More than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls have been abducted in schools across Nigeria over the last three weeks. The abductions have been performed by the Jihadist insurgent groups Boko Haram who have targeted teenagers aged between 12 and 15. The leader of the group Abubakar Shekkau appeared in a video proclaiming that he intended to sell the girls into slavery or to force them into marriage. The Nigerian government are still not sure as to where the girls are being held. Although some have escaped, there have been reports that some have also died though the causes of the deaths are unclear.

Boko Haram have previously expressed their intention to try and end education for girls not just in Nigeria, but across Africa. In much the same way as the Taliban in Afghanistan, they do not see women as having a place in education. This has caused an outcry internationally, particularly among feminists, who see the crisis as a direct attack upon women against whom religion is being used as a way to justify gender oppression and violence.

Boko Haram have previously condemned the West for allowing girls to be educated and not forcing them into what they argue are traditional female roles, namely, as stay-at-home objects to be used by their husbands. Feminism plays an important role in these types of crises, by pushing governments to take notice instead of letting them sit back and observe the situation.

Incidents like the one in Nigeria happen all over the developing world where woman are not protected against forced marriage and rape. Iraqi laws put the age of puberty at nine years old; Yemen has no minimum age for marriage; India has 40 percent of the world’s child brides. It is something that happens across the world, and something which feminists have been trying to tackle for years. The situation in Nigeria has brought the issue to the fore and has garnered enough media attention that the issue cannot be side-lined as it has been previously.

Western feminists in particular feel that they have a responsibility to make sure this issue is heard. There is protection and recognition for feminists across the West, and they do put themselves in danger by speaking out. Although there may come a time when military intervention is deemed necessary, feminists feel that they have a responsibility to help those that are asking for help, the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of the kidnapped girls, who are helpless. The Facebook page ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ has received over 40,000 likes, and there is also a twitter page to try keep people aware of any developments in Nigeria, but also to try and create a support system against those who feel that it is their right, religious or otherwise, to force any woman into a marriage.

Feminism offers a unique voice and a unique outlook on the situation. They are not concerned about state sovereignty, they are not concerned about borders or territory, they are not concerned with selling weapons to the country that they feel will make them the most profit. They are simply concerned with helping these young teenage girls and their families. It is clear that for the mainstream media, the struggles that women face is not worth the coverage when compared to the missing Malaysian Airline, or Simon Cowell and Kim Kardashian, even though this should not be the case. This is where feminism is of utmost importance. It keeps issues such as this at the forefront of people’s minds, reminding them that women still struggle.

 

Sources:

http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2014/05/05/boko-haram-leader-admits-to-mass-kidnapping-in-nigeria-declares-intent-to-sell-girls/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/06/western-feminists-kidnapped-nigerian-girls-boko-haram

http://www.channel4.com/news/nigeria-schoolgirls-boko-haram-kidnap-abduction-more-schools