Empathy for the missing girls in Nigeria


picOften abuse of and violence against girls are direct consequences of violation of women’s rights . Logically, the fight for gender equity  among children should be the first step toward gender equality and the realization of  a society based on respect for Human  Rights. Unfortunately, Girls face different kinds of challenges in  their everyday lives .They are subjected to early marriages, sexual violence, domestic violence and discrimination in many facets of their lives. In conflict-prone societies, children and women are  the most vulnerable groups which should be protected by any state..  This worrying situation is even worsened by outdated stereotypes in cultures and customs which though should be unacceptable in the contemporary world, continue to stratify members of the feminine gender into the nadir of social ladder across Africa and in other corners of the world. The chauvinistic mindset behind the structuring of patriarchal societies alienates the womenfolk of such societies from key decision making processes and further secludes them from access to economic empowerment. Thus, they are reduced into mere beneficiaries of the efforts made by their male counterparts. In such societies, where women who form a huge portion of the population have through systemic marginalization and suppression, been made to assume only the roles of recipients of policy decisions and implementers of directives, the voice of women is silenced, their plight is ignored and their welfare is blatantly  neglected. Africa, being a classic case of such a setup, has consistently failed in her obligations to recognize, respect and protect Women Rights. That is why even the perceived safe environments of our homes and schools have turned into sanctuaries of Human Rights violation, full to the core with scenes of domestic violence whose negative impacts continue to take toll on women both psychologically and in their physical health.  Over the past years, children and women have always been so vulnerable to wars and internal conflicts. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2 million children have been killed by conflict over the last decade; 6 million children have been made homeless; 12 million have been injured or disabled; and there are at least 300,000 child soldiers operating in 30 different conflicts across the globe. Not forgetting that  women in  DR Congo have been gang-raped. In addition, 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998.  Sexual violence against women has been used as a weapon of war in so many countries including those in other continents such as in Cambodia were women slavery is at a very big rate.

All these factors are a confirmation of the veracity of the general categorization of women and children as the most vulnerable in cases of armed conflicts. In fact it goes beyond a mere conjecture to assert that sexual violence, rape of women and defilement of girls  become rampant during wars and skirmishes. But grave as it is and despite numerous proofs to its commission, the crime of sexual violence in  most countries is still not effectively punished. A number of countries still lack a comprehensive definitive agreement on what constitutes the crime of sexual violence. In such countries, the broad definition of sexual violence which includes rape, abduction and  kidnapping. This makes it more difficult for women to claim their rights in such societies where they are traditionally marginalized and in which their plight is evidently not prioritized In times of armed conflicts, children face a variety of challenges including  deprivation  of  all the basic needs of life like food, shelter and clothing. Children face an unbearable encounter with terror and grotesque acts of savagery in scenarios of war, which leave most of them severely traumatized after such experiences. . As insensitive as it may sound, young children are recruited mostly forcefully into the military wing of the conflicting factions.   A recent research found out that in 25 countries across the world, thousands of children under the age of 16 have fought in wars A 1995 survey revealed that  36 percent of children of Children in Angola had supported soldiers and 7 of them had fired at some point. In Bangui (central Africa), more than 100,000 children were forced to flee their homes due to the forced enrolment in the army, diseases or facing threats of sexual abuse Episodes of mass violence leave a wake of shattered social relations, unhealed wounds, and narratives of hatred and revenge that devastate communities. But even before these disastrous consequences, gross violations flourish because of an enabling environment of marginalization and prejudice against women and girls. In some cases reports about rape, sexual slavery and defilements are never given a serious consideration because of the prevailing customs which treat women as mere sex objects, a fact that goes a long way in exacerbating the culture of impunity with which violation of women Rights are committed.

In some cases very high numbers of women are victims of these violations. For instance, in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, the estimated number of women and girls who were raped is 100,000 to 250,000. The impacts of the rape are still very alive in Rwanda where mothers are still grappling with the challenge of explaining to their children that they were actually born out of rape by the perpetrators.


