Why Is An Educated Nigerian Girl Such A Threat To Extremists & Terrorists?

Nigerian-school-girl

This is a question which has been swirling in my head almost a month after the nearly 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Everyday citizens around the world mobilized their communities and platforms to share this important message, and to get the attention of the US government to act and intervene.

President Obama has announced he is sending a team of military officials for hostage negotiations to Nigeria. The Boko Haram group have said that they will only release the girls if their fellow brethren who are incarcerated, are released from prison.

Their leader, Abubakar Shekau, also released video footage of the girls showing that they are alive, wearing head-to-toe hijabs and telling the camera (and the world) that they have not been harmed. The first video released by the terrorist group showed their leader saying he was going to treat the girls like slaves and marry them off in keeping with Islamic traditions.

News of the kidnapping also inspired a group of US Senators to re-introduce the International Violence Against Women Act, which will make global women’s issues a permanent fixture in the U.S. State Department and require that USAID’s international efforts include programs that focus on reducing violence against women.

“The International Violence Against Women Act will make clear that ending discrimination and violence against women and girls is a top priority for the United States and central to our national security interests,” said Senator Barbara Boxer.

Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, echoed Boxer’s comments on the subject. “It took roughly three weeks for the U.S. to announce some concrete action to help bring back the more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls,” she said in a statement. “The International Violence Against Women Act would compel a more immediate and effective response.”

While the government must act quickly, it is important to note that there is another more sinister agenda going on which cannot be ignored. These group of men are against young girls being educated. Boko Haram actually means “western education is forbidden” so this kidnapping sends a loud and clear message that they aren’t messing around.

My question is, why is education such a threat to men? What do they think will happen? Will an educated girl take control of a country by force and start a war? Or is she more likely to seek out healthcare, help her community, get a college degree and pursue a career which will enable her to survive?

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for being a figurehead for the education of Pakistani girls wrote a piece in Time magazine about the kidnapping, basically saying what the Boko Haram are teaching as Islamic doctrine is in fact false.

“Islam is a religion of peace, where women are respected and education is valued above all. As Prophet Mohammed said, ‘It is the duty of every person to get knowledge.’ ” she said.

“Schools are not supposed to be places of violence. They are supposed to be havens of protection for children. Where children go to learn, to dream of a better future.”

Michelle Obama gave a video tribute on Mothers Day also echoing the importance of education, and used it as a platform to encourage western girls not to give up their own schooling, as there are literally girls in the world fighting for what some of us get for free.

“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education. Grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls,” says Michelle.

“Many of [the parents] may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way. But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.”

The Chibok Elementary school where the girls lived and studied was recently closed because of a terrorist threat, but the girls were so determined to continue with their education that they continued going despite the precarious situation.

It shows that despite terrorist threats and attacks, a girls’ will to have a better future is far stronger and will outlast any evil agenda. While the schooling conditions in some African and Asian countries may be completely different, there are still attitudes closer to home which make me want to examine why being educated is such a threat to manhood?

Before congress decided to vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act in April 2014, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn form Tennessee came out saying she is against the equal pay act. Why? Because she feels if women are paid the same amount as men, then it is a threat to masculinity and it will be hard for women to find a good husband. Come again?!?!

“Women typically choose a mate (husband or boyfriend) who earns more than she does. Men don’t have the same preference for a higher-earning mate. While women prefer to HAVE a higher-earning partner, men generally prefer to BE the higher-earning partner in a relationship. This simple but profound difference between the sexes has powerful consequences for the so-called pay gap.”

She also thinks if a “higher earning man is not available” then women are less likely to marry. Wow. Reading a statement like this makes my heart sink. How are there women living in the free world who think like this? It is teaching girls to aspire to marriage, first and foremost, and anything else is secondary and subject only to who your partner is and what his financial or life situation is.

Because apparently money is the only reason people get married…

The reason I bring this up is because in my mind, it is not that different to what Boko Haram are teaching. They don’t want women to be educated and have the opportunity to earn an independent living. They want them to be oppressed and controlled by men, so that their uneducated and falsified Islamic teachings can be promoted by these men.

TV show Vice traveled to Afghanistan earlier in 2014 to interview would-be child suicide bombers who were being detained by police. Vice co-founder Shane Smith, during his interview with these young men, learned that a lot of them are taken in by Taliban groups from such a young age and have no formal education.

Everything they know, they know from word-of-mouth teachings, and the majority are illiterate. This means their leaders tell them whatever they want, and teach them that when they pull the trigger on the bombs that are strapped to their chest, it will explode outward, they will not be hurt but instead be sent straight to paradise. Wow…

How is it than men have gotten away with taking advantage of kids, using education as a tool of manipulation, for so long? Why do Islamic extremists refuse to acknowledge what is actually written in the Quran when it comes to the treatment of women, children and education?

There has to be a deeper investigation than just that of a kidnapping. It is the bigger agenda of keeping women and girls oppressed that is really scary. Watching that episode of Vice where the young boys have no idea how they are being manipulated, broke my heart.

When we hear stories of Malala, and these Nigerian girls staying vigilante despite their dire situations, it brings a glimmer of hope, and a sobering reality. That our fight is not done. Whether we are based in the west or the east, we are continually faced with extremist groups who think that education is an evil thing. And essentially, that independence and freedom is evil.

Education is a source of hope for many of us around the world. It is so unbelievably disheartening that someone wants to stifle our next generation. I know in my heart we are going to see some incredible stories come out of this situation, and that every single one of these Nigerian girls are going to be a beacon of hope for many other young girls.

What can we do even though we are so far away? Fight on behalf of these girls. Pursue our education with a vengeance, and be living examples to break down stupid statements that an educated woman is going to be a deterrent to finding a husband. Stand against those people who say aspiring to marriage should be our only goal in life.

The popular African proverb comes to mind: “Educate a man, and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a community.”

To me, this story, and the others mentioned in this blog post are living, breathing and evolving examples of why feminism is not just a trend, but an important way of life. So I will leave you with the words of Nigerian author and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose powerful words were sampled on Beyonce’s track ***Flawless:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’ “

“Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage, I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.”

“Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

“We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings, in the way that boys are.”

“Feminist: the person who believes in the social political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

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