04/14/2015 10:01 am ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

#BringBackOurGirls Trends Online 1 Year After Abductions, Renews Push To Find Justice

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

It's been one year since Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria, and the world refuses to forget about them.

Topics like Chibok Girls and #BringBackOurGirls were trending on social media websites throughout Tuesday in recognition of the anniversary, with organizations and individuals alike calling for a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to their rescue.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on behalf of the U.N., claiming he "will not stop calling for [the girls'] immediate release," and drawing attention to the mass atrocities enacted by the terror group in Nigeria.

"Over the past 12 months, Boko Haram intensified its brutal attacks on boys and girls in Nigeria and neighboring countries," he said, according to the statement. "Hundreds of thousands of children have been displaced from their homes, and deprived of their rights to live and grow up in safety, dignity and peace. Boko Haram’s killing, abduction and recruitment of children, including the use of girls as 'suicide bombers,' is abhorrent."

Check out some reactions on Twitter to the one-year anniversary of the abductions. (Story continues below.)

In recognition of the anniversary, children's rights activist Malala Yousafzai wrote an open letter to the Nigerian girls who'd been kidnapped, most of whom are still separated from their families and homes.

In her message, Yousafzai reassured the girls that she and many others are still committed to reuniting them with their loved ones:

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.

The 17-year-old also explains why there are reasons for "hope and optimism," including Nigeria's protection over more schools from Boko Haram. Muhammadu Buhari, who won the recent presidential election and will assume office in May, says he's determined to find those who are missing.

Yousafzai -- who gained global prominence after being shot in the head by members of the Taliban for receiving an education in 2012 -- has been a vocal advocate for the missing girls since their abductions. On her birthday last summer, she met with the current Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and parents of the kidnapped students to pledge her support in freeing the girls.

"I can see those girls as my sisters," she'd said during her visit, according to Reuters. "And I'm going to speak up for them until they are released."

Read the full letter on the Malala Fund's blog here.

Listen to Yousafzai read her letter below.

To take action on pressing education issues, check out the Global Citizen's widget below.


  • 1 The young woman is tremendously brave
    As early as 2008, Malala had already begun her fight for education rights. According to the Toronto Star, her father brought her to Peshawar to speak to a local press club in September of that year. “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” she said to the group gathered, adding that she hid her textbooks under her clothes when she walked to school.

    Malala was just 11 at the time.

    Since the failed assassination attempt, terrorists have said that they will “attack” her again if they get the chance; but Malala, who — at the age of 11 also began writing a blog for the BBC, describing her life under Taliban rule — has refused to be intimidated.

    “If I speak truly, I’m a little bit scared of ghosts,” she famously told NDTV in 2013. “But I’m not afraid [of the Taliban]. No, not at all.”
  • 2 She's also tremendously compassionate
    YouTube/Comedy Central
    Malala famously left "The Daily Show"’s Jon Stewart speechless when she told him what she would tell a member of the Taliban if she ever met one face to face.

    She said: “I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you. Now do what you want.”
  • 3 She's fighting for every child's right to go to school
    YouTube/United Nations
    Last year, on July 12, when the United Nations declared the teenager’s birthday “Malala Day,” the youngster stood up to address the dignitaries gathered and told them about how she represents the estimated 57 million children around the globe who are not currently going to school.

    “'Malala Day' is not my day,” she said in a speech delivered at the U.N. in New York. “Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”

    “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world,” she said later. “Education is the only solution. Education first.”
  • 4 And she's inspiring millions of others to do the same
    In the weeks after she was shot, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, launched a petition in her name. The Malala Petition called for the U.N. to recommit to Millennium Development Goal 2, which aims to get every child in school by 2015. The petition eventually got more than 3 million signatures.

    The petition reportedly prompted Pakistan to pass a Right to Education bill, which guarantees free education for all children.
  • 5 Malala advocates for young women everywhere
    AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga
    “We must help girls fight all the obstacles in their lives, and stand up and speak bravely and overcome the fear they have in their hearts,” Malala said at a private dinner in August, per Forbes.

    A month before, the young woman had met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, Nigeria, to advocate for the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram.

    At the time, Malala addressed the girls’ captors: “Lay down your weapons. Release your sisters. Release my sisters. Release the daughters of this nation. Let them be free. They have committed no crime."
  • 6 And her organization, Malala Fund, is changing the world
    AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon
    Malala said at this year's Clinton Global Initiative that her fund is pledging a $3 million multi-year commitment, in partnership with Echidna Giving, to support education initiatives in developing countries, according to ABC News.

    Also this year, Malala and other team members from her fund helped hundreds of Syrian children refugees cross from their war-torn country into Jordan. Malala and her organization have been advocating for the more than 1 million displaced Syrian refugee children and helping them get access to education.

    (In the photograph above, Malala is pictured chatting with a 16-year-old Syrian refugee during a visit to a refugee camp near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.)
  • 7 She won’t let haters stand in her way
    AP Photo/Susan Walsh
    She has supporters worldwide, but Malala has also endured her fair share of criticism.

    She has, for instance, been accused by some of abandoning her own people and becoming a Western mouthpiece. Responding to these accusations, she told the BBC last year: "My father says that education is neither Eastern or Western. Education is education: it's the right of everyone."
  • 8 And her dreams are big and wonderful
    Malala told CNN's Christiane Amanpour last year that she hopes to one day be the prime minister of Pakistan. "Through politics, I can serve my whole country," she said.

    The youngster is a believer in big dreams. "The important thing is to always ask the world to do some things. But sometimes they cannot be done, so you have to take a stab and you have to do them,” she said in August.