I speak out for the girls who can’t

 Amina in a classroom in Nigeria. (Courtesy of HUMAN / Malala Fund)

Amina in a classroom in Nigeria. (Courtesy of HUMAN / Malala Fund)

I care about girls’ education because I see the plight of many Nigerian girls today, especially those who are not as lucky as I am.

My name is Amina Yusuf and I am 20 years old. I am from Dakace, a peri-urban community in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. I graduated from secondary school in 2012 and obtained a National Certificate in Education in 2016.

I am currently a girl advocate with Malala Fund. I am also an intern and a mentor with the Centre for Girls’ Education. I care about girls’ education because I see the plight of many Nigerian girls today, especially those who are not as lucky as I am.

Facing cultural barriers to education for girls

There are so many girls in northern Nigeria who can’t go to school. The community where I come from does not value the education of girls. Many girls do not know their rights. Even if they did, they cannot speak for themselves. This is why I want to be more educated so I can speak up for other girls like me.

 Amina and her friends in Nigeria. (Courtesy of HUMAN / Malala Fund)

Amina and her friends in Nigeria. (Courtesy of HUMAN / Malala Fund)

But I am not waiting to finish my education before I start advocating for girls’ education. Even now, I share my knowledge and experience with young girls and their parents. I create awareness about the importance of girls’ education so people know that girls can amount to something. When girls are educated, they are more valuable to themselves, their families and community.

One major challenge to girls’ education is poverty. Most families cannot afford to send all their children to school, so they would rather educate the boys with the little income they have, while the girls stay home to help around the house with chores and hawking. Often girls marry early to reduce the number of mouths their families have to feed. These barriers inspire me to advocate for 12 years of free, safe, quality education for all girls, no matter where they are.

 Amina reunites with Malala in Nigeira. (Courtesy of Tess Thomas / Malala Fund)

Amina reunites with Malala in Nigeira. (Courtesy of Tess Thomas / Malala Fund)

Sharing my story at the FAWE girls’ education conference

I consider it a great privilege to have been a delegate at the Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE) Conference on Girls’ Education in Zambia. I was so excited to be there because so much was said about girls’ education, the problems girls face and the solutions.

I was honored to meet and speak with people from many different social backgrounds, like the First Lady, Her Excellency Madam Esther Lungu and representatives of first ladies from Uganda and Mali, as well as ministers, media, members of FAWE, and country representatives. I was particularly surprised with how the high-level attendees interacted with so many people, and by the number of women present at the conference.

Their depth of knowledge amazed me as they talked about girls’ education, building friendship, gender equality in schools, violence and creating safe spaces for learning. At the conference, I shared my story and the challenges that girls are facing in my community.

Not everyone supports girls’ education because they believe girls will get married and move to their matrimonial homes, making education of no benefit to them but to her husband’s family.

 Amina spent time with other girls in New York City during 2015 UNGA week.

Amina spent time with other girls in New York City during 2015 UNGA week.

I also talked about the challenges such as poverty and insecurity that too many girls face. Many girls fear being raped, kidnapped or abducted while in school or on their way to and from school. Many girls are denied basic human rights because they are poor and do not have voices.

I learned about the need for governments to invest more in quality education. I realized that the challenges that I faced, and many other African girls face, will be resolved only when governments spend enough money on the education of the youth.

Governments have the duty to invest in the right to education of every girl. And without this investment, girls will continue to be out of school, and face violence and insecurity. This was particularly highlighted during a panel session on financing education which featured the Global Partnership for Education, Plan International, the Global Campaign for Education, the Zambian Ministry of Education and Malala Fund.

They spoke about the need for advocacy, especially collective advocacy. This will help raise investments in education. by Africans for Africans. Girls’ education must be high priority for Africa’s leaders and decision makers. Collective advocacy is the way to make that happen.

My call to action for all girls

I speak out on behalf of the vulnerable girls in my community, in Nigeria and in Africa, to demand that every girl, no matter where she lives, should have equal access to a minimum of 12 years of free, safe and quality education so she can be who she wants to be in the future.

I would like to see the government of Nigeria invest in quality education by training teachers, paying their salaries, creating safe learning environments equipped with laboratories and libraries. There should be no discrimination in education — all girls must have the right to FREE, SAFE, QUALITY education.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amina Yusuf is a Nigerian student and Malala Fund girl advocate.