Nigeria: Bring Back Our Girls

Boko Haram continues to create havoc in Nigeria's north and threatens women's right to education. 


Why is it happening ?

ABUJA- Boko Haram's goal is to seize control from the Nigerian state and impose Sharia law across the country. Their ideology is underpinned by a belief that western culture should be forbidden.


A variety of factors fuel membership and support for Boko Haram’s existence in northern Nigeria. These include political corruption, increasing poverty and growing youth unemployment.


These socioeconomic conditions coupled with their radical ideology, which promises a better life for martyrs, drives violent terrorism in Nigeria's north.


Boko Haram’s main terrorist tactic has been to Kidnap schoolgirls in vast numbers. With the kidnappings, the group actively threatens the right of girls in northern Nigeria to have access to education.

In fact, the Dapchi February abduction is not the first time such a large number of girls were kidnapped while in school. In 2014, Boko Haram abducted over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. 



Why does it matter?

Whilst the government still continues to negotiate a ceasefire with Boko Haram, the Dapchi kidnappings suggest that Boko Haram is still a group with the capabilities to threaten daily life in Nigeria.


Even more crucially, it presents a significant setback for female education. Boko Haram’s actions discourage and scare off girls and women from attending school. For the northern part of the country, it has important ramifications for the development of the region as a whole.


There are a little over 10 million children not attending school in northern Nigeria, and 60% of these children are girls (ISS Africa, 2018).


Apart from the now renewed fear of Boko Haram attacks and the heightened insecurity in north-eastern Nigeria that is accompanied with it, early childhood marriage and a generally low perception of the value of girls’ education are depriving girls of access to quality education.


Since Dapchi, boarding schools in Borno state located outside the capital city of Maiduguri have been closed indefinitely.


The implications of the kidnapping are particularly significant when the broader aim of achieving equal access to education in Nigeria is considered.


Presently, the realities are far from encouraging. Eight states in northern Nigeria are the worst performing in girl-child education.


They also have the highest female illiteracy rate in the country as well as the highest incidence of adolescent marriages.


Nigeria’s northern region is not any closer to achieving gender parity in education access and a failure to effectively deal with Boko Haram is only going to exacerbate the problem that is concentrated there. 



What can you do about it? 

The Buhari administration has been seemingly proactive in ensuring the safe return of the girls and his promises to ensure the security and well-being of Nigerians, especially in regions blighted by the insurgency, have been followed up with military engagement.


However, military efforts alone cannot resolve the Boko Haram problem. The issues associated with the group and its success at recruitment are much broader, owing to socio-economic inequalities, deprivation in the region, and dissatisfaction with the Nigerian state.


More effective collaborative efforts between the federal, state and local governments are needed to ensure the successful implementation of socio-economic development programmes aimed at generating employment and safeguarding human security across the country, with priority given to better access to education and healthcare systems.


Importantly, vocational opportunities need to be targeted at the skills base of the population, taking advantage of the agricultural sector and the entrepreneurial possibilities there, but initiatives targeted at encouraging the growing manufacturing and technology-driven industries across the country are needed.


Whilst these are long-term solutions requiring concerted and sustained efforts, the immediate problem of ensuring that kidnappings like those of Chibok and Dapchi do not happen needs to be resolved.


Some of the Chibok girls are still missing since 2014 and the Nigerian government should devote intelligence gathering and military resources aimed at ensuring their safe return home.


Security measures in the northern region also need to be heightened so long as Boko Haram remains a threat, and resources will need to be channeled towards the specific needs of schoolgirls and their families, particularly those who have now been placed in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.


At the individual level, bringing more attention to the situation will continue to remain important.


One of the reasons that action was ultimately taken following the 2014 kidnapping of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls was due to the public outcry, both domestically and internationally.


That the international community was so actively supportive of the movement, and this was coupled with a domestic campaign that saw the whole country rallying around the Chibok community, was significant in putting increased pressure on the Nigerian government to ensure the safe return of the schoolgirls.


Shoring up more attention towards this may just be the added push that the Nigerian government needs to hasten and heighten its efforts to protect school children, reinstate the Safe Schools Initiative, and to ensure that going to school is not simply an invitation to be abducted by terrorists, but a right that is safeguarded.


The BringBackOurGirls Group’s website is a good place to start for some information about the kidnappings and the various activities that have been set up to pressure the government to do more in ensuring the safe release of the remaining Chibok girls still held captive and the Dapchi girls. 

The tags, #RescueDapchiGirls, #NoMoreExcuses and #BringBackOurGirls, have also been used on social media to draw attention to the kidnappings. Using these on various platforms will help in spreading awareness and supporting the campaign.


Tetsekela Michael Anyiam-Osigwe briefs from London, UK. She is a candidate for  a BSc Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE). 



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