The most famous schoolgirl in the world, Malala Yousafzai, is bringing worldwide attention to the plight of the more than 250 young girls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Arriving in Abuja on her 17th birthday, Malala had a series of meetings Sunday with desperate parents and with girls who had escaped the kidnapping. Her one birthday wish: "Bring back our girls, now and alive."
Parents of the missing girls made a 20-hour journey through dangerous territory in northern Nigeria, risking their lives to meet with the Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school.
In an emotional meeting, 11 fathers and one mother shared their grief and frustrations that their daughters had not been found after 90 days in the forest. They described going into the forest themselves, with bows and arrows, to rescue their daughters, but being told to turn back because they might not come back alive.
"All they are asking for is for the government to search for their daughters," Hadiza Usman of the Bring Back Our Girls movement said. "They feel neglected and abandoned."
Many of the parents sobbed as they talked of their missing daughters, saying they were so worried they couldn't work or even eat. Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, cried, too, remembering how it felt to almost lose his own daughter.
"When she was shot, her mother said it would have been worse if they had kidnapped her," he said. "But there is hope. We must be hopeful."
Malala said, "When I was hearing the story of the girls being kidnapped on Twitter, it was everywhere, but I did not really know what the parents would be feeling. And then I came here and I met the parents and all of them crying. And it just made me cry and my father was crying as well."
A Message for the President
Malala, who now lives in Great Britain for her safety, promised the desperate parents that she would be their voice when she meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan today.
The president has been widely criticized for being unable to contain a string of terrorist attacks by Boko Haram, or find any of the more than 250 missing schoolgirls.
Despite the pressure of being just a 17-year-old girl going before the president of a country to speak her mind, Malala expressed optimism that she will be able to have an effect.
"I'm very hopeful that my voice will have an impact and it will reach to the President and he will take action, and I'm hopeful that the voice of those parents who were crying and those girls who were sharing their feelings with me," Malala said. "I'm hopeful that he will listen to it carefully and I'm feeling a bit confident because these people are with me. And I'm representing the people -- the people of Nigeria."
Malala was also representing the girls abducted by Boko Haram. On Sunday she spoke with five school girls, ages 16 to 18, who escaped shortly after they were kidnapped. They shared their devastating stories.
Kauna Bitrus, 16, described how her father was shot and killed by Boko Haram; her mother and sister were also shot and injured. Hauwa, 18, said she still limps after jumping from the speeding Boko Haram truck that was taking her away. She says she has nightmares every night, but wants to go back to school to become a lawyer.
Rebecca Ishaku, 18, said she is afraid to go to school, even though she wants to learn. She said she still has hope that her classmates will be found.