#BringBackOurGirls should be more than a hashtag

Sacred+Heart+Upper+and+Middle+School+students+gathered+in+the+Student+Dining+Room+May+9+to+protest+Nigerian+students%27+kidnapping.+Nearly+9+months+after+the+girls%27+disappearance%2C+their+location+remains+unknown.%0ACourtesy+of+greenwichtime.com

Sacred Heart Upper and Middle School students gathered in the Student Dining Room May 9 to protest Nigerian students' kidnapping. Nearly 9 months after the girls' disappearance, their location remains unknown. Courtesy of greenwichtime.com

Last April, the horrific kidnapping of 273 high school girls from the Chibok Secondary School in Nigeria outraged the Convent of the Sacred Heart and international community, dominating social media both locally and abroad. However, nearly 9 months after the girls’ disappearance, their whereabouts remain unknown, drawing into question how to change tactics to ensure the #BringBackOurGirls campaign was not in vain.

Sacred Heart Upper and Middle School students gathered in the Student Dining Room May 9 to protest Nigerian students' kidnapping. Nearly 9 months after the girls' disappearance, their location remains unknown.  Courtesy of greenwichtime.com
Sacred Heart Upper and Middle School students gathered in the Student Dining Room May 9 to protest Nigerian students’ kidnapping. Nearly 9 months after the girls’ disappearance, their location remains unknown.
Courtesy of greenwichtime.com

Sacred Heart Middle and Upper School students gathered in the Student Dining Room May 9 to pray and protest for the girls’ situation. Wearing red as a sign of solidarity, students felt compelled to demonstrate their support, especially given the school’s ties to Sacred Heart network schools in Africa.
“Making signs and gathering to protest the kidnapping of the Nigerian students is a cause that I think is important,” senior Kate Burkett said. “I wanted to help, especially given our school’s emphasis on building community nearby and with our sister school in Uganda.”
Boko Haram, whose name translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is the organization responsible for the girls’ kidnapping. It is also responsible for multiple other human rights abuses in Nigeria, according to the U.S. State Department. The Human Rights Watch reports that the group is responsible for at least 2,053 civilian deaths in the first half of 2014 alone, largely targeting schools and programs encouraging female empowerment and a secular Nigerian state. The extremism contributes to Nigeria’s ranking as 153rd out of 186th countries in the UN Human Development Index.
Yet Boko Haram is not the only threat Nigerian women face. Discriminatory national laws endanger women, including one permitting husbands to chastise their wives as long as it does not result in “grievous harm.” The same State Department report explains this harm is only defined as acts severe enough to result in the “loss of sight, hearing speech, facial disfigurement, or life-threatening injuries.”
Further, the punishment for sexual assault is far greater for women than for men. And no statutes prohibit sexual harassment. These sorts of laws are ones that make the government and nation less sensitive to the egregious injustices extremist organizations consistently perform against women.
Female strife in Nigeria does not stop there. The burgeoning Nigerian economy discriminates against the country’s 85 million women. Despite their constitutionally guaranteed right to equality and freedom, the State Department reports a “get pregnant, get fired” policy, lack of equal pay, refusal to recognize a women’s right to inherit land, and even gender segregation on public transportation. If Nigeria wants to sustain economic growth, it needs accept women in the workforce.
Managing Director of the AfricanBrains innovation and education network Mr. John Glassey explains that Nigeria’s female involvement in the workplace is the most crucial way to significantly boost the economy, according to africanheraldexpress.com.
Through governmental reforms and working with the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Mr. Glassey is confident the nation can build stronger trading relationships with nations across the globe. 
Instead of trying to attack the terrorist group head on, meaningful shifts in legal and economic policy are the solution to ameliorate women’s lives under the Nigerian government and the clutches of Boko Haram. Greater access to female education will only positively impact the nation. The UN Human Development Report links child mortality as inversely proportional to an increase in female education. 
Maximizing the benefits of the Nigerian economy and dramatically decreasing the nation’s human rights abuses will certainly not be easy, but it is clear that they are necessary. As a Sacred Heart community we can continue to help. We can renew #BringBackOurGirls and make it more than just an ephemeral trending topic. We can campaign for women’s rights in Nigeria to secure the country’s diplomatic, economic and social future.
-Grace Isford, Editor-in-Chief
For further reading:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/01/world/with-schoolgirls-still-missing-fragile-us-nigeria-ties-falter.html 
http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/06/27/obama-must-make-nigeria-a-priority-in-upcoming-us-africa-leaders-summit
http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-planes-searching-for-boko-haram-abductees-spot-girls-in-nigeria-1407263240