'A test case that should not be ignored'

Protesters demand the release of about 276 schoolgirls still held by Boko Haram. Photo by: Michael Fleshman / CC BY-NC

Growing up, Ojonwa Miachi’s parents were told not to spend on education for her and her four other siblings — all of whom are female. Her parents refused to give in to pressure, however, and were determined to give all of their five daughters the education they themselves were fortunate enough to receive.

Now, armed with an economics degree from Nigeria’s Bingham University, the 21-year-old has become a staunch advocate for education. Miachi is a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School, an international organization that provides a digital platform for youth activism and universal education campaigns.

One of those campaigns this young education advocate is pushing for is the call to #BringBackOurGirls, a protest launched to persuade the Nigerian government to accelerate efforts to rescue the hundreds of schoolgirls still held by militant group Boko Haram.

Three weeks ago, heavily armed Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 300 young women aged 15 to 18 from their school dorm in Chibok, northeast Borno state. Now about 276 schoolgirls remain in captivity, and there have been unverified reports that some of these young women were sold to be brides to men in Chad and Cameroon. Even more worrying is a video released Monday, in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau not only admitted to abducting the schoolgirls but also claimed that he will be selling and marrying them off. Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden,” a message Shekau emphasized in the clip.

Several online campaigns — A World at School, Women Thrive Worldwide, on the White House website, on Change.org and on Facebook, to name a few — have been launched not only to support the call to #BringBackOurGirls but also to increase security in schools across Nigeria, where many children stop going to school at a very young age because they are simply afraid.

“I believe that the Nigerian government will give an ear to such views as may be expressed on social media and peaceful protests toward taking steps to trace out and rescue the ‘missing’ school girls,” Miachi told Devex. “The reach of these petitions has been amazing and positive results have come forth.”

Foreign countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to share intelligence, and Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a rescue committee, but this youth leader believes the authorities should do much more — and not just to bring back the hostages, but also protect schools and especially schoolgirls to slowly bridge the country’s huge gender gap in education.

In a nation, Africa’s most populous, where 10.5 million children are out of school — 57 percent of them girls — Miachi warned that if the women are not rescued soon and schools are not given better security, efforts made to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on reducing gender disparity in education will be severely affected.

“If the Nigerian situation is not nipped in the bud and addressed, it is bound to have [an] extension of bad effects in other parts of the world,” Miachi noted. “[This is] a test case that should not be ignored.”

Regional and global leaders will be converging in Abuja, Nigeria, for the World Economic Forum on Africa, which will be held May 7-9, 2014. How can these leaders help #BringBackOurGirls? Please let us know by leaving a comment below, joining our LinkedIn discussion or sending an email to news@devex.com.

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About the author

  • Aimee ocampo 400x400

    Aimee Rae Ocampo

    In her role as editor for business insight, Aimee creates and manages multimedia content and cutting-edge analysis for executives in international development. As the manager of Development Insider, Devex's flagship publication for executive members, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest news, trends and policies that influence the business of development.

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