On Wednesday, I joined a group of mothers for a powerful conversation on how we can improve the health and well-being of women and children, and the topic on everyone’s mind was the horrifying kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
As a mother and an advocate for girls, I’m appalled and angry at this assault on girls because they were excising their fundamental right to education. The UN Foundation joins the call of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN leaders for the immediate release of the girls.
From this terrible act to the attack on Pakistani teenage education advocate Malala Yousafzai in 2012 to the countless other horrors inflicted on girls that never make international headlines, it’s clear what extremists fear: girls with books, pens, and dreams.
The sad reality is that millions of girls around the world are denied education and health care, forced into child marriage, sold into slavery, and subjected to violence. Enough.
Every girl has the right to decide her fate; now it’s time to make sure every girl has that chance. This horrendous attack must be a wake-up call for the world to do more for the girls in Nigeria and for girls everywhere.
We must channel our outrage into results for girls around the world. We must become agitators for change, not bystanders to the status quo. Raise your voice so girls remain on the world’s radar. Get involved and support their health, education, and empowerment.
During the Moms +SocialGood conversation, Elizabeth Smart, whose resilience continues to inspire us, powerfully called on us to speak out against violations against children, saying:
“There is so much that all of us can do.… All of us should be raising our voices so loud and talking about it so much and not stopping until there is change. This should be an ongoing, non-stop conversation. This should extend politics, this should extend borders, this should extend languages, barriers…. This should be something we all care about…”
She also had this beautiful message to the kidnapped girls from Nigeria:
“You cannot be devalued. You have worth that can never be taken away from you no matter what happens.”
(Photo credit: UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0515/Nesbitt)