In what many are calling a direct attack on the education of women around the world, the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 Northern Nigerian girls on April 14. The Muslim-Extremist group’s name means “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. The armed terrorists took the girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria while they were sleeping. The terrorists burned the school to the ground and then drove the girls away into the forests that border Cameroon. It has been confirmed that at least 53 girls have escaped but the remaining number of girls still missing is unknown as the school enrollment records are still being reviewed. The girls were Christian and Muslim but all of them were seeking higher education in order to seek a career in medicine, law, education or other valued professions.
Among swelling panic and despair, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan spoke about the situation on May 4, “Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” he said. He discussed the government’s efforts to locate the girls and called for cooperation from the parents of the kidnapped girls. As time passes since the attack on the school, the government has not proven to provide solutions. Reports have indicated that some of the girls have been sold into marriage to the militants for a fee equitable to $12.
It is assumed that this was an assault on women’s education because under their version of the Sharia Law, women play a role that is strictly limited to the household. It is thought that they should not be educating themselves but serving the needs of their husband and children. While Nigerian authorities have taken weeks to publicly respond to the abduction, many activists around the world are rallying for help. The slogan “Bring Back Our Girls” has become popular on social media and seen on many signs held in protests in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Stockholm, Dublin, Paris, London, Cape Town, among many others. Activists around the world are criticizing Nigeria’s inaction and even international bodies’ unwillingness to offer support as well. Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafza, 16, said “The international community should think about these girls because this is a part of our community and if we forget these girls, it’s like we are forgetting our own sisters, our own people.”
International journalist for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof offered a comparison between other world events and the Nigerian mass kidnapping. He writes: “While there has been a major international search for the missing people on Malaysian flight MH370, and nonstop news coverage, there has been no meaningful search for the even greater number of missing schoolgirls.”
While many people have grown weary of the world’s mysteries or disasters, there are over 200 girls who are now being enslaved for seeking knowledge and motivation to change the world. This kidnapping has sent a message to many African parents that it is dangerous or not worth it to send their daughters to school. Furthermore the message that change is needed has not reached the Nigerian government or the UN. Malala Yousafza adds, “I want to make a request to the government of Nigeria that they should take it [the education of girls] seriously, that they should take action, because in the end we will lose a whole generation.”