Utter Chaos!

I sat gobsmacked watching the news last weekend. There was carnage in Paris – dead bodies sprawled out on the floor, attacks in 6 locations, every news channel repeated that there were over 100 people dead. It looked like a scene from a horror movie. I watched a shaky video recording of a pregnant woman hanging from a window trying to escape and an astonished young man relaying how his phone had saved him from a bullet. He missed death by about an inch. Utter madness.

Although it wasn’t covered in the news a great deal, the day before there was also a suicide attack in Beirut. 43 people died and 239 were seriously wounded. Reports stated that a man called Adel Termos who was walking with his daughter tackled a second suicide bomber to the ground and prevented him from killing more. Sadly Termos died in that attack. He will be remembered by many as a hero.

On the same day as the Paris attacks, in Baghdad, there was a roadside bombing and an explosion at a funeral. Just like that…innocent people were massacred whilst simply going about their normal activities. My heart goes out to all of the people affected. There are no words to describe what they must be going through.

Several people who knew about the latter incidents also highlighted that there was a lack of coverage in the media about Beirut and Baghdad and several other atrocities taking place in the world. On Instagram, many people criticised Tiwa Savage (a Nigerian popstar) for posting a ‘pray for Paris’ picture and asked if she had also remembered to pray for Nigeria.

Whilst I agree that the Western media should provide a much wider coverage of all terrorist attacks, I had to roll my eyes at some of the comments. Many called Savage a hypocrite, yet they have no idea how much she prays for or what anguish she feels for her own country. Wherever one is in the world, should one not have a right to mourn or show compassion for whoever they want without being told that their empathy is misdirected? Are people who live in Europe not allowed to feel shock that terrorism, which always feels so far away, has now been brought to their doorstep?

What happened in Beirut, Baghdad, Paris and everywhere there are such vile attacks, is incredibly sad and entirely devastating. However, I also believe that rather than criticising people who choose to show compassion for a specific incident, we as global citizens should take much more interest in what is going on in the world.

The mainstream media will respond to the demands of their consumers. Indeed, there were some news outlets that covered the Beirut and Baghdad bombings, but many of us didn’t see it, ignored or scrolled past it – because we have the misplaced perception that war in Baghdad, Beirut etc. happen all the time and is not our concern. That thinking needs to change. The attack in Beirut, for example, was the worst experienced in Lebanon since 2013, when 2 mosques were bombed in the coastal town of Tripoli. Attacks like that are not everyday events in Lebanon.

I’m not going to lie, I was completely shocked at what happened in Paris and as I took the train to work this morning, I pondered on the idea that the busy train we were on could be a pawn in some geo-political strategy and suddenly blow up at any minute. I mused on the consequences of France’s defiant retaliation strategy. I felt sad about the state of our world. I reflected on the fact that the UK was so close to France and wondered if we would ever need to get used to the idea that our homes could become a frontline of warfare. Life is fragile and it is precious everywhere. I whispered a prayer under my breath for God’s protection because we never know what tomorrow may bring.

 

 

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Don’t just bring back our girls

bring back our girls

It has been over 6 months since Boko Haram rolled into a school in Chibok, northern Nigeria, rounded approximately 300 teenage girls into trucks, set the school on fire, then drove into a forest and disappeared.

The abduction prompted international outrage and a viral #bringbackourgirls twitter campaign. Many people sought to pressure the Nigerian government to do more to help find the missing children.

Although the media campaign for the return of the girls was well intentioned and created significant awareness, the girls have not been found. Whilst some of them managed to escape, many families are still in limbo. They are wondering if and when their daughters will be coming home. It seems crazy that the government have not yet rescued the girls; despite a world of Scandal style secret intelligence officers, military surveillance and supposedly doing all they can to bring them back. We must keep up our prayers and fight for their return.

And even if these girls do return, and I hope they do soon, the tragedy is far from over. In a country where only 11% of females finish secondary school and girls make up approximately 60% of the 77 million children not in education, Boko Haram is not the only problem. In some societies within Nigeria, it is believed that females ought not to work outside the home. There is an unwritten rule that says women can chose to be either housewives or develop their personal goals – but not both. In some areas, females who chose to pursue ambitious careers are ostracized and considered immodest and unwomanly. Statements such as “if you continue down that path you will never marry”, “don’t disgrace our home” and “know your place” are rife. Many young girls are forced out of school early and thrown into a life of servitude marriage with men who are old enough to be their grandfathers. Others are told that school is not a priority because they are female.

This is not to say that inadequate access to education always boil down to gender discrimination. One of the greatest factors hindering educational attainment within Nigeria is poverty. And poverty does not care about your gender. Another issue is illiteracy amongst parents and guardians. It is clear that the socio-economic status and educational viewpoint of a parent has a major effect on the development of the child. Indeed, the majority of educated Nigerian parents I know (both within the diaspora and back home) subscribe to a type of tiger style parenting where high achievement and investment in education is greatly encouraged – whether you are a boy or a girl. However, the fact that there are so many girls, especially in the northern states, not attending school demonstrates that gender bias is a problem. It is also evident that this problem is not as pertinent in the south of Nigeria as it is in the north. Studies show that 84% of poorest girls aged 7-16 years in the northwest have never been to school, compared to only 18% of children in the southeast. Evaluating who goes to school, who gets left behind and why is vital for strategic policymaking and for the future of the country.

We must bring to the forefront the gender issues that affect women in Nigeria. These challenges have a detrimental effect on the holistic growth of females,  as well as on male development and the progress of the nation as a whole. The Nigerian government and society need to do more than #bringbackourgirls, they need to ensure that all our girls are given an equal opportunity to gain an education and make their own choices to excel – whether that be in the home, community, government or in the boardroom.

#goal: to write about something I’m passionate about.