Nigeria’s Islamist Group Boko Haram has continually wreaked havoc in recent years, rampaging through the northeast of the country in their attempt to overthrow the government and create an Islamic State. Members of the group have committed heinous acts such as a wave of abductions, assassinations and bombings. In April 2014, 276 female school children were kidnapped in the town of Chibok. Boko Haram has exploited these school children and women in disturbing ways, with reports of extreme sexual violence and militia coercing women into suicide bombing civilian targets. Despite an international outcry and one of the biggest global social media campaigns #bringbackourgirls only 21 girls have been released.
The United Nations General Assembly has designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women but how influential has the international community actually been in reducing violence against women? Is there a practical plan in place with the complete aim of eliminating against women? Using the Chibok girls as an example, the answer is sadly no. There has been next to nothing in the way of support to the women that have managed to escape the militants. They are now homeless, reduced to begging to survive and susceptible to further violent attacks against them. Despite this bleak outlook, I do believe there is hope and optimism to eradicate this appalling treatment of women. One of the origins of violence against women is a universal and basic lack of equal rights. Promoting women on a level platform with men helps to reduce the tragic global misconception of men believing they have an advantage over women. This leads onto the next crucial point of education. Universal education on women’s rights and education for girls and women can help to educate children on the importance of showing respect and compassion to everyone. Finally, the continued rise of influential women as the face of such issues across the world is playing an integral role towards eradicating the idea that violence against women is part of society. The Chibok school case is horrific, yet unfortunately not an uncommon, case of violence against women. However, I do believe the international community over time has the power to change this, if it decides to prioritise such a basic violation of human rights and peacefully promotes such values of genuine gender equality.
Frederic Higgins 25/11/2016