The past few years have been particularly rife with news about the terrible plight of women around the world. First came Malala Yousafsai’s, a Pakistani activist for human rights advocacy for education for women, horrendous attack by the Talibans in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. The latter lead to Miss Yousafsai’s being awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, Miss Yousafsai has been the precursor for a worldwide whirlpool of support towards the cause of bringing education not only to the masses, but also to deprived communities around the world.
By then, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafsai’s name, demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. This was in tandem with the setting up of the WorldatSchool initiative under the aegis of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s Global Education Fund (GEF). The WorldatSchool movement has now evolved into a highly structured and dynamic platform where its Global Youth Ambassadors are entrusted with the task of raising awareness among families, policy-makers and other stakeholders, as to the need to have all children in school through their #UpMySchool campaign. Additionally, leaders around the world are constantly being lobbied so as to make the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG2) a number one priority.
Education is essential not only for raising young people from the shackles of poverty and misery and aspiring to climb up the social and economic ladder, but also represents a unique opportunity to bring together the activists, campaigners, youth leaders, volunteers and policy-makers so as to win the fight against illiteracy or what the French call ‘analphabétisation’.
Since its founding in 2013, #AWorldatSchool has partnered with international children’s and teachers’ organisation, as well as relevant local and international NGOs, to be more efficient in mobilising educational campaigns at a global level, to in fact ensure that our voices are heard by world leaders’ and policy-makers.
The past year, the world has watched helplessly and in utter shock as the terrorist organisation Boko Haram kidnapped no less than 200 girls from a state secondary school in the town of Chibok, located in Nigeria. Although some girls have been released while others have fled from captivity, the majority of young women are still being held captive by Boko Haram despite extreme international pressure being yielded against the Nigerian government and the latter’s tracking efforts. Moreover, according to Amnesty International, 2,000 women and girls have been abducted in Nigeria since the start of 2014.
This situation cannot last for long: it perpetuates a climate of fear for the young girls or children in general to have the opportunity to reap the full benefits of a sound education system. Mainstream education efforts would also subsequently prove to be a way to discourage them from being brainwashed by militant groups in Nigeria. Education would also be a passport to nurture young minds into fledging policy-makers, which would in turn have the will and capacity to enact laws and deploy further into the Boko Haram territory to protect the Nigerian civilian population.
In December 2012, the world again witnessed the cruel and inhumane gang-raping and chilling murder of a young girl hailing from New Delhi, India’s capital city. This incident is just the tip of the iceberg, in a country with a highly promising future, but where patriarchy is the order of the day and where rape-victims are often depicted as “she asked for it.” The whole point of awareness campaigns against rape is the fact that it is irrelevant how a girl or women chooses to dress or behaves for men to obtain a ‘license’ or ‘green light’ to rape her. However, as much as we do not condone such a despicable act of rape, and agree that it cannot be justified, we have to take into account the pockets of poverty, unemployment and frustration through which the perpetrators of rape go through. Here, we come back to our plea to ensure that each child is put into schools where they can learn the values of society and also shun the arcane ideas of female subjugation.
But the picture painted above is not all that bleak because hope remains in this endless fight against illiteracy. Talking about the challenges ahead, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education has made a resounding plea to the world community by quoting a French saying which goes like this: “You can survive for 30 days without food, you can survive for 8 days without water, you can survive for 8 minutes without air, but you cannot survive for a single second without hope.” From the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Miss Yousafsai, to the numerous sprouting of campaigners and organisations fighting for the right to education, the small steps and programmes being made on the ground in more difficult and dangerous regions of the world, and the stakeholders lending an ear to the issue, much needs to be still achieved, we are on the right track to work towards one of the most important MDGs and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We have not forgotten the girls who are still being held captive by Boko Haram, nor do we want to sit complacently as the future of these girls are being held by a thin thread. One year after the kidnappings, the Chibok girls are still in our thoughts and prayers. Therefore, all over the world, vigils, prayers and peaceful marches are being held, with the slogan #BringBackOurGirls, to show our solidarity to these girls and also to the Nigerian authorities who are fighting against the militant terrorist organisation, as well as negotiating deals with the latter for the release of all the girls.
Throughout this week, you can join this movement by wearing a red T-shirt or any piece of clothing with a red colour, organise peaceful marches and rallies across the island and also raise awareness on #BringBackOurGirls on your social networks, at work and among your friends. We count on you! Let’s tell the Chibok girls that they are not alone!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are strictly my own and do not necessary reflect those of the organisations I work for, or am affiliated with.