Saturday marked 300 days since Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian girls, and activist Malala Yousafzai criticized world leaders for their complacent response.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner urged advocates and heads of state to treat the kidnapping victims the same way they would girls who hailed from prominent families and pushed Nigerian politicians to make rescuing the girls a priority during next month's elections.
Yousafzai’s appeal came ahead of a U.N. study released on Monday, which noted that attacks against schoolgirls worldwide have been occurring with "increasing regularity."
"If these girls were the children of politically or financially powerful parents, much more would be done to free them," Yousafzai wrote. "But they come from an impoverished area of north-east Nigeria and sadly little has changed since they were kidnapped."
On April 14, the terrorist group kidnapped more than 300 Nigerian girls from a secondary school in Borno state. The group's infamous leader, Abubaker Shekau, claimed responsibility and announced in November that the victims had been converted to Islam and married off, Reuters reported.
But since more than 60 girls and women managed to escape Boko Haram in July, little positive news has emerged.
"These young women risked everything to get an education that most of us take for granted," the teen activist who founded the Malala Fund wrote. "I will not forget my sisters. We cannot forget them."
The U.N.'s report on Monday called for similar action and warned of the high prevalence of such crimes against schoolchildren, and girls in particular, around the world.
According the report, schools in at least 70 countries were attacked between 2009 and 2014.
And while the paper acknowledged that laudable progress has been made in enabling more children to seek out education, girls still face overwhelming barriers, including violent attacks and forced marriage, in trying to access those rights.
"Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity," the authors concluded.
The study pointed to the Boko Haram kidnapping, the Taliban’s 2012 shooting of Yousafzai in Pakistan and recent poisoning and acid attacks against schoolgirls in Afghanistan.
The U.N. called on world leaders and advocates to more aggressively tackle these discriminatory cultural and social practices, because even if girls earn education rights, such attacks will lead to "ripple" effects, which signal to parents that going to school isn’t the worth the sacrifice.
"When girls are removed from education because of security fears and concerns about their subsequent marriageability," the authors wrote, "additional human rights violations may occur, like child and forced marriage, domestic violence, early pregnancy, exposure to other harmful practices, trafficking and sexual and labor exploitation."