Future Shapers awards for 2020. Joining 11 trailblazing women, who are being honoured for making the world a better, more equitable place, the 23-year-old Manchester United player has been recognised by our judges for his incredible work in campaigning against child poverty.
“I don’t have the education of a politician, many on Twitter have made that clear, but I have a social education having lived through this and having spent time with the families and children most affected,” Rashford wrote of his tireless activism on Twitter earlier this year. “These children matter… And as long as they don’t have a voice they will have mine.”
In a year that saw the world upended by Black Lives Matter, Covid-19 and the inequality that was brought to the fore by both, Rashford famously caused Boris Johnson to perform a U-turn on his decision to deny free school meals to disadvantaged children during the school holidays.
Not only did the footballer’s free school meals petition garner over 1 million signatures, and see an extension of the government’s holiday activities and food programme into Christmas break next year, it saw an outpouring from local businesses offering to feed families in poverty for free. Fish and chip shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants – themselves struggling to stay afloat amidst the pandemic – were among those to offer support as a result of Rashford’s activism.
“My mum is buzzing,” he said of his campaign’s success. “She knows how much it changes people’s lives, and if something like this would have happened when we were younger it would have changed her life massively as well.”
Rashford, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in October, has been an ambassador of food poverty charity FareShare since March 2020.
Raised by his mum Melanie – who he cites as his biggest inspiration – growing up in Greater Manchester the footballer’s own family relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, the “kind actions of neighbours and coaches”, and occasionally food banks and soup kitchens. Melanie worked full-time on minimum wage in order to support her family. “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked,” the striker told FareShare.
Not only has Rashford made several significant financial donations to the vital work of the charity, his campaigning helped provide an incredible 4.2 million meals for children and families who might not have otherwise been able to eat during the coronavirus crisis.
Rashford has since gone on to partner with Macmillan Children’s Books on the Marcus Rashford Book Club, to promote literacy and reading among children. The footballer and activist said he himself didn’t start reading until the age of 17, and that when he did, he found it a transformative experience.
“Let our children read that they are not alone and enable them to dream. Equip them for obstacles and adversities they might face. Allow them to relate to characters by making sure people of all race, religion and gender are depicted correctly and representative of modern society. No matter where you grow up, talent should be recognised and championed,” he said.
Far from resting there, though, it’s been announced today that Rashford has donated two pairs of his special edition football boots to a Crowdfunder Prize Draw in aid of the Trussell Trust and FareShare’s fight for the 14 million people who live in poverty in the UK.
The first-ever male winner of a Marie Claire Future Shapers award (and a thoroughly deserving one at that), Rashford continues to campaign for a fairer, kinder and more equitable society at a time when we need it most. At just 23-years-old, only one question remains of the footballer, activist and national treasure: is there anything he can’t do?
We can’t wait to see what Marcus Rashford does next. We’re taking bets on Prime Minister….