Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, pledged while on a trip to Nigeria to help release a group of schoolgirls abducted by Islamist activists.
On Sunday, Malala met the parents of the more than 200 young women who were snatched by the militant group Boko Haram from a schoolhouse in the northeastern village of Chibok in April.
Boko Haram, inspired by the Taliban, say they are fighting to build an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria. The group, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has shot down thousands and abducted hundreds since launching an insurrection in 2009
Some of the parents broke down in tears as Malala spoke at a hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.
“I can watch those girls as my sisters… and I’m failing to speak up for them until they are expelled,” said Malala, who was due to meet President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, her 17th birthday.
“I’m dying to take part actively in the ‘Bring back our girls’ campaign, to make sure that they come back safely and they extend their education.”
The girls’ abduction drew unprecedented international attention to the war in Nigeria’s northeast and the growing security risk that Boko Haram poses to Nigeria, Africa’s leading energy producer.
A #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign supported by Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie heaped pressure on authorities to pretend, and Jonathan pledged to keep the female children, making promises of Western aid to do so.
“I can feel … the circumstances under which you are suffering,” Malala said. “It’s rather difficult for a parent to recognize that their daughter is in great peril. My birthday wish this year is… bring back our young ladies now, and alive.”