222: The Self-Empowered Woman: Bring Back Our Girls

Dear Followers,

Today, I’d like to remind everyone about the tragic event that took place in Nigeria almost a month ago, on April 15th. That’s when Abubakar Shekau, the deranged leader of a militant Islamic splinter group in Nigeria, Boko Haram (which means “Western education is a sin”) kidnapped close to 300 girls.

The students were asleep in their dormitory at one of the few girls’ boarding schools still open in Nigeria. Dozens of heavily-armed terrorists jumped out of buses, trucks and vans in the middle of the night, and herded the girls into their vehicles. A handful of girls escaped when one of the trucks broke down, but 278 girls are still missing and presumed to have been taken to the neighboring countries of Cameroon and Chad.
That’s where, according to sketchy intelligence reports, they are either being forced to “marry” their abductors or being sold off as “brides” for about $12.00. In a country where (in some areas) over 90 percent of girls don’t finish high school, these girls were training to become accomplished young women. And, as Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has often argued, “The greatest threat to militancy in the long run comes not from drones but from girls with schoolbooks.”
Billions of tweets in support of the kidnapped students have been sent, and celebrities from Malala Yousafzai (see above) to Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton have joined the civilian movement to rescue the girls. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and Boko Haram has been terrorizing the entire area for years.
In February, a boys’ school was burned and 50 students died, and only last week hundreds were killed during a daylight attack by Boko Haram on a shopping mall. Critics deplore the fact that Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan was slow to act, and his wife argued that protestors were simply trying to damage his reputation.
Other countries have finally responded to the massive international concern about the kidnapped girls. And it’s important to remember (almost immediately) that millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to find the 275 people who were lost on the Malaysian airliner…
#BringBackOurGirls highlights, once again, the sad fact that it is still acceptable–in far too many places and for way too many people–to devalue women. After all, the brave Pakastani girl pictured above is still recovering from injuries inflicted because she wanted to go to school, and countless girls in Afghanistan have had acid tossed in their faces because they wanted an education. Aren’t we lucky to live in America?


About Marilyn Murray Willison

The author of six non-fiction books, Willison worked as Health and Fitness Editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and wrote book reviews, health, beauty, fashion, and travel articles on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Times. Her byline has appeared in a wide variety of American newspapers and magazines.