Malala Pens Heartwrenching Letter To Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls

#DearSisters: We have not forgotten you.

Overnight on April 14-15, 2014, armed militants of the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school in the Chinok region of Nigeria simply because these young women had the audacity to learn.

The name Boko Haram itself translates to "Western education is forbidden" and part of their belief system is that women should not be educated. This is not the group's first attack on a school, but it has garnered the most attention.

As their captors drove into the Sambisa forest, a number of girls were able to jump off of the trucks and return home to their families, but 219 remain missing. It is likely they have been used to cook, clean, and have sex with the militants during the past year. Just children themselves, a number of these girls may already be mothers.

The Nigerian government and international influencers have been criticized for not doing enough to secure the safety of the Chibok schoolgirls, so activists have been striving to maintain awareness and keep pressure on government officials to search for the girls.

One prominent activist is Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old girl who was targeted by Taliban militants in Pakistan for daring to get an education. Since she was shot on her way to school in 2012, Malala has been an outspoken advocate for women's right to education.

Malala refuses to let the public forget what happened to the Chibok girls, whom she describes as her “sisters.”

In remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the day that the 219 girls went missing, Malala penned an open letter urging the girls to retain hope. She announced that her charity, The Malala Fund, has offered to cover the education costs of the girls who had been able to escape, and made the same promise to the girls who have not yet returned.

Listen to Malala's heartfelt words:

Transcript:

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 of 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.

Your sister,

Malala

You can join Malala's efforts to bring hope to the missing girls.

The Malala Fund website is soliciting letters to the missing girls. A number of the submissions will be translated into Kibaku, the girls' native language, and distributed throughout the region.

You can also get involved by using the hashtag #DearSisters or #BringBackOurGirls on social media to help spread awareness and keep up the pressure on government officials until all of the girls are returned to their families.