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Malala Yousafzai cheered by Nigerian women on ‘girl power’ visit

The Nobel laureate also met former schoolgirl captives of the Boko Haram militant group.

Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai was greeted with cheers by dozens of young women in north-eastern Nigeria, where she spoke out for the many girls abducted under Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency.

The 20-year-old Pakistani activist told the Associated Press on Tuesday that she was excited by the courage of the young women who are undaunted as they pursue an education amid one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“This is part of my girl power trip, visiting many parts of the world,” said Ms Yousafzai, who also met the freed Chibok schoolgirls taken in a mass abduction by Boko Haram more than three years ago.

“I am here now because of the Nigerian girls. Fighting for them and speaking up for them.”

Ms Yousafzai visited internally displaced camps in and around the city of Maiduguri, where thousands have sheltered from Boko Haram’s violence. The extremist group continues to carry out deadly attacks there, often using young female suicide bombers.

“They have lived in the period of extremism,” she said of the young women around her. Many have seen family members killed.

Ms Yousafzai was 15 when she was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, targeted due to her advocacy for women’s education.

The Nobel laureate said her Nigeria visit was significant because it was the partial fulfilment of what she advocated the last time she was there. In 2014, she pressed then-President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the rescue of the more than 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

On Monday, she met more than 100 who have since been rescued and now stay in the capital, Abuja, for what the government calls rehabilitation.

She said she was not happy the girls have not been allowed to reunite fully with their families.

She said she hopes they will “live with their family, live a normal life”.

Many others remain in Boko Haram captivity, “and the government must unite so that they should make sure that these girls are released”, she said.

“Boko Haram themselves should learn that in Islam such things are unacceptable,” she added. “This is against humanity, this is against Islam.”

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Malala Yousafzai meets the acting president of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo (Azeez Akunleyan/AP)

On Monday, Ms Yousafzai met acting President Yemi Osinbajo, speaking up for the more than 10 million children displaced by Boko Haram and pressing for the declaration of a state of emergency for education in Nigeria.

She also urged the international community to address the crisis in the country’s north-east.

Girls at the internally displaced camps said the Nobel winner’s story of courage gave them inspiration for a brighter future.

“Her story give us hope, that’s why we too want to go to school and become something in life,” said 15-year-old Fatima Ali. “We have to bear all pains like hunger to go to school. We barely eat once a day here. We have not eaten since morning because government people no longer bring us food for about two months now.”

Three million children in Nigeria’s north-east are in need of support to keep learning, according to the UN children’s agency. Nearly 1,400 schools have been destroyed during Boko Haram’s insurgency, which began in 2009, and more than 2,295 teachers have been killed, the agency says.

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