After nearly getting killed by the Taliban for fighting for girls’ education rights, Malala Yousafzai is doing whatever she can to protect Syrian refugee children -- and grant them access to learning.
On Sunday, Malala, along with her father, Ziauddin, and a team from the Malala Fund -- an organization that is working to empower girls across the globe -- helped hundreds of Syrian refugees cross from their war-torn country into Jordan, according to her organization’s blog.
Malala arrived in Jordan on Saturday to continue her efforts to advocate for the more than 1 million displaced Syrian refugee children. According to UNICEF, nearly two million Syrian children have dropped out of school since 2012, which is nearly 40 percent of all students between the first and ninth grades.
Malala greeted the Syrians who had trekked through the scorching desert on foot, carrying few possessions -- a scene the Malala Fund described as "heartbreaking."
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a shooting by Taliban insurgents, has said the world must not stay silent over the abduction of more than 200 girls in Nigeria.
Former UN chief Kofi Annan, also appealed for action. He criticised both the Nigerian government and other African nations for not reacting faster to the kidnapping, and called on them to use whatever was at their disposal to help free the girls.
The abduction of the girls has overshadowed the World Economic Forum which opened in the Nigerian city of Abuja on Wednesday evening. The US, UK and France have despatched teams of experts to Nigeria to help recover the girls.
Describing the Nigerian girls as her "sisters" who are "in a prison", Malala said that the only way to stop similar abductions happening in future was to speak out. She described Boko Haram as a group of extremists who did not understand that Islam said believers had a duty to educate themselves, and be tolerant and kind towards others.
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai supporting a social media campaign over the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria last month. (EPA/MALALA PRESS OFFICE)
More than one million people — including First Lady Michelle Obama — have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But whether they’re helping the roughly 250 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria or hopping on some kind of first-world digital bandwagon depends, frankly, on whom you ask.
Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres has tweeted a picture supporting the campaign to find the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. DeGeneres, whose Oscars "selfie" became the most retweeted Twitter post of all time, wrote: It can’t happen soon enough. #BringBackOurGirls t.co/Jf97fQUd7N
Some background on the Islamist group that has been trying to topple Nigeria's government for years.
Editor's note: Melinda Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
I think of myself as an "impatient optimist." There are times, however, when it's harder to muster the optimism, and the impatience takes over. That's how I felt when I read about the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram to be married off or sold into slavery. It's difficult to pinpoint the worst aspect of this atrocity. And it's pitiful that this is nothing new. Treating women as spoils or weapons of war has been a common practice for thousands of years.
Boko Haram has sought to justify its actions as consistent with Islamic teachings, and this is an insult. Many influential voices in the Muslim world have rebuked the group's actions. (To cite just one example, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam's most prestigious theological institutions, said the kidnappings "completely contradict Islam and its principles of tolerance.")
It's frustrating that the Nigerian government, despite an intensifying effort to find the girls, has been unable to locate them. And it's horrifying that hundreds of girls, their parents and thousands of their relatives are living each passing moment in escalating fear -- with no idea whether they'll ever see each other again. My heart breaks for these mothers and fathers. But perhaps the most awful part of the story is that Boko Haram stands against a better future for ordinary Nigerians.
British supermodel Cara Delevingne posted this photo on her Instagram account saying, "Everyone help and raise awareness #regram #repost or make your own!"
Boko Haram is committed to the idea that women are the property of husbands and mere instruments of reproduction. They are particularly opposed to the idea that girls ought to be educated, which is why they target schools. In fact, when girls are educated and free to pursue their passions, they contribute more to a thriving society. When women have a voice, they raise it to demand a life that is greater than what they've been told they have a right to expect. And these demands change the future for everyone.
Nigeria has a population of 170 million. Its economy is the largest on the African continent. The future holds nearly boundless promise, as represented, in part, by the fact that the World Economic Forum is meeting in Abuja right now. But if the country's 85 million women and girls don't have the opportunity to seize their potential, then neither will Nigeria. There are countless examples of places around the world where women and girls are gaining power and autonomy, where the future looks brighter because women and girls are slowly wiping away the old gender norms.
The impressive outpouring of support for the girls -- both within Nigerian communities and around the world -- is an encouraging sign that most people want the version of the future that empowered women and girls will create, not the version that Boko Haram is trying to impose. It doesn't help the Nigerian schoolgirls now, but thinking about the women and girls everywhere who are strong and getting stronger is one way to maintain some of the optimism that must go along with our collective impatience.