by Ikemesit Effiong
Early in 2013, long before talk about her became the new sexy in the West’s media circus or Nigerian social media circles, I asked a salient question, Where are our Malalas?
A move to the United Kingdom, a global speaking circuit gig, United Nations endorsement, many a media interview and a Nobel Peace Prize later, the world is still riveted by the astonishing courage of a Pakistani teenager who dared to defile some of the most feared and murderous men to walk the face of the earth – all because she dared to go to school.
While we revel in the triumph of hope over adversity, courage over fear, reason over a blind, set-in-its-way ideology and progress over dogma, the short life and promise of Malala Yousafzai – now the embodiment of the world’s stuttering effort at providing its girls with a decent education – serves as a salient reminder of two things for Nigeria.
First, we are still home to the globe’s largest out-of-school population, a sizeable proportion of which are girls. That is unacceptable, unsustainable and is symptomatic of a country that is hurtling, head first to sabotage its future. Development specialists and aid organisations tell us that aid dollars are better deployed towards raising the level of female literacy and by extension, their participation in a nation’s economic and social life.
It has ascended to the realm of a national imperative. We simply cannot ignore the plight of our women any more.
Adopting a narrower focus on the idea of mulling over the state of girl education in Nigeria, it is now more than 180 days since at least 200 girls – who were in every sense of the word, outliers in a system and a part of the country where being female and in school isn’t always the norm – were heart wrenchingly kidnapped from their school dormitory beds in a rusty town in southern Borno State. It was testament to Miss Yousafzai’s thoughtfulness and grace that in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, she spared more than a thought for the Chibok schoolgirls.
In many ways, our girls were her, save for the colour of their skin and geographic location. However, in the power of their imagination and their shared love for education, empowerment and ultimately, economic emancipation and lifelong fulfilment, they were united against heavily set (and armed), male heirs of a centuries old belief that has at its heart, the subjugation and ownership of the female spirit.
For Miss Yousafzai and I believe, our still missing schoolgirls, the Taliban and Boko Haram are a physical expression of a world utterly disinterested in their vitality and wellbeing which must be confronted head-on. They represent a searing scar on the face of humanity’s onward march to egalitarianism and prosperity. In many ways, in places like Pakistan and Nigeria, we are aiding and abetting the continued exploitation of the minds and bodies of our women in a bid to maintain dated forms of social interactions.
It is a travesty of historic proportions that this has been allowed to remain for so long. We must make a concerted to put an end of this and I propose a starting point – finding our missing schoolgirls.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija