As Women’s History Month draws to a close, I wanted to bring awareness to a story that has not received a lot of attention in the news. Last month in Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 100 young girls while they were at school. The story is very similar to the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from Chibok by Boko Haram which launched the campaign #bringbackourgirls. The girls were kidnapped on February 19th and held captive for a little less than a month. One hundred and four of the girls who were kidnapped, were released on the morning of March 21st. They were brought back with many of the girls saying that they were unharmed physically. One Christian student who has refused to convert to Islam remains captive. There are reports that up to 10 girls could have died; 5 who were trampled due to overcrowded buses and 5 who had already been fasting who died of starvation. The insurgents had a simple message ” Don’t send girls to school. ” They warned that if the girls went back to school they would return. Instead they said that these young girls should be married off.
Boko Haram can loosely be translated to mean Western Education is Forbidden. It was founded years ago in the hopes of creating an Islamic State and as a solution to corruption in the government. Since it’s creation, it has broken off into different factions due to in-fighting. One such faction has since received the backing of the Islamic State. While not a lot is known about why these girls were kidnapped and released, there are some who believe that this was a warning to the parents and the Nigerian government about sending the girls to school. If that is the case then Nigeria’s government must do more to protect their girls. These young girls are just trying to take the opportunity to get an education and have to risk being kidnapped by men who believe that women should not be educated.
This isn’t the first time that young girls have been threatened or harmed because of their desire to go to school. We have all heard the story of Malala who was viciously attacked after expressing her desire that girls be allowed to go to school in Pakistan. Here in the West, the idea that a girl wouldn’t be allowed to get an education seems foreign to us, but in many parts of the world it is a way of life. Women are not given the same rights as men, and are essentially treated as second class citizens. If we are going to fight for women’s rights we must fight for women’s rights everywhere. Girls must be allowed to receive the same education as any boy and not live in fear of being kidnapped or shot because they have a desire to learn. We must stop allowing people to pervert religions to suit their personal ideas or beliefs. Knowledge is one of the most important pillars in Islam and there is no specification as to not allow women and girls to receive knowledge. These are cultural practices that are being disguised as religious. I hope that these girls are able to receive the support that they need to move forward after this horrific experience. I also hope that they are able to continue with their education in some form. Receiving an education opens up so many doors and opportunities and we must not allow these doors to be closed for our girls.
After the government paid ransoms for the kidnapped girls in Chibok, many have been released but more than 100 are still being held captive. Many of these girls have been forced to marry their captors and have their children. We must not forget these girls who have been kidnapped and raped. As March draws to a close, we will continue to remember and fight for woman around the world. We must not allow our children to look back on our history and see that we didn’t fight for women everywhere. Our struggles might all be different, but we must continue to support each other in this fight.