“The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons” President Barack Obama.
The lack of action by the Nigerian government to rescue the
more than 200 school girls kidnapped on the night of April 14 by the Islamist
militant group, Boko Haram, clearly speaks to issues relating to a failed
state, as well as issues relating to how gender impacts and influence decisions
on a daily basis. It is most unacceptable that in today’s world many barriers
still exist in preventing our girls from achieving an education. Why did the Nigeria government waited so long
before they asked for help from the international community? Why not use the available technology (drones, satellites) to find out exactly where these school girls are being held?
The name Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin.” Like
many other Islamist militant groups, the Boko Haram believes that girls should
not be educated. There have been other instances where other militant groups
have even gone further than the abduction of girls. We are reminded of Malala
Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl, who was shot in her head by a Taliban
gunman while on her way home from school in 2010.
Since the abduction of the more than 200 school girls, the
leader of the Boko Haram group has released a video in which his group has
taken responsibility for the kidnapping of the girls, as well as, he has
threatened to sell the kidnapped girls.
A number of related issues have emerged from this depraved
and sad story. One of which is Human Trafficking. Despite efforts to combat
human trafficking, the practice is clearly alive and continues to pose a threat
to the global security. Human trafficking is the
recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by
means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction,
of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability
or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of
a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution
of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services,
slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. It
is mind blogging and extremely sad that a market exists for the trafficking of
human beings in 2014.
Secondly, the access to
universal education especially for girls continues to face many barriers. The United Nations (UN) Millennium
Development Goal number 2, clearly calls for Universal Primary Education.
However, despite tremendous push towards achieving this worthy target more than
123 million youth aged 15 to 24 lack basic reading and writing skills, of this
figure 61 percent are women. In
2011, 57 million children of primary school age were out of school.
Access to education is a basic right and the failure
to protect this right has severe implications for the development or lack
thereof of any society.
Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations
has called the education of girls, "the single highest returning social
investment in the world today." However, there are many twisted ideologies
in today’s world which clearly speaks in opposition to the education of girls.
The international community should speak with one voice in not only condemning
the despicable actions of the Boko Haram militant group but also in mounting a
rescue plan to return the girls to the parents and guardians.
The girls involved were
forcibly taken from their beds and forced into trucks on the night of their
ordeal. According the US Embassy in Nigeria, 72 per cent of primary age
children in the state of Borno never attend school. This is most unacceptable
and a more concerted effort from the government of Nigeria is required to get
more children access at least primary education.
Nigeria is Africa’s most
populous country with a population of over 178 million people. Despite the country’s
oil wealth Nigeria is seen as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
In too many societies the voices of women have been muted.
The education of our women and girls is an anecdote for the sustained development
of any society. The lesson of this most
tragic incident in Nigeria has wider global implications. Our governments and
Non Government Organization must redouble their efforts to stamp out this
backward and retrograde view of denying women and girls the right to an
education. The United Nations must increase its efforts in order to ensure that
universal education becomes a reality for all even in the most remote of areas
of the world. We need to move away from the traditional gender socialization in
our societies and of our people in order to bring about a more progressive
agenda regarding both sexes. We must engage and consult more groups in the
discourse on gender in order to peel away at the widely held view that the role
of women should be in the home.
By investing in the education of girls one empowers the
individual. Additionally, one is able to change the course for an entire
generation. The world should not be daunted by the actions of this militant
group, instead this should mobilize the collective efforts of the international
community in ensuring that girls everywhere have access to an education.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social
commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and
or gender issues.