For more than two weeks now, Nigerians and people around the world have waited in horror for any update on the safety of the nearly 200 schoolgirls still missing after militant extremists staged a mass kidnapping in the northern region of the country.
Here’s what we know: We know that more than 40 girls have escaped on their own. We have heard that the kidnappers have sold the remaining girls into marriage. And we have heard that the kidnappers chose schoolgirls as their targets because they don’t believe women and girls should be educated. We know that every day, around the world, women and girls face gender-based violence and discrimination.
What we don’t know is who these men think they are.
Our international division, Planned Parenthood Global, works with incredible partners throughout northern Nigeria. Our partners and the communities they serve work tirelessly to empower girls, not rip them out of school and rob them of their childhoods.
Coordinated through our office in the capitol city of Abuja, we support local Nigerian organizations to advocate for and provide broader access to sexual and reproductive health care. The programs we support put a special emphasis on investing in the health and lives of young people because, unlike the terrorists, our partners care about the future of Nigeria, and of Africa, and of the world.
We have our work cut out for us. The world we have doesn’t yet look like the world we want.
In the world we want, schoolgirls can go to sleep in dormitories without fearing that strange men will storm in to kidnap them in the middle of the night. In the world we want, young men are taught to respect women. In the world we want, people don’t face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In the world we want, all people have access to the education and health care they deserve.
In the world we want, 200 girls in northern Nigeria are returned swiftly and safely to their families.