Malala at 21 – Lessons For Her Nigerian Sisters

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EducationLife Lessons

Spending a birthday on football and graffiti with a group of girls could be considered common and low key. But for a Nobel Prize winner, it is significant.

Malala Yousafzai, the young activist who escaped assassination six years ago, has been in the limelight for her strides geared towards girls’ education. In addition to opening an Instagram account to commemorate her ‘coming of age’, she went to speak to over 1.5 million girls who are currently out of school in Brazil.

Travelling and speaking has become a main feature of Malala’s journey in advocacy which has now been on for close to a decade. After being attacked for promoting “secularism” in the country and moving to the United States, she has not stopped lending her voice to the unique challenges facing women and children all over the world. Although there is a controversy surrounding her Nobel Peace Prize, it doesn’t stop the fact that she is pushing for an important course. While speaking to World Economic Forum on her views about feminism she said; “So I’d really encourage women and girls to speak out against any discrimination, any violence that they see in their community, in their society”

Many girls have stepped into her shoes; we have Marley Dias and Zuriel Oduwole (both included in a Forbes list of change makers last year) who have used their means to advocate for Africa as it concerns education. The 13 year old Marley has mentioned Malala’s book I am Malala as one of her favourites and an inspiration to the #1000blackgirlsbooks campaign, a good leaf she must have plucked from Malala. Nigerian-born Zuriel, who will turn sixteen in a couple of days, is also growing into a name to reckon with when it comes to Africa and in being an inspiration to girls through her documentaries.

Hi, Instagram! So happy to be celebrating my 21st birthday in #Brazil!

A post shared by Malala Yousafzai (@malala) on

With the recent report stating that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor, it re-echoed what Malala said on her blog after her visit to Nigeria last year. She said “Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, but it has the highest number of out-of-school girls in the world. When I first visited the country in 2014, the government spent 9% of its budget on education. This year it’s only 6%. (An international benchmark for spending on education is 20% of the overall budget.)” It was her second visit and according to her, she aimed at reinforcing the voices of girls fighting to go to school. At Maiduguri, she met girls who had a lot of potentials and ambitions hidden in minds fatigued by terrorism. She also spoke about a certain Fatima who escaped from a marriage, just one in a list of evidence that child marriage still rears its ugly head as an obstacle to girl child education. Deaths caused by fistulae and child birth complications resulting from Female Genital Mutilation have not reduced significantly either. It is clear that we have a lot to focus on instead of things as trivial as door opening.

Young girls may not possess physical strength (like those of the rescuers of the Thai football team members) to save a country, but we can be voices in our own way. It is only right that more access be granted for the education of girls without any borders or restrictions, or fears of attacks. Like Malala, we will have no deficiency of young women growing to define a better generation.

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Featured image: Women of Rubies

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