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Dubai Abulhoul: #BringBackOurGirls, and why you should care
May 20, 2014
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

When I was in kindergarten, and as I would get dressed in my crisp-white school uniform, I would've never guessed that some girl around the world wouldn't be getting ready for school too. Brigham Young once said, “When you educate a man, you educate an individual. When you educate a woman, you educate a generation.”

On April 15, Boko Haram, a terrorist organisation, kidnapped 300 Nigerian schoolgirls. Around 40 girls managed to escape by jumping off the vehicles that drove them away, but the rest are still, weeks later, missing. Boko Haram, whose name figuratively translates to “Western education is sinful”, have threatened to sell the girls, whose ages vary between 16 and 18, and are held in captivity in an undisclosed location till then. What was their crime, exactly? Seeking an education.

According to UNESCO, 66 million girls are out of school globally. In primary school, there are 33 million fewer girls than boys. UNESCO reported that a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5.

Educated mothers, as reported by UNICEF, are more than twice as likely to send their children to school. Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children, reported the National Academies Press. The World Bank reported that a girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult. If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. Those facts are startling, and are a cause for concern.

I first heard about the kidnapping when I was in university last week. As soon as my class was over I checked my Twitter timeline and noticed that the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was trending worldwide. My curiosity grew, and as I read about Boko Haram and what they have done, I was devastated.

The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was launched to spread awareness about the kidnapping and to pressure the international community to do something about the issue. Political figures, like Michelle Obama and UK's Prime Minister David Cameron, have backed up the campaign and took part in spreading the hashtag. The kidnapped girls are someone's daughters, aunts, nieces, and sisters. At this point, raising awareness is key.

As I sharpened my colourful crayons, and drew a smiling sun in the top left corner of my page, I would've never thought that a girl somewhere around the world would be dreaming of seeing the light.

It never occurred to me as I was reciting numbers one to ten out loud, that a girl my age, in a developing country, would be screaming for her life. As an Emirati, I never had to deal with, and will never have to deal with, the struggles girls in the developing world need to overcome in order to get an education.

We never had to risk our lives and hide in alleys to read a book. We are privileged, and with privilege comes a great responsibility to give back.

We need to lend those kidnapped girls our voices, and we need to fight their battles. Raising awareness about the issue is what we can currently do, and we shouldn't stop until the girls are back in their uniforms, waiting for their teachers to enter their classrooms and begin the first lesson of the day.
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The author is an Emirati novelist-writer

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