Malala Yousafzai speaks during a meeting with the leaders
of the #BringBackOurGirls Abuja campaign group, in Abuja.
Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived
being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for
girls' education, has pledged while on a trip to Nigeria to
help free a group of schoolgirls abducted by Islamist
On Sunday, Malala met parents of the more than 200 girls who
were kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram from a school
in the northeastern village of Chibok in April.
Boko Haram, inspired by the Taliban, say they are fighting to
establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria. The
group, whose name means "Western education is sinful", has
killed thousands and abducted hundreds since launching an
uprising in 2009.
Some of the parents broke down in tears as Malala spoke at a
hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.
"I can see those girls as my sisters ... and I'm going to
speak up for them until they are released," said Malala, who
was due to meet President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, her
"I'm going to participate actively in the 'Bring back our
girls' campaign, to make sure that they return safely and
they continue 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
act, and Jonathan pledged to save the girls, drawing promises
of Western help to do so.
"I can feel ... the circumstances under which you are
suffering," Malala said. "It's quite difficult for a parent
to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday
wish this year is ... bring back our girls now, and alive."
Several weeks on, the hostages have not been freed and media
interest has waned. Around 200 Nigerians gathered in the
Unity Fountain park in central Abuja on Sunday to call on
authorities to explain what they are doing to get the girls
"Nobody has told us anything about where the girls could be,
what they are doing to try to rescue them. In three months,
we've heard nothing," said Haruna Fetima, one of the parents
at the gathering. "We live in Chibok, and we haven't seen any
soldiers or police in the area since the attack."
Boko Haram, now considered the main security threat to
Nigeria, is growing bolder. Police said on Saturday they had
uncovered a plot to bomb the Abuja transport network using
suicide bombers and devices concealed in luggage at major bus
Pakistani Taliban militants shot Malala for her passionate
advocacy of women's right to education. She survived after
being airlifted to Britain for treatment, and has since
become a symbol of defiance against the militants operating
in the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
She has won the European Union's prestigious human rights
award and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Some see Nigeria's local #BringBackOurGirls campaign as a
rare, albeit small, piece of civil activism in a nation
famous for its shoulder-shrugging indifference in the face of
atrocities or bad governance.
"The negative side of our resilience ... is that things that
would compel other citizens to demand accountability, demand
answers, wouldn't move the Nigerian," said Oby Ezekwesili, a
chartered accountant who has spearheaded the campaign to get
the girls freed.
"That has been broken ... People are saying 'We can't leave
219 girls and just get on with our lives'."