On solidarity mission, UN Women Executive Director visits girls school in Nigeria

Date : 19 May 2014

Abaji

In the wake of the horrific abduction of more than 200 school girls, which has ignited global outrage, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka joined a delegation that visited the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in the town of Abaji, Nigeria, from 17-18 May. The FGGC Abaji is one of the Federal Government’s all-girls colleges similar to the FGGC Chibok, where more than 200 students were kidnapped on 14 April, in Chibok, Nigeria.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (left), and Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development Hajiya Zainab Maina (right), with two young girls from the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in Abaji, Nigeria. Photo: UN Women/Mariam Kamara
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (left), and Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development Hajiya Zainab Maina (right), with two young girls from the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in Abaji, Nigeria. Photo: UN Women/Mariam Kamara

The delegation also included the UN Resident Coordinator (a.i) and FAO Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Louise Setshwalelo; Regional Director of UN Women for West and Central Africa, Ms. Josephine Odera; Acting UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Adjaratou Fatou Ndiaye; UN Women Programme Advisor for Africa, Mr. Anthony Ngororano; and members of UN Women country team in Nigeria.

In her statement, the Executive Director reassured the public that the entire UN system is committed to ensuring that girls stay in schools in Nigeria and that they do so in a safe and secure environment.

“We are with you all the way. This mission is a solidarity mission. We are standing with you. We are going to be here and we will work with you to ensure that when the girls return they are consoled, and with their families they get the support they need. The girls of Nigeria deserve the best education and the best care and support. 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.”

The delegation was welcomed by Hon. Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Ms. Hajiya Zainab Maina; the Permanent Secretary, representing the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. MacJohn Nwaobiala; and the School Principal, Ms. Nkem Uzowulu, along with teachers and hundreds of students.

“Our hearts are bleeding. Everyone is deeply hurt by the abduction of our daughters. But with such solidarity I believe we will succeed,” said Hon. Maina, in her remarks. She praised UN Women for having shown strong engagement and commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of women and girls across Nigeria, including making education of the girl child a priority through a long-standing partnership with her Ministry. She thanked UN Women’s Executive Director for her solidarity mission to Nigeria and for the overwhelming show of support and solidarity from all parts of the world. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s visit followed that of UNSG Special Representative for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit.

Speaking to the students, Minister Maina said: “Do not be discouraged. Do not be scared. Nothing will happen to you. You must keep on. We are here today to encourage you and say that we will ensure that you stay in school for a path to a bright future. 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.”

In his welcome statement, Permanent Secretary Nwaobiala said: “These are our girls. They are the future of our nation. We must ensure that they get the best, and that is their education.”

UN Women’s Executive Director also thanked religious and traditional leaders who have come out to condemn the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok.

A special message was delivered by the head of the school girls, who pleaded for the safe return of her sisters in Chibok and for UN Women and all good-willing actors to ensure that girls stay in school so they can be better prepared for “what life has to offer”.

Nigerian girls in Abaji
Girls at the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) in the town of Abaji, Nigeria, flash the hashtag that has gone viral around the world, urging the return of the girls abducted last month from another Federal Government Girls College in Chibok. Photo: UN Women/Mariam Kamara

Related links:

Op-ed: #BringBackOurGirls

Joint statement by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui