(CNN) — On the eve of the one-year mark since nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Malala Yousafzai released an “open letter” to the girls Monday.
(Photo: Malala Fund)
“Like you, I was a target of militants who did not want girls to go to school,” she writes in the letter. The 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner survived an attack by the Taliban, which had singled her out for blogging from Pakistan about the importance of staying in school.
In the letter, she calls on the Nigerian government and the international community to do more to rescue the girls. Nigeria recently held an election.
On April 14, 2014, Islamists with Boko Haram kidnapped the girls, prompting an international campaign for their safe return, which used the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. On Monday, UNICEF announced a new campaign for the 800,000 children who have been displaced in northeast Nigeria, using the hashtag #BringBackOurChildhood.
Malala is admired globally as a figure standing for peace. On Sunday, a NASA astrophysicist named an asteroid after her.
She has spoken with CNN about the Nigerian abductions previously.
Here is the full letter:
To my brave sisters, the kidnapped schoolgirls of Chibok,
On this first anniversary of your captivity, I write to you with a message of solidarity, love and hope.
My name is Malala. I am a Pakistani girl your age. I am one of the millions of people around the world who keep you and your families foremost in our thoughts and prayers. We cannot imagine the full extent of the horrors you have endured. But please know this: We will never forget you. We will always stand with you. Today and every day, we call on the Nigerian authorities and the international community to do more to bring you home. We will not rest until you have been reunited with your families.
Like you, I was a target of militants who did not want girls to go to school. 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.
Last July, I spent my 17th birthday in Nigeria with some of your parents and five of your classmates who escaped the kidnapping. Your parents are grief-stricken. They love you, and they miss you. My father and I wept and prayed with your parents — and they touched our hearts. The escapee schoolgirls my father and I met impressed us with their resolve to overcome their challenges and to complete their high school education. My father and I promised your parents and the girls who had escaped that we would do all we could to help them. I met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and urged him to work harder for your freedom. I also asked President Jonathan to meet your parents and the girls who escaped the kidnapping, which he did a few days later. Still, in my opinion, Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you. They must do much more to help secure your release. I am among many people pressuring them to make sure you are freed.
There are reasons for hope and optimism. Nigerian forces are re-gaining territory and protecting more schools. Nigeria’s newly-elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, has vowed to make securing your freedom a top priority and promised his government will not tolerate violence against women and girls.
“You will have the opportunity to receive the education you want and deserve. The Malala Fund and other organizations offered all your classmates who escaped the kidnapping full scholarships to complete their secondary education. Most of the escapee girls accepted this scholarship and are now continuing their studies at a safe boarding school and with the support they need. We hope to someday extend that same scholarship to all 219 of you, when you return home.
Remember that one day your tragic ordeal will end, you will be reunited with your families and friends, and you will have the chance to finish the education you courageously sought. I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you, and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong, and never lose hope. You are my heroes.