Monday, June 16, 2014

Local News

Caring the World Over

Local women's groups rally for Nigerian abductees

Staff/Voice photos

 

Chilliwack residents rally for the Nigerian girls taken by the Boko Haram militant group.

 

t was two months ago, on the night of April 14th, that armed gunmen from the Nigerian insurgent group, Boko Haram, kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok. Last week, it happened again.

 

This time, the Boko Haram are suspected to have abducted up to 40 more girls from a nomadic settlement of cattle herders in the same area.

The militants say their aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria. Sharia is the code of law derived from the Koran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed. It's very strict and oppressive towards women. It's rife with misogyny, where girls as young as nine are forced to marry, and honour killing. Many women have been stoned to death on charges of adultery under Islamic Sharia law.

Thousands of rallies and protests with shouts of "Bring back our girls" have been taking place around the world.

On Saturday, a couple dozen Chilliwack residents, mostly women, stood in a circle at Central Community Park and called for change.

Anita Rogers President of Soroptimist International Chilliwack chapter helped organize the rally along with staff from the Ann Davis Transition Society.

Rogers spoke about the role the Soroptimists have in transforming the lives of women in poor countries.

"With this event, we hope to lift up our hopes and prayers for the safe return of the girls and for a world in which women and girls have equal access to education. We are gathering to witness to the power of the people speaking as one voice on behalf of those who have none. We also hope to draw attention to the challenges women and girls face in too many corners of the world, as they follow their educational dreams," said Rogers.

Heather Rollins, who is Governor for the Western Canada region of Soroptimist International of the Americas was at the rally and expressed her pride in the work the Soroptimists do such as funding education for girls in Bangladesh.

"We just have to keep spreading the word," she said. "I'm very proud of this organization. We educate girls in Africa, we supply drinking water for girls there so they don't have to walk miles, so lets keep spreading the word.



"I'm really proud of Chilliwack for not forgetting these girls and for making this anniversary," said former MLA Gwen O'Mahony. "It's a horrific anniversary and I call on the Nigerian government to bring our girls back. They are our girls. They may not be Canadians and from Chilliwack, but they are our girls. We're going to fight and we're going to bring back our girls."

O'Mahony snapped photos of people at the rally holding printouts of the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Frequent Voice contributor, Myrtle Macdonald was also at the rally and appealed directly to the Boko Haram.

"So, we'll make a big impression on their captors and my prayer is that the captors realize these are educated girls. And also forced marriages, that's the other side of it," said 93-year-old Myrtle MacDonald.

Read Anita Rogers full comment below.

 

Hello Everyone, Thank you to everyone who came out to this event today to join our voice with those around the world. My name is Anita Rogers, President of Soroptimist International of Chilliwack.

 

Soroptimist International is a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls. Our network of over 80,000 club members in 129 countries and territories works at a local, national and international level to educate, empower and enable opportunities for women and girls.


Today it is 2 months that nearly 300 school girls were abducted from the remote village of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria by the renegade group Boko Haram with still no word of them. The abduction of the Nigerian School girls has provided a focal point for the worldwide struggle for equal access to education for women and girls.


With this event, we hope to lift up our hopes and prayers for the safe return of the girls and for a world in which women and girls have equal access to education. We are gathering to witness to the power of the people speaking as one voice on behalf of those who have none. We also hope to draw attention to the challenges women and girls face in too many corners of the world, as they follow their educational dreams.


There are other similar events taking place in Toronto, Oakville, and Winnipeg.

 


There are far too many statistics out there relating to the oppression of women and girls.
Did you know that 15% of women, worldwide, cannot read or write? That may not sound like a lot, but it amount to no fewer than 500 million women.


According to PLAN Canada, 65 million girls around the world are not in school. 39 million of those are aged 11 - 15. Barriers like poverty, violence, early marriage and pregnancy and local cultural attitudes stand between far too many girls and the education they have a right to.
Malala Yousefzai was shot in the head while riding the bus home from school, in October 2012 (Pakistan).


Child marriage, early pregnancy, girls being kept home to perform domestic chores (according to traditional, gendered norms), parents who don't understand that educating their daughters matters. Violence is also a leading cause of girls staying away from school.


Before the Nigerian girls were kidnapped, their school had been closed for four months, because of security concerns. The girls had been called to return for exams.


20 more women have been abducted near the village from which the girls were taken, Chibok in the northeast of the country.


On December 11, 2012 Senior Women's Advocate was murdered in Afghanistan. Najia Seddiqui was gunned down on the way to work @ the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Five months prior, her predecessor was killed by a car bomb.


The case of the missing girls is an opportunity to raise awareness about continuing barriers to the education of women and girls around the world and the role the West can play in working to eliminate those.


A wonderful article in the Montreal Gazette by Marc and Craig Keilburger has succinctly outlined what we can do as a call to action.


The phenomenal #BringBackOurGirls campaign made viral by Michelle Obama and other celebrities armed with smartphones has rallied image-conscious world leaders to commit military resources to finding the schoolgirls in Nigeria.


But even more importantly, it has rallied the attention of the rest of us to an issue that’s too often buried in the middle pages of the newspaper (or nowhere at all).


An International Labour Organization report released last week found that 21 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery, including 4.5 million forced into the global sex trade — an appalling industry worth $99 billion US. That’s more than the annual profits of Exxon and Apple combined.

 


So now that we’re all tuned in, we have a unique opportunity to turn our feelings of helplessness and moral outrage into a plan to bring back our girls — before they’re taken.
The vast majority of girls and women caught in the exploitative global sex trade are not victims of kidnapping, like the Nigerian 276 abducted by Boko Haram, but rather of poverty.

 

Human traffickers prey on poor families who don’t have access to education and aren’t aware of their basic rights. Mired in grinding poverty, parents desperately take out loans on conditions they don’t understand, pledging their children on their debts.


Similarly, it’s not militant groups that block 31 million girls from getting an education. The girls in Nigeria had a classroom, but many communities don’t have a functioning school. Many families can’t afford school supplies or uniforms.


Many girls have to stay home to care for sick relatives, look after their siblings, or perform essential household chores like walking miles every day for drinking water. Yet the opportunity for an education is critical to the economic future of that girl, that family and that community.


Of course, there will always be extreme cases of kidnapping and other evil deeds that require drastic measures like the ones being mobilized in Nigeria. But these extreme cases shouldn’t paralyze us from preventing more cases, from addressing the root causes that prevent millions more girls from setting foot in a classroom in the first place.


If we want to protect the world’s girls, we must empower them and their families to break the cycle of poverty. We can accelerate the spread of microloans to women and families in rural areas and urban slums so they can start small businesses and avoid dependence on shady moneylenders. We can break down the barriers to girls’ education by supporting education initiatives, but also health-care programs and clean-water projects.


These solutions aren’t as exciting as Hollywood’s scripted versions in which heroes kick down doors, stop the bad guys and rescue victims. But they are the most effective and most sustainable ways to protect the world’s girls.


Thank you all for coming out today and adding your voice to ours.
 

 

See more photos below.

 

 

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