The abduction last year and continued disappearance of more than 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, drew international attention to a humanitarian crisis caused by the criminal terrorist group known as Boko Haram wreaking death and destruction across much of that nation’s northern half. It also highlighted the sad fact that in far too many places, being a school girl is dangerous business.
Girls face the threat of violence on the bus ride to school, the afternoon walk home and elsewhere. And that’s if they can attend school at all. Community leaders may permit only boys to attend class, or schools may be shuttered and used as hospitals or military bases instead.
The barriers that prevent girls from going to school vary. What is clear in any community is that education can change everything for a student, offering ideas, experiences and discoveries. For many girls, education improves their earning power and leaves them less vulnerable to HIV/AIDs, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence. It places girls on a path to a better life, and improving the health, well-being, and economic security of their families and communities.
Such possibilities have inspired our nation’s efforts to help adolescent girls in other nations stay in school, including an initiative announced by President Barack Obama and the First Lady called “Let Girls Learn.”
From supporting community-based solutions to local problems to leveraging diplomacy and U.S.-funded education programs that address the needs of girls, this effort aims to knock down barriers that keep far too many adolescent girls from completing their education. It’s a signal to the world that the United States is committed to adolescent girls and their education, and to seeing their lives and opportunities change for the better.
It’s also a signal of our resolve to stand up to those who choose to brutalize, terrorize, and torment. In the face of groups like Boko Haram, we will remain strong and committed to the rights of men and women, boys and girls.