The shocking abduction of more than 200 girls from their school in Nigeria is a stark reminder that the struggle for girls’ education is yet to be won. That today – in 2014 – girls around the world must risk their safety and security to go to school is a powerful and sobering call to action for all of us.
Following the abduction of more than 200 girls from their school in the north of Nigeria, Send My Friend stands in solidarity with distraught parents, concerned Nigerians and members of the international community in calls to #BringBackOurGirls. The girls were taken from their school on the 14th of April by Boko Haram Islamist Militants – an extremist group in Nigeria whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’. With the girls still missing, it is crucial that momentum is not lost.
This recent assault on girls’ education puts a spotlight on risks facing many girls around the world on a daily basis. Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted as they travel to school, and even within their school environment. Beyond physical violence, girls seeking an education face multiple barriers, as our 2011 Send My Sister to School film highlights. Social attitudes and practices, including early marriage, mean that girls’ education is often devalued and denied.
Despite some positive progress, more girls than boys remain out of school. It is also vital to remember that ensuring girls can go to school does not mean that gender equality in education has been achieved. This will only be a reality when all girls can access and participate in education without fear, and in a way that respects and empowers them. For this to happen, national governments and the international community need to invest more in education for all.
In Nigeria – home to 10 million of the 57 million children still out of school – investing in education should be a top priority. The current focus is quite rightly on bringing these girls home safely. But more broadly, there is a clear need for greater national investment in education, concerted efforts for girls’ education, and measures to ensure that students are safe and secure in their schools.
We can all play a part in pushing the international community to deliver on its promise of ensuring education for all children. Right now schools can join the photo petition #BringBackOurGirls – joining Michelle Obama and young campaigners from Ysgol Pen Y Bryn in Wales and many more from around the world.
Read more about this issue in a recent Guardian blog written by David Archer of ActionAid.
Download the Global Campaign for Education’s report: Gender Discrimination in Education: The violation of the rights of women and girls, and GCE and RESULT’s report: Make it Right for Girls.
Photo: pupils at JSS Government School, in Manchok, Kaduna, Nigeria, © Kate Holt/Shoot The Earth/ActionAid