UN women’s rights chief tells Nigerian girls: I see Malala in all of you

Children in conflicts

The leading women's rights official at the United Nations has been to an all-girls school in Nigeria to show her support for education in the country.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, visited a government-run college similar to the one in Chibok, where more than 270 students were kidnapped last month by Boko Haram gunmen.

She told officials and hundreds of schoolgirls: “This is a solidarity mission. We are with you all the way. We are standing with you.”

She promised the UN will “work with you to ensure that when the girls return they are consoled and, with their families, they get the support they need.”

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka was part of a UN delegation that visited the Federal Government Girls College in Abaji, near the capital Abuja.

She reassured the Nigerian public that the entire UN system is committed to ensuring that girls stay in schools and that they do so in a safe and secure environment.

She said that the girls of Nigeria deserve the best education and the best care and support and added: “I see Malala in all of you because you are brave and you overcome your fears every day to come to your school because you know it is the right choice.”

She was referring to Malala Yousafzai, the education campaigner shot by the Taliban in Pakistan.

Among those meeting the delegation was Hajiya Zainab Maina, Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development.

She told the students: “Do not be discouraged. Do not be scared. Nothing will happen to you. You must keep on.

“We want to see to it that many of you become the best senators, heads of local councils, businesswomen, ministers and even one day president of this nation. When a girl is educated a whole nation is educated.”

It was revealed yesterday that Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, has been invited by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to play a lead role in the country's Safe Schools Initiative.

Mr Brown will work with Nigerian officials on the plan. The initiative, based on a report produced by A World At School, is a response to the growing number of attacks on education including the Chibok kidnappings.

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