On June 9th, Kechie’s Project organized a panel discussion entitled, “The State of the Girl Child in Nigeria.”
Several UU-UNO Interns attended the event at the UN Church Center in order to garner more knowledge about this human rights topic.
Kechie’s Project is a non-profit organization that actively engages in the important task of empowering girls globally through education. Their programs are very unique and specific; they empower high school students in Harlem, New York by holding leadership conferences and workshops.
Through a cultural exchange program, these young New Yorkers are able to communicate and mentor Nigerian girls who have received scholarships and academic materials from Kechie’s Project. This event was developed as a reaction to the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian female students by Boko Haram, a terrorist fringe group based in Northeastern Nigeria.Speakers varied from African-American authors and NGO members to Nigerian activists and diplomats. Among the speakers was Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, a style and culture reporter whose book, Powder Necklace, was inspired by her years at a secondary school in Ghana. She spoke about her educational experience, with many stories parallel to the experiences of the kidnapped Nigerian girls, who were undergoing rigorous exam studying at their boarding school in order to have the chance to attend university. Brew-Hammond emphasized the lack of access to education that girls encounter due to financial difficulties, child marriage, and domestic servitude. Another speaker, Nigerian activist Rahama Kassim, furthered these points, highlighting the fact that in Nigeria 40% of girls are married by age 18 and only 2% of 15-19 year-old married girls go to school. Moreover, the girls who were kidnapped by the Boko Haram were fortunate to have the opportunity to attend school, but were still prevented from achieving their educational goals. The overwhelming conclusion was that the Boko Haram and many of the worlds’ governments and citizens “fear the power of an educated girl,” as Stacey Scarpone of Women’s Fund of Long Island declared. Money is spent on gun control and a strong army over education, a problem prevalent in various places around the world, including the United States.
Men were also represented on the panel, including the Director of the non-profit Island Voice and the Deputy Director of Youth Programs for the Nigerian American Leadership Council. The latter, Dahiru Tahir Biu, is a member of the royal family of a Nigerian state that is a hotspot for Boko Haram sightings. His extensive understanding of the Boko Haram was extremely helpful, informing the attendees about the Boko Haram’s decade-long existence and how easily young men, including some of Biu’s relatives, have been persuaded to join their forces. Both leaders mentioned the importance of men’s presence in the movement for female empowerment and education, through “stand[ing] up and speak[ing] up” on behalf of universal rights.Although each speaker provided an interesting viewpoint, everyone affirmed the need for the Nigerian government and international public to take stronger action in searching for the missing students. They also commented that despite the media’s strong reaction to the atrocity in April, the #bringbackourgirls movement has slowly faded from many social media feeds. As of June 15th it has been two months since the students went missing. Using this atrocity as a platform to expose the oppression of the girl child worldwide, the event sponsored by Kechie’s Project asks civil society to make the safety, health, and success of girl children a priority for the first time in history. Let’s bring back our girls, and also raise up our girls for the good of the global community.