Napier Girls' High School took out first prize at this year's Hawke's Bay Stage Challenge.
The group won with their performance, Rise Up Sister!, about Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taleban in 2012 for wanting an education.
They focused on her life before the shooting, the horrors of her ordeal and the influence of her suffering on all young women denied basic human rights. Their message was to portray the positive things happening in the world today.
Event manager Sarah-Jane Phillips said the girls poured their hearts into their performance at the Hawke's Bay Opera House, Hastings, on Tuesday night.
"You could tell they gave it everything they had. They expressed a really important message - told with conviction."
Design judge Jeff Kingsford-Brown said: "It was a powerful and emotive piece. It was great to see gender discrimination being tackled in such a refreshing way."
Taradale High School and Karamu High School tied for second place.
Miss Phillips said Hawke's Bay put on a fantastic show and she was "blown away" by students' talent and hard work.
"Performances reflect how Stage Challenge and J Rock are great outlets for youth to creatively express themselves and their values."