A year ago, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 young schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. The vast majority of them are still missing.
But on that night a year ago, Saa managed to escape, and through the help of a nonprofit, she was able to come to the United States to continue her education.
"I came to Washington D.C. and found a story that American people say: Give me liberty or give me death. When I heard that, I remembered the time I decided to jump out of the truck, that I'd rather die."
On Wednesday, Saa (a pseudonym she uses to protect her Christian family from attack in Nigeria) stood in front of the U.S. Capitol, flanked by several female Democratic lawmakers to commemorate the day and urge the world not to forget her missing classmates. She was introduced as the "Malala of Africa."
This is what she said:
A year ago, when the terrorists attacked my school and took all of us on a truck; When we were going in the forest, I decided to jump out of the truck.
I thought, and looked at my friend and told her 'I'm going to jump out of the truck. I rather die that my parents have my body "¦ than to go with the Boko Haram ... Are you going to jump with me?' And she said said 'yes,' she will jump with me.
Then when we jumped out of the truck, that night she injured her leg and crawled on her tummy. We tried to find help that night. By the help of God, the next day, we [found] help in the forest.
When I came to America, I came to Washington D.C. and found a story that American people say: Give me liberty or give me death. When I heard that, I remembered the time I decided to jump out of the truck, that I'd rather die ... And here I am now free and now here to continue with my studies. But my [classmates] are still in the hands of the terrorists. I'm pleading everybody all over the world. And I'm pleading the international community to do all our best and try to brings those girls back to school.
We really want them now. Not tomorrow. Not day after tomorrow, not next year. We want them now to come back to school.
Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group seeking to establish an Islamic state in the region, has displaced 1.2 million people, 800,000 of whom are children, according to UNICEF.
The Nigerian government was initially slow to respond to the crisis. But Nigeria's president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has pledged to take a more aggressive stance on finding the girls than did his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan. "My government will first act to defeat [Boko Haram] militarily and then ensure that we provide the very education it despises to help our people help themselves," Buhari wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times on Tuesday.
Rep. Frederica Wilson led the press conference Wednesday where Saa spoke, alongside fellow Democratic lawmakers Carolyn Maloney, Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, and Lois Frankel. The female lawmakers pledged to maintain awareness of the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls and appropriate greater aid to the region.
"We must take a stand in the United States Congress, both in terms of the authorization of dealing with the crisis in the Borno state [in northeast Nigeria], but we must also look for the funding," Jackson Lee said.