Young girls are raped which makes them being marginalised by her society. Undesired or forced wanted pregnancy and sexual transmitted diseases (STDs), torture and other ill treatment may come as a result. In the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, the estimated number of women and girls who were raped is 100,000 to 250,000. This has affected the lives of girls and women due to the rape psychological suffering.


Beyond this heinous crimes last month more than 200 young girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists in northen Nigeria. This horrific incident reflects once again human shame and impotence of the state of Nigeria to protect a class of its own citizen and the entire international community. This has lead to the shutdown of schools in the northeastern part of Nigeria, continuous violence and fear not only in Nigeria but the world at large. This kidnapping includes others human rights violations such as the violation of the right to education.

This act constitutes an attack against the future of Nigeria and against the young girls dreams and aspirations. It cannot be justified by any cultural or religious belief. This is an unacceptable violation of human rights. This is an attack against the aspirations of these young girls. As Irina Bokova, the general director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, puts it rightly, the entire international community must strengthen its support for quality education, for human dignity and sustainable development. These imply strong institutions especially the judiciary able to protect human rights and proper mechanism of reparation and compensation to tackle human rights violations. Unfortunately the culture of impunity has acquired a unique scale in Nigeria, ruining hopes of hundreds of parents as it has reported by Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N.).

These girls were in school to acquire education in order to make their country a better place to live, they all had dreams which would have become a reality. Some of them want to become social workers, nurses and Doctors, lawyers or human rights defenders. Losing the opportunity of education affects their everyday lives and makes them underestimate themselves .But it seems that terrorists have put at the back of their mind that education empowers women and to “empower a woman is to empower her children, her family and her nation at large”. Unfortunately, in most African cultures, the role of women is still limited to household work. It is worth mentioning that the protection of women’s rights starts by understanding the importance and role of a woman in a society.

No word is convenient enough to describe the kind of pain and agony their families are going through. It is one of these moments in our lives when we wish we were having a terrible nightmare. There is nothing as traumatic as uncertainty about the future; we cannot predict whether these girls will be set free, how long they will stay alive or the kind of ill treatment they are going through. And above all the harsh social and psychological consequences this kidnapping will have on girls. What about their health?

The most unfortunate part of this situation is that it could have been avoided if Nigeria was a peaceful society where justice was one of the priority of the government. After all, we all have, women and men, the right to live in peace without fear and just as William Hazlit said “Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves”. Some African countries have managed to establish a minimum environment for peace such as Rwanda for instance.

A human being starts dying when he stops dreaming and ultimately lose hope. Thus one of the ways to destroy a society is to destroy its youth dreams, for young people represent the hope for a better future in a peaceful society free of violence and human rights abuses. Boko Haram has destroyed the dreams of more than 200 girls, Boko haram has destroyed the Nigerian society!

To build the ideal peaceful society, the world should stand for justice and respect for human dignity and other human rights. Their first targets should therefore be the most promising but vulnerable group, children.

They should put in place a sustainable way to address this issue such as fighting the root causes of gender based violence, fighting rebels and terrorists groups, fighting impunity and fighting protracted conflicts.  In conflicts societies, special training on how to protect children should be given to soldiers, policemen, peacekeeping and peace enforcement mission peace keepers. African Citizens including women and girls should be included in all process put in place to fight human rights violence.

As it has been said previously, kidnapping of girls in Nigeria is one of the most heinous crimes and include other serious violations of rights including other ill treatment such as torture and cruel and inhumane treatment, confinement, the right to education and many other. the act violates many human rights instruments such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child , the Convention on the Right of the Child, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and others. The harsh social and psychological consequence that it has on girls should be also charged as enslavement which is a crime against humanity and a war crime.

Their protection ought to be considered as paramount for the international community and the state of Nigeria. Considering the impunity in the state of Nigeria, the government has to strengthen the judiciary and all relevant institutions to make sure that justice is made. We all have to stand for the respect of human dignity.

African leaders and the international community should fight together against the occurrence of such horrible disaster and bring back Nigerian girls, our girls. As David Hume said, It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place… it’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.
Bring back our girls!


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