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Education is not a Crime

Young ladies in the rain wearing read in #BringourGirlsBack
Young ladies in the rain wearing read in #BringourGirlsBack

I like to think I have taught my daughter many valuable lessons but teaching her to protect herself from being kidnapped by terrorists was never on the curriculum. On April 15th, 276 Nigerian girls were brutally torn from their school, families and community by an Islamic extremist group. Their crime? Developing their minds.

Although a few have escaped, most are still being held captive. Their futures are, at best, uncertain. Will they be sacrificed? Will they be added to the list of 27 million slaves worldwide who are forced to labour, marry or perform unspeakable acts?

This experience will change the Nigerian schoolgirls forever. And, because we all share this tiny planet, their experience is also ours and must change us as well. Communities around the world need to take a stand against this atrocity. We need to acknowledge what is happening and take action.

On Wednesday, May 14th a passionate group in Oakville did just that. They gathered in Towne Square at the Bring Back Our Girls rally dressed in red and wielding hand-made signs. Rain, like the tears of pain and frustration that have been shed around the world for the injustices against these young women, fell relentlessly throughout the rally. Passionate words from politicians, grandmothers, teachers and students rang out in defense of the Nigerian girls and the rights for children around the globe to be educated.

“I believe that the power of education is still not fully understood,” says Beth Robertson, teacher lead of the St. Thomas Aquinas High School Peace and Justice Club (STA PJ’s). “This is a classic example of what Stephen Lewis says is the root cause of instability, violence, and gender inequality in developing nations. How can we not be affected by this tragic experience and take a stand, publicly, about this?”

Many of Oakville’s youth acknowledge discrimination and are passionate about the rights of women and the power of education. Sebastian Morales, next year’s Co-chair of the STA PJ’s, says he feels much empathy for the young women whose lives are being threatened for doing something he does every day. “The Bring Back Our Girls event is an act of solidarity geared to the global community in an effort to gain support to help the Nigerian girls,” Sebastian asserts. “It is important we come together as a local community, independent of gender and race, to express our concerns over global issues.”

We need to bring these messages home. We need to accept that we all have responsibility for our global community and these girls. And, we need to establish and protect the right to educate children everywhere.

My daughter will leave me one day soon. She is fortunate to be building a future of her choosing. Our community and the world is equipping her with a diverse education that is empowering her to thrive. I don’t know when she will leave but I do know that when she does, she will have been spared the lesson on violence, intimidation and the fear of terrorists tearing her from her classroom.

Every act has impact – raise your voice

We often think that we are not powerful enough as individuals to have an impact on world issues. The Global Friends Foundation knows that this is unequivocally incorrect. Every single act has impact. A simple conversation is a source of education and empowerment. The stories of the kidnapped Nigerian girls are not yet complete and the world is watching. We have the power to influence the plot and help write the ending. Join the conversation at #BringBackOurGirls.