Thursday, 8 May 2014

Return our Girls- Access to an Education is a Basic Right

“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.