As the world watches in horror and keeps their fingers crossed for the safe return of the 300-plus girls captured in Nigeria, there has been much confusion. How can the U.S. help? Do the captors' demands for a prisoner exchange warrant consideration? Who is that barbaric to target girls who want to learn?
There has also been much head scratching. There are many in the world that spend their days advocating for equal gender education and sometimes think they are making some progress. Small battles are won. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announces, "There is no more valuable investment than in a girls' education." And large efforts are recognized. Malala Yousafzai is nominated for the Noble Prize for her work to bring attention to this critical issue and has received an influx of funding from donors who want to support her efforts.
So, sometimes, just sometimes, you think that this type of lunacy is in the past. Then, Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of innocent young girls in the quest for a pure Islamic state. And we start scratching our heads again thinking, "How can this be?"
If Boko Haram thinks that educated girls are a threat to its militant mission, it is our job to prove them right. Let's make sure that the Nigerian government hears the world's insistence in keeping girls in school and recognizes it is the ONLY road to take. The Nigerian government response to date has been passive to say the least and if those girls are not rescued, it sends a clear message to the rest of the world -- girls should not be in school. It's not safe. It's a pretty tough message for a parent to ignore and subsequently, many girls will be kept safely uneducated at home.
We can't let the bad guys win.
Nicholas Kristof rightly said "The best tool to fight extremism is education, especially for girls -- and that means ensuring that it is safe to study." We must keep the pressure on until those girls are safely delivered home to their families and back to their schools.
And here in our land of safe schools and educated girls, we need to remember we aren't even close to winning this battle. There are many organizations we can support who are working hard to rectify this issue either through global education equality, like Room to Read, or through other efforts, like Water 1st International, which brings water to communities so that girls can go to school rather than stand in line for water.
We can do this. And when this crisis ends, we need to get back to work to make sure this never happens again.