On April 2014, tragedy struck hundreds of families in Nigeria. The terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the Chibok Government Secondary School. This event represented more than an attack on the Nigerian people; it was an attack on girls’ right to education.
Education for girls is condemned by Islamic extremists and often results in near-fatal or deadly incidents. Nigerian female education is not an exception to sexist discrimination. However, one Nigerian girl, Amina Yusuf tells her story of breaking down barriers in a TakePart series.
Yusuf’s story begins with a scholarship from the Center for Girls Education. CGE is an organization comprised of the Population & Reproductive Health Initiative (PRHI) at Ahmadu Bello University and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
The organization helps adolescent girls in rural Nigeria achieve an education “through innovative programming, advocacy, research and strategic partnership.” To promote bravery in dangerous times, the Center for Girls Education “safe space club” remained open after the Boko Haram abductions.
The 2014 attacks only amplified Yusuf’s fervor for education for girls; she blames Boko Haram, poverty and early marriage for parents keeping their daughters out of school.
With the help of CGE, Yusuf completed her high school education and is now in college working toward an education certificate. To promote education for girls, Yusuf initially passed on knowledge she learned at CGE to her family members who couldn’t attend school themselves.
Now, Yusuf mentors several girls through CGE and still makes a point of sharing important information to girls in her neighborhood, including topics like reproductive health. In Nigeria, many girls marry at the age of 12 and start bearing children at age 15. Yusuf advocates for access to education and knowledge of reproductive health to decrease the number of adolescent pregnancies.
Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, Yusuf has a vision of Nigeria’s future as well as lofty aspirations for her own. She hopes that one day her nation will guarantee 12 years of free schooling for all children and that better-paid teachers will ensure a quality education.
In an interview with Girl Effect, Yusuf shared her dreams for her future. Grateful for the support she received from CGE, Yusuf said “I want to start an organisation or a foundation where I’ll be the one helping to give scholarships to other girls like me.”
– Sabrina Yates