Nibras Khudaida joined Malala Fund for the Drive for Five event at the U.N., where she discussed risking her life to go to school and encouraged leaders to invest in girls’ education. Read her prepared remarks below.
My name is Nibras Khudaida and I am 21 years old. I advocate for every girl’s right to learn because at one point, I was denied mine.
I grew up in a 500-person village in northern Iraq. One day, I was walking home from school, celebrating the fact I had just been named “student of the year” for achieving the highest GPA. All of a sudden, I saw crowds of people fleeing and screaming. I had known that ISIS was coming, but now they were only two miles from our village.
My friends started running to find their families, fearing that they would be left behind. Drones flew overhead. Peshmerga fighters moved in, pushed back by the ISIS advance. I don’t remember how I got to my house. My family only had time to grab our passports and IDs.
We fled to Erbil. The city was full of people who harassed me because I am Ezidi, which is a minority religion there. I tried to enroll in school, but they would not accept me without a signed transcript.
My father and I had to return to our old village — where ISIS was only two miles away — so that the principal could sign my transcript. At the top of the mountain, I could see their flags and members of ISIS. It was the most terrifying moment in my life.
I put my life at risk tha130 million girls are out of school today — and more than two-thirds are of secondary school age. Conflict, poverty, gender-based violence, inadequate sanitary provision and early marriage stop them from going to school. Like me, they are fighting for their right to learn. But it seems like they are fighting alone.
The global community is spending less than half the amount it needs to on education. This lack of funding is not only limiting girls, but it is also limiting our world. Because when girls go to school, everyone benefits.
Educated girls reduce conflict, improve public health and promote environmental sustainability. If every girl received 12 years of free, safe, quality education, women’s lifetime earnings could increase by up to $30 trillion.
The evidence is there. Yet the will from leaders is not.
I am here to remind you what you should know, what every girl fighting for her right to learn already knows: the best investment you can make in the future our world is to educate girls.
Nibras Khudaida is a 21-year-old student refugee from northern Iraq. She is a sophomore at Creighton University where she majors in economics and international relations.