Education activist Malala Yousafzai is asking the world not to turn a blind eye to Nigeria’s women and girls who are still missing out on education.

In an interview with CNN News Anchor Zain Asher about the state of girls’ education in the country, she recalled her own trips to meet students in Nigeria.

“The pain that I saw in their eyes and in their hearts was unimaginable, the atrocities that they’ve been through, the difficulties that they have been through,” she said.

Asher highlighted the fact that attention has moved away from girls’ education in Nigeria after 2014. That year, over 220 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, were kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls international social media campaign. Boko Haram, whose name rejects Western education and aims to institute Islamic law in the country.

Malala survived similar trauma and was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out in defense of girls' education. She used her experience to launch the non-profit girls’ education Malala Fund and ensure other girls can stay in school. 

Asher asked Malala why she thought the Chibok abduction garnered such support. 

“Sometimes certain issues get attention on media and then they fade away because it’s not trending anymore but unfortunately the realities don’t change,” she said. 

“It was that one incident that got a lot of media attention and it should... all of those incidents should get attention because it’s about the safety of these girls. When they’re in school they should not be worried about some terrorist group abducting them, they should be there learning, reading, writing, just as any student would want to do. It’s unimaginable to think about the atrocities that girls have faced there.”

Abductions have happened in Nigeria before and since 2014 with nearly half of girls are not in school in Nigeria’s northeast and northwest states.

Malala has visited Nigeria twice and met the parents of the girls who were abducted by Boko Haram.

Her interview comes as 140 students were taken from school in Nigeria’s Kaduna province  - just the latest in a series of recent kidnappings.

The Malala fund has been working with local girls education activists in Nigeria who are pushing for state-level policy changes to make sure girls have access to safe quality education. The Chibok girls were released and the education ministry has been paying closer attention to girl’s education as of late, Malala explained.

“It [Nigeria] is a challenging place, but that is true about so many other countries as well and that should not stop us from working for education,” she said. “It’s often time these excuses that we use saying that there’s a lot of terrorism, extremism, this country isn’t safe so we shouldn’t work there and things remain as they are, things often worsen. It’s important that we do what’s in our capacity and make sure that we contribute a bit towards sustaining peace.”


Defeat Poverty

Malala Reflects on Visiting Nigeria in the Aftermath of #BringBackOurGirls

By Leah Rodriguez