HANKE: Free the Nigerian girls, and keep education safe for women

Girls at school in South Africa

AMSTERDAM, May 8, 2014 — The kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, the attacking of girls attending school in Afghanistan – all have the same theme: trying to keep girls away from education.

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The world is finally paying attention to the April kidnapping of more than 200 school girls in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has so far been unable to locate and return the children, and added to the confusion when it falsely announced that all girls are back with their families.

Thanks to the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls that was started by Ify Elueze, a Nigerian student living in Bonn (Germany), the kidnappings finally made international news.

And after the horrendous announcement from the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, that he is planning to sell the school girls as sex slaves and for forced marriage, politicians finally started to react. The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, now feels pressured to act, and the governments of the U.S. and the UK offered help in finding the girls.

This incident targeting Nigerian girls is not isolated. In 2012, the Taliban attack on a young Pakistan girl, Malala Yousafzai, made international headlines. The 12-year-old’s crime as attending school and being outspoken about education for girls.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban has repeatedly threatened girls who go to school. While these girls are currently protected thanks to the NATO deployment in the country, the pull-out later this year will leave them vulnerable to Taliban attack.

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All those incidents – and all those we don’t even hear about – have one thing in common: they are against girls receiving proper education. The groups and people behind those incidents see educated young women as a threat. Education in general, and especially educated women, are a major threat to many entrenched groups around the world. Educated women raise their children to want education, so it has a multiplying effect.

As Nelson Mandela put it: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

But change is the last thing those groups want. More education means that it is harder to control people or dictate their actions or to abuse religion as an excuse.

To really make a change in the world, women and girls must be educated, as must all people.

Reacting to the kidnappings in Nigeria is certainly important, but the even bigger issue is ensuring education of girls around the world, and reducing the attacks against educating women.

The world must stand up and focus on the absolute need for education, especially the right of young women to receive a proper education.

Education is, and should be, an accessible human right for everyone.

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