The Not-So-Secret War on Girls and Why We Should Care

Where are Our Girls?

It’s been almost a month since nearly 300 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped by the radical militia group Boko Haram.

Their crime?

Going to school and daring to dream of becoming doctors, lawyers and educators.

It took nearly three weeks and a hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls
to mobilize the international community, which largely overlooked their disappearance.

New York Times writer, Nicholas Kristof, who writes regularly about social and political issues in Africa, is covering their disappearance and the Nigerian government’s stunning lack of urgency to find them.

As a mother and a global citizen, my heart is broken by yet another devastating story of girls gone missing, sexually abused, forced into childhood “marriages” or sold into slavery and denied basic human rights.

It wasn’t long ago that we were riveted by the story of Malala Youfsazi, the young Pakistani girl who dared to speak out on the importance of education for girls.

For her bravery, Malala was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head and neck. She narrowly survived and is now living in exile advocating for the rights of children around the world.

The story of Malala and the young Nigerian girls is far from rare.

What gives?

Around the world, our girls are struggling to have food security, basic health care, education and reproductive freedom.

Consider these horrific statistics compiled by CARE

In 1994 in Rwanda between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped.

Gender-based violence affects as many women between the ages of 15-44 as cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

One billion women will be victims of violence in their lifetime.

How can this be?

Girls and the women they become (if they live long enough) are the bedrock of their communities.

Uplifting girls around the world is the key to addressing persistent global poverty.

A girl who is educated, healthy and provided with security (that means freedom from war, rape, genital mutilation, being sold into slavery or forced into premature marriage) lives longer and has a better chance of having children when she is physically, emotionally and financially able to care for them.

She can own a business that generates sustainable income for her family allowing her to provide healthcare for her children, reducing their chances of dying from preventible childhood illnesses.

Need more convincing that helping the world’s girls is crucial?

A few years ago this video on The Girl Effect, went viral.  It makes the case for girls in just a few short powerful minutes.

Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

As I write this post from my comfortable home in North Carolina, it’s easy to feel like this problem is bigger than me. That there is nothing I could do that would remotely make a difference.

Do you feel the same way?

There is something we can all do.

Here are just a few short ways you can get involved.

Advocate for girls education, health, security, and reproductive freedom. Check out:

Malala Fund
Half the Sky

Support a micro-financing program that provides small, low-cost loans to women entrepreneurs around the world. Check out:

Heifer International

Educate yourself.  Use your voice to raise awareness. Remember, while Twitter may mainly be a social and commercial tool in the West, in other parts of the world it is a political weapon and a powerful voice for the voiceless. Check out:

Social Good Summit

This Mother’s Day weekend, I hope you’ll embrace the women and girls in your life and not forget the women and girls in other parts of the world who need our support and advocacy.

#Bring Back Our Girls.

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