by Sydney Levine
On the night of April 15th, 2014, a group of heavily armed terrorists from extremist group Boko Haram stormed a girls boarding school in the remote town of Chibok in northern Nigeria, setting it ablaze and kidnapping more than 300 schoolgirls. The girls, in school to become lawyers, doctors, and teachers, are being auctioned off at $12 each to militants as brides. According to the New York Times, fifty of the girls have since escaped, but 270 remain missing. It has been nearly six months since the kidnapping, and yet the Nigerian government and military have failed to rescue even a single girl, claiming that to attempt a rescue mission would further endanger the girls.
The abduction spurred an international movement to find and recover the schoolgirls. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls became a global campaign to pressure the Nigerian government to step up its rescue efforts. Secretary of State John Kerry described the event as “not just an act of terrorism. It’s a massive human trafficking moment and grotesque.” Human rights and women’s activist Malala Yousafzai stands with the families of the kidnapped women, stating “I can see those girls as my sisters…and I’m going to speak up for them until they are released.” Other prominent humanitarian figures such as Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie have also demanded the release of the girls, as have people all over the world. Yet despite global outrage, the Nigerian military has shown little interest in rescue efforts.
Yet, in keeping with the nature of international media, attention waned on the girls as weeks passed. The global spotlight moved away from the grieving families, and onto other tragedies. However, to this day, not a single girl has been rescued, and the problem is more dire than ever before. When Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8th, it received nonstop news coverage and aggressive military search efforts to locate the missing passengers. The missing girls in Nigeria have received no such military aid, despite videos released by Boko Haram showing the captured schoolgirls, and other definitive clues as to the abductees’ various locations. According to the New York Times, if the girls are rescued, due to the deeply conservative nature of northern Nigeria, it may be difficult for them to marry because of suspicions that they are no longer virgins.
The way to fight extremism in the long term is through education, especially of girls. It is crucial to educate women and girls, because women are more likely to invest the money they make into the community. Terrorists like the militants of Boko Haram are not afraid of drones and bombs—they fear girls with textbooks, because of the power they hold to change the rules of the society in which they live. Educated women change the world. It is unspeakable that 300 young women have been denied education because they are female, and to strip any woman of her access to education is violation of a basic human right. The kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are just as valuable to the world as the same number of American, French, Mexican, Haitian, Ugandan, or Czech schoolgirls, or schoolgirls from any other part of the world. The Nigerian schoolgirls deserve every rescue effort the world has to offer.