I am Nigerian.
My father was born in Nigeria. He worked hard and was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to travel to the United States for his college education. He met my mother… and the rest is history. I am my father’s daughter. I have two daughters of my own, both deeply embedded in American culture and way of life but, nonetheless, Nigerian. They get little lessons about Nigeria, Igbo culture, family, and traditions and I am eager for them to experience Nigeria firsthand. It was an experience I was fortunate to have, travelling there frequently and living there for a couple of years as a child attending AIS – the American International School. I am better for that experience. It shaped who I became as an adult. It is an experience that becomes challenging to reconcile as I follow the campaign to rescue 200 girls kidnapped by terrorists.
I’m horrified as I catch up on the latest news. CNN World is reporting Boko Haram’s claim that the girls will be sold in the market. What does that even mean? Do you stop by the market for some quick shopping? “Yes please, I’ll take an order of Suya and two girls. Wait – make that Suya, Jollof Rice, and three girls.”
As Nicolas Kristof opined in his column for The New York Times, “The best tool to fight extremism is education, especially for girls – and that means ensuring that it is safe to study. The greatest threat to militancy in the long run comes not from drones but from girls with schoolbooks.”
For the last week or so, I’ve spent time ruminating about our ability to change the world if we just change the questions that we ask. The theory is that a single question could connect our work to our ability to bring out the best in each other. What’s happening in Nigeria could not be further from our best. Furthermore, it is only a recent terrorist act against girls and humanity. There have been countless terrorist acts. What is the right question? What question might we ask to bring out the best in each other and ensure that young girls everywhere – Nigeria and around the world – can safely educate and build flourishing lives for themselves?
Globally, we must embrace the values of social justice, respect, integrity, equality, creativity, and courage. We must acknowledge our realities, collaborate for change, empower ourselves and each other, engage in socially responsible action, call for justice, and build individual lives and a global community that truly flourishes.
Tomorrow, I will hug my daughters close as they step out the door to catch the bus to school. They will travel to school and enjoy the benefits of a top quality public education. They will move one day closer to the glorious women that I anticipate they will become. I will whisper my gratitude to any and every higher power that will listen and I will demand…
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Ifeoma U. Aduba