#BringBackOurGirls: The Importance Of Making School Safe For Girls
When Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month in Northern Nigeria, both their government and the global community were shockingly slow to react. After tireless campaigning by parents of the schoolgirls and grassroots activists, outrage over this tragedy spread and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag (started on Twitter by a Nigerian lawyer) was born.
Now leaders from Michelle Obama to Olivia Chow have been photographed holding up the words you see in the photo of Malala Yousufzai above, international forces are starting to take action. The U.S. has sent in a team of experts, as have Britain and France. Canada has offered to surveillance assistance (with some conditions).
As their kidnappers threaten to sell them off as “wives,” the horror of their plight magnifies. Other than keeping up the conversation, how can we help? We spoke with representatives from Plan Canada, the organization that runs the Because I Am a Girl initiative, about the vulnerability of young women in developing countries and the importance of continued support for female education.
What made these kidnapped girls so vulnerable?
There are many factors that impede girls’ right to learn in a safe environment, including conflict or disaster occurring in and around their communities, poverty, violence, and gender-based discrimination. Research data has shown that girls more often experience violence and sexual abuse in and around school; are forced into child marriage and early pregnancy; and are made to carry the burden of household/domestic chores rather than going to school or doing homework.
Is Nigeria the only place where this is happening? Is this kidnapping new?
Regretfully, it is not. Girls face the threat of violence simply for going to school in many parts of the world on a daily basis. The abduction case in Nigeria is an extreme case because of the catastrophic number of girls involved, but similar acts occur every day.
Globally there are still 65 million girls out of primary and secondary school according to recent Plan research and other global reports. And violence is often at the root of the problem. Research shows that parents will often keep their daughters out of school for fear of violence, which takes on many forms and includes acts of sexual, physical, or psychological nature.
Plan Canada, through our Because I am a Girl initiative, works to see that girls get the investment they deserve in order to claim their rights for a better future, including the right to quality education. Our research and on-the-ground experience has shown that this fundamental human right is too often denied, especially to girls.
What can we do to help?
While the daily acts of violence perpetrated against girls rarely make it into the headlines, it is encouraging to see that this particular case is garnering the attention it deserves from world leaders and the public alike.
The safety, security and protection of girls around the world is of utmost importance to Plan. As a child rights organization, and an organization that promotes and supports the human rights of girls through our Because I am a Girl initiative, we are extremely concerned for the welfare of the girls who’ve been abducted in Nigeria and support the global call for their immediate release. We believe that governments, donors and the humanitarian community have a duty to protect adolescent girls and our thoughts and solidarity are with these missing girls, their families and friends.
We also encourage people to add their voice of support through social media channels by using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. More broadly, Canadians can also play a role in the effort to end violence against girls in and around schools. Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl initiative has been mobilizing Canadians on girls’ rights both here and abroad and we know the difference individuals can make. Learn more at www.becauseiamagirl.ca.