Millions of people around the world have tweeted in recent weeks using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. That's an important sentiment, and not just as it relates to the kidnapping of 276 female students by
The region in which the abductions took place is reaching an ecological and social tipping point, and in the years to come, much will depend on its girls.
In a video released on May 4, Boko Haram's despicable leader,
As despicable as Shekau is, he does understand something: The schooling of girls has the power to transform a culture, which makes it a threat to his kind of repressive fundamentalism. Like blowing up cellphone towers and power plants, kidnapping girls as they take their final exams is a strategy that makes sense if the goal is to stop progress.
If Boko Haram continues to kidnap girls with impunity, then it will be only rational for parents to go back to the age-old cultural tradition of marrying daughters as soon as they reach puberty. To send them to school would risk their being abducted, or worse.
Northern Nigeria is part of the Sahel, the dry southern border of the Sahara, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. It is a region with the most rapid population growth on the planet, and it is among the areas most threatened by global warming.
In 1950 there were 30 million people in all of the Sahel. Today, there are 125 million. In 2050, the
Young men can't be ignored either. The
The current U.N. humanitarian strategy for the Sahel notes that crop yields increased by a tiny 1% over the last five years while per capita food supplies fell by 13% "when adjusted for population growth." But the plan makes no mention of family planning and education activities that have been sorely underfunded. This must change.
History has taught us again and again that unchecked fanatics can bring immeasurable suffering. Even Al Qaeda has disowned Boko Haram. For USAID,