October 11th marks the International Day of the Girl Child, a day to promote the rights of girls and address the unique challenges they face. It will also mark the 179th day since more than 270 Nigerian girls were awakened by gunfire and kidnapped from their Chibok boarding school by Boko Haram.
In the meantime, at least 11 parents of the kidnapped girls have been killed by militants or illness, and the girls' hometown remains in danger. At least five towns in northeastern Nigeria have been taken over by Boko Haram, although the military says it has won some of these back. Three smaller groups of girls as well as dozens of boys and young men have been kidnapped, and more than 2,100 people have been killed.
In the initial days of the search, a Nigerian official claimed he knew where the girls were being held. A month later, American surveillance planes spotted a group that officials believed to be the girls. And in June, a mediator said that a deal to free the girls had fallen apart.
Surely, October 11th must also be a rallying call to #bringbackourgirls. Let the day remind the world of the school girls' horror, nightmare and terror attack, ensure that these young girls are not forgotten, and the need to fight for their safe return to their parents' waiting arms. And let it be a day to demand answers how we ensure that such a brutal attack never happens again.
In late May, the U.S. sent 80 troops for an aerial search from neighboring Chad and as of mid-September, the troops were still in Chad and the U.S. had surveillance flights looking for the girls each week.
What has Canada done? After writing an article, a letter to the Minister, and order paper question asking "what specific resources has Canada sent to Nigeria to help search for the Nigerian schoolgirls, and for each resource, what is (i) the monetary value of the contribution, (ii) the date the resource was on the ground in Nigeria, (iii) the date until which the resource will stay", this is what I received: "Canada offered Nigeria support. Canada deployed a team to Nigeria to liaise with our colleagues from the U.K., the U.S. and France to support the Government of Nigeria's efforts to locate the girls. The team was also supporting our High Commission in Abuja to provide extra resources in dealing with the crisis. The team was in Nigeria from May to June 2014."
That is not enough. On this International Day of the Girl Child, let us remember that many more Nigerian teenage girls have been taken hostage since April and let us all remember that violence against adolescent girls is all too common and tragically tolerated, often because of pervasive gender inequality. Emotional, physical and sexual violence is frequently perpetrated by those closest to young girls. The effects last for lifetimes and even extend to future generations.
Together, let's fight for more action to return the school girls to their families, and let's all work to end the scourge of violence. It is in all our hands to ensure that adolescent girls live is a safe and supportive environment that provides them with the opportunities to thrive.
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