On April 15th 2014, more than two-hundred schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram. Boko Haram are extremist Islamic militants who have terrorised Nigeria since 2002. Their name means ‘Western education is forbidden’. They are fundamentalist extremists who want to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state.
They believe that girls should not be educated and that their place is entirely in the home. Boko Haram have indicated that some of the girls may be trafficked into neighbouring countries and sold as slaves, a horrific indication as to the way in which they view girls and young women. A girl who is taken as a slave is likely to be forced into domestic servitude, or forced into marriage and subjected to abuse.
LaSER wrote to the Foreign Secretary last week, urging him to do everything in his power to secure the release of the girls. Here is an extract:
There has been a despicable attack on human liberties in north-east Nigeria. We stand in solidarity with the young women who have been taken and their families who are desperate for their safe return.
Please advocate on our behalf, to support the Nigerian government to secure the girls' release. We also ask that you work with UN Women whose statement we support:
A mass abduction of schoolgirls is a tragic occurrence and there seems to be a chronic lack of information about what has happened. As UN Women stated in their joint statement with UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui,
'Attacks against the liberty of children and the targeting of schools are prohibited under international law and cannot be justified under any circumstances.
We urge those who are responsible for their abduction to release them unharmed, and return them safely to their families, where they rightfully belong.
Schools are and must remain places of safety and security, where children can learn and grow in peace. Girls and young women must be allowed to go to school without fear of violence and unjust treatment so that they can play their rightful role as equal citizens of the world. Women and girls have the right to live free from intimidation, persecution and all other forms of discrimination'.
As the leading charity for all girls and young women in the UK, with half a million members nationally and 79,000 in our Region, we call on you to do everything in your power to support the Nigerian government in securing the safe release of these young women and their reintegration back to normality.
Our membership includes many who are of Nigerian origin, with relatives in Nigeria who are concerned about the security in the country, particularly in the volatile north-east region.
We support the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts campaign to ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign, therefore we entirely condemn the actions of the militants who have abducted these innocent girls. There is speculation that some of the girls may have been trafficked into neighbouring countries such as Chad and Niger and sold into sexual slavery.
We call on you to urgently take action on this matter.
The Nigerian Girl Guides Association is a full member of WAGGGS, with over 110,000 members nationally. The latest phase of the Fifth World Centre pilot took place in Nigeria at the end of April, just one week after the abduction in Chibok.
You may be wondering what you can do as an individual. As Leaders in Girlguiding, many of whom work with girls the age of those who have been taken, we cannot fail to be moved by this situation. There are things you can do to make sure that the world keeps the pressure on to bring the girls back:
• If you use social media, follow the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and use the hashtag.
• Write to your MP asking him or her to lobby the Foreign Secretary to do what he can. When you write to your MP, they are obliged to reply. If you’re not sure who your MP is, find out here. You can write to your MP on any issue which you think is important.
• Keep up with developments on BBC Africa.
Helen Beecher Bryant
Lead Volunteer for Advocacy