A photo essay from Malala Yousafzai’s recent trip to meet with girls, education advocates, leaders in Nigeria and mark the 10 year anniversary of her famed United Nations speech.
Ten years ago, Malala Yousafzai spoke at the UN General Assembly about the power of an educated girl. To mark the 10-year anniversary of this speech and her birthday, Malala Day, Malala travelled to Nigeria this July alongside her father Ziauddin and UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed.
Over the course of a week, the group visited secondary schools and met with young women, activists and educators that Malala Fund supports, as well as key leaders in government whose support is critical to driving progress for girls’ education across Nigeria. On July 12, Malala also co-hosted a special Malala Day celebration alongside the UN Deputy Secretary-General for Nigerian government leaders, civil society and young activists. It was a moment to reflect on global progress toward the SDGs — celebrating the women and girl led movements pushing progress, calling out leaders for inaction and urging governments to make transformative long-term investments in girls’ education and our world.
Learn more about the individuals and organisations they met with in the photo essay below.
Malala kicked off her trip by meeting with young women activists and members of Malala Fund’s Education Champion Network. Together they spoke about the greatest barriers impacting girls’ education in Nigeria like the funding gap, child marriage and discriminatory social norms. Activists also shared how they are working to address these problems and get girls learning.
Since 2014, Malala Fund has invested over $6.1M in partner organisations and their programmes across Nigeria. Our partners in Nigeria focus on advocating for amendments to education legislation, specifically for 12 years of safe, free, quality education under the Universal Basic Education Act. Our partners are also training girls and activists, leading data-driven advocacy campaigns and working with communities to change minds and raise awareness about the value of girls’ education.
In northern Nigeria, children face the greatest challenges to accessing education, accounting for 70% of all out-of-school children in the country. Malala and Ziauddin joined the DSG to Maiduguri, a city in the northern Borno state, to meet with government officials and visit secondary schools. She met with young women to learn about their lives, challenges and dreams for their futures. Girls shared about the impacts pandemic and conflict have had on their mental health and ability to focus on their education.
While visiting a government school in Borno, Malala met with young women who participate in an after school menstrual hygiene club run by Malala Fund’s Girl Programme grant partner, Zenith of the Girl Child and Women Initiative Support (ZEGCAWIS). Naomi, a student club leader, told Malala: “Ensuring access to free pads for school girls can practically help to ensure that girls no longer miss classes or drop out of school due to lack of menstrual products.” She and other members are now advocating for the government to have schools provide menstrual pads alongside other essentials, like food, shelter and school supplies.
To lift up the voices of the activists and girls she met with, Malala, Ziauddin and the DSG met with local leaders, including Borno’s Governor Babagana Umara Zulum and Vice President Kashim Shettima. They discussed the key issues keeping girls out of school. Both expressed their support for advancing progress on girls’ access to secondary education. The Governor also reaffirmed his commitment to ensure 500,000 girls enrol in schools over his four-year term in office. Malala Fund’s team in Nigeria will continue to monitor progress on the promises leaders make to girls and work to hold them to account.
This Malala Day, Malala took the podium once again to renew her call for collective action to make sure the next generation of girls are able to learn and lead without fear. She also reflected on lessons learned over the last decade.
“I will tell you what I did not know then… one teacher, one activist, one parent — no one can change the world on their own. What is true is that change can begin with just one person,” said Malala Yousafzai. “To build a world where every child has access to 12 years of quality education, we must join forces. We must bring girls and governments together with activists and educators, parents and community leaders.”
The live streamed event was attended in-person by Nigerian government leaders, civil society and young women activists. U.N. Deputy-Secretary Amina J. Mohammed, U.N. Resident Coordinator Matthias Schmale and Tamilore Omojola, a Malala Fund Girl Fellow also took the stage.
Tamilore is a university student from Nigeria and an advocate for girls’ education. Through her role as a Malala Fund fellow, she fights for every girl’s right to learn in my community and around the world. In her closing remarks at the Malala Day event, Tamilore spoke about how her family’s support and time in the classroom has equipped her with the skills and confidence she needs to pursue her dreams — and how she wishes that for every girl. “With a unified voice, girls everywhere are demanding that those responsible for these commitments are held accountable,” said Tamilore. "We must not fail any more girls, whether as a government, community, or individuals.”
Nigeria’s youth are driving culture and leading the charge for social change. Influencers from vloggers and podcasters to entertainment leaders are increasingly important in shaping public discourse and shifting social norms. To showcase the power of collaboration and the importance of amplifying voices for positive change, Malala Fund brought together leading women from diverse fields including sports, music, social media, and film to share their experiences and ideas for making a more equal future with Malala.
The event was moderated by Osasu Igbinidion and covered issues like feminism, digital activism, young women led movements and more. “It’s important for me that women are able to speak even if they say the wrong thing,” said panellist Jola Ayeye. Women should be allowed to have a voice and I don't mean just in being able to speak but having spaces, having representation, being allowed to go for the same opportunities, being allowed to fail in the same way and being allowed to fail up as well.” Other participants included: Osasu Igbinedion Ogwuche, Dr. Munirat Antoinette Lecky, Susan Pwajok, Maryam Apaokagi, Aituaje Iruobe, Rahama Sadau and Pearl Uzokwe.
Reflecting on the trip to Nigeria and Malala Day 2023, Ziauddin noted: “I have always encouraged my children to move in the direction of their dreams — and every girl deserves that same encouragement, the same opportunity to learn. Education is key to a more stable, peaceful and prosperous future for us all. I hope this Malala Day reminds people all around the world of our shared responsibility to take action to help millions more girls into schools.”
To learn more about Malala Fund’s work in Nigeria, visit malala.org/programmes/nigeria