As the World Economic Forum meets this in Nigeria, home of the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School on April 14 by Boko Haram terrorists, its leaders must use their power to help bring back "our" girls.
I say "our" girls because we are all one human family, and those 300 frightened teenagers sold into rape and slavery are our sisters, nieces, daughters and granddaughters. Each one of these girls is precious to us and deserves to live in freedom from fear and freedom to learn to think for herself. Those of us with school age children send them off every day carrying our dreams for their future and our hopes that their young hearts and minds will expand with knowledge, confidence and empathy. The parents in Nigeria who sent their girls to school in the face of terrorism are to be commended and assisted.
Since the horrible news broke two weeks ago, world attention has slowly increased attention on this horrific crime of mass human trafficking. The courageous families have protested, risking arrest and even ridicule from the first family of Nigeria. That is why we need the world to continue to put pressure on the Nigerian government to act. Commendably, our leaders in Congress have spoken out, and Attorney General Eric Holder has offered law enforcement assistance. Thousands of us have joined together to protest in cities around the globe, from the streets of Nigeria to the heart of my hometown of San Francisco.
But Nigeria needs more help -- and this week the World Economic Forum's meeting to "ensure that the majority of Africans can participate in the growth process as well as the benefit from the outcome" has the resources. Elsie Kanza, the World Economic Forum head of Africa said WEF Africa participants "are discussing [and] placing stronger emphasis on ... the role of women and the economic empowerment of them. Without peace and security, it is difficult to make progress in any respect as well as human rights."
What could be more appropriate in this discussion of women's roles in growth, peace and security than lending WEF Africa's clout and resources to the safe return of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls? We know that world leaders, heads of state, and government officials meeting for WEF Africa have the clout and the commitment -- now they need the power of conviction to help bring back our girls.
The world is watching the Bring Back Our Girls effort as a moment of truth -- either we throw up our hands and admit that our talk about the scourge of rape and human trafficking is mere lip service or we put resources behind our rhetoric -- including the vast WEF Africa resources -- to bring back our girls and to make quality, safe education a reality for women and girls around the world.