Read Malala's Letter To The Chibok Girls

by Lauren Barbato

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The girls were studying "secular" education at the government-run boarding school when the militants, reportedly disguised as guards, stormed their dormitories the night of April 14, 2014. In a show of solidarity, one of the world's most famous women's education activist, Malala Yousafzai, wrote a letter to the abducted girls, calling them her "heroes" and "brave sisters."

"On this first anniversary of your captivity, I write to you with a message of solidarity, love and hope," Yousafzai writes in the letter, initially published on the Malala Fund website. "[P]lease know this: we will never forget you. We will always stand with you."

As a young, preteen activist, Yousafzai garnered international attention when she blogged for the BBC about her struggle to receive an education while living among Taliban militants in Swat Valley, a battle-worn region of northwest Pakistan. In October 2012, when she was just 15 years old, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban after several militants stormed her school bus, calling out her name. "I am Malala," she reportedly said before she was shot.

"Like you, I was a target of militants who did not want girls to go to school," Yousafzai, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her gender equality and education activism, writes to the missing Chibok girls. She continues:

Gunmen shot me and two of my friends on a school bus. All three of us survived and are back in school. Now we speak out on behalf of all girls about the right to get a proper education. Our campaign will continue until you and all girls and boys around the world are able to access a free, safe and quality secondary education.

Yousafzai and her father visited Nigeria last July to discuss the unfolding situation, as well as the overall dangers to education access, with former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. While there, she and her father also met with several families of the missing Chibok girls. "My father and I promised your parents and the girls who had escaped that we would do all we could to help them," Yousafzai writes.

But the Nobel Prize winner then criticizes former President Jonathan and the Nigerian government for failing to bring home the 276 schoolgirls. "In my opinion, Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you," Yousafzai states in the letter. "They must do much more to help secure your release."

However, she adds that there are "reasons for hope and optimism," noting that newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to find and safely free the 219 Chibok girls who are still missing. The Malala Fund will also give all the girls education scholarships once they're freed. According to Yousafzai, her fund has already offered these scholarship to the schoolgirls who escaped last year from the Boko Haram militants.

"Most of the escapee girls ... are now continuing their studies at a safe boarding school and with the support they need," Yousafzai writes. "We hope to someday extend that same scholarship to all 219 of you, when you return home."


"I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you, and celebrate your freedom with your families," Yousafzai ends the letter. "You are my heroes."

On the painful anniversary of the Chibok schoolgirls' abduction, The Malala Fund is also asking for the international community to contribute letters to the 219 girls who are still believed to be held captive by the extremist group. As part of the #DearSisters campaign, the letters will be sent to the families of the missing girls, according to The Malala Fund.

Images: Getty Images (1)