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Home / Press Release / Malala Day Marks Need for Protection of the Rights of Girls Worldwide
July 14, 2014

Malala Day Marks Need for Protection of the Rights of Girls Worldwide

Washington, D.C.  – In honor of Malala Day, Human Rights First today celebrates Malala Yousafzai and other bold human rights defenders around the world for their work in defending the right of girls to pursue an education. Today, Malala Yousafzai is in Nigeria meeting with some of the schoolgirls who were abducted by extremist group Boko Haram and have since escaped to urge President Goodluck Jonathan to do more to recover the girls who remain missing.

“We applaud Malala’s efforts to keep the spotlight on the fate of the Nigerian girls and to press authorities to act to confront this crisis to return these girls to their families and bring their abductors to justice,” said Human Rights First’s Heather Hurlburt. “We urge the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to take this opportunity to highlight how respect for the rights of all, especially women and girls, lies at the heart of security policy.”

Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani activist who first began speaking out against the Taliban’s effort to deny girls education in her home country at the age of eleven. When she was just fifteen years old, she became a target of the Taliban and was shot in the head and neck and almost died. Her attack gained international attention, and since her recovery she has been raising her voice for girls' right to education, meeting with members of the U.N., government leaders, and heads of state.

In April of this year, more than 230 schoolgirls were abducted by armed Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, whose name translates to “western education is sinful” and is opposed to the education of girls. The Nigerian authorities have been widely criticized for human rights excesses in combating Boko Haram, which many claim has made the group stronger. Allegations have continued to emerge that the Nigerian military knew about the attack in advance and did nothing, and that, against the backdrop of the security forces' appalling human rights record,  it arrested civil society leaders seeking more efforts on the girls’ behalf.

Human Rights First continues to urge the Obama Administration to make clear to the Nigerian government that improving Nigerian justice and the rule of law is a key priority in counterterrorism cooperation moving forward. As Congress and the administration consider further ways to aid Nigeria, the United States should make sure that any assistance it provides strengthens, rather than undermines, the human rights of Nigerians.

For more information contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.