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In 2014, a Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, kidnapped 276 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in Northern Nigeria. This was particularly heart-breaking because across the country, the region is considered the least educated, ridden by related problems such as early child marriage, forced marriage, and unemployment. The lack of education significantly contributes to the detriment of society, disallowing its people to progress as they should. But this isn’t a problem specific to Northern Nigeria. It has been reported that around the world, 9 million girls have never set foot in a classroom; less than 40 percent of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education, and 132 million girls are out of school worldwide.
The same year the Chibok girls were kidnapped, Malala Yousafzai became an international household name, after becoming the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize at 17-years-old. Two years earlier, at 15, she had been shot in the head by gunmen for defying the Taliban rule in Pakistan for being a staunch advocate for girl child education. Malala’s unwavering activism inspired the creation of “Malala Day”, which falls July 12th on her birthday, by the United Nations in honour of her fight for the education of all children. Malala has since been recognized for her activism and even been reported to have said: “Every girl, no matter where she lives, no matter what her circumstance, has a right to learn. Every leader, no matter who or she is or the resources available to him or her, must fulfil and protect this right.”
The significance of girl child education can be seen in the famous saying that goes: “when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” This isn’t just because mothers are often the first educators in their children’s lives; it also has to do with the development of the nation. When you educate a woman, you increase economic growth because more people can earn salaries, produce goods and services and get jobs; reduce unemployment; reduce the rate of child marriages; empower women and increase their participation in political leadership, and reduce the gender gap. Most importantly, educating the girl child helps the country break out of the cycle of poverty. In short, the nation benefits when it prioritizes girl child education.
Just last month, in an article titled “Belonging to the Kitchen and the Other Room”, I wrote about the importance of girl child education and the dangers of thinking in such a way. I disagreed with the words of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari and explained its indication: that women are not capable of making significant contributions to political, economic, social and religious domains. Lastly, I wrote that: “had my father told my mother – even once – that she belonged in his kitchen, his living room and the other room, I would perhaps have married at 14 (or less) to a man who also thinks like that.” I often think of myself as lucky, but it is not luck, it is common sense.