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A Nigerian Woman

Though the world now stands together to #bringbackourgirls, in the past Nigeria has not been a main focus of international media with regards to poverty, especially as it is influenced by role of women. This is despite the size of Nigeria— the most populous African nation with its alarming number of people living in poverty and its perceived importance to the growth and stability of the continent of Africa. One of the many issues that drags Nigeria behind is the suppressed role of the woman.

As one who has witnessed the productive role that educated and empowered women play in societies, I find the current situation in the country sad. But looking on the bright side, I am grateful for the rest of the world’s recent realizations — realizing the importance of family to Nigerians, the vast unharnessed potential of women in Nigeria, and most importantly, that the survival and education of every single Nigerian girl will determine whether Nigeria crawls, walks or runs to its place in global growth. When you peel off the social, economic, religious and geographical differences that separate us, we are all essentially the same.

While we support the Nigerian government in its efforts to #bringbackourgirls, allow me to share the story of many Nigerian women I have known. Nigerians often refer to Nigeria as “our motherland” but from the days our mothers are born, they are only expected to live an average 49 years, if they survive the one death out of every 29 births. Our mothers are born into a country where they will earn one-fourth of what men earn. Culture tells them they should be good cooks and good home keepers. For a majority of Nigerian women, their story is help raise your siblings, cook family meals, do the dishes and make sure that everyone but you gets to enjoy leisure and pursue their dreams. You barely have time to ask yourself a simple question like, “What is my dream and purpose in life?”

A recent report released by Save the Children states that Nigeria is one of the 10 worst countries for a mother and her young child. Can you imagine living a life where everything you do from dawn to dusk is a risk and fails to help you pursue your dreams? As we work to #bringbackourgirls, we are also mindful of what we bring them back to. Bringing them back to the same place without any change does them and us no good. Our women deserve better.

While the attention is enormous and the support overwhelming, the question we ought to ask is, what are we going to do with this newfound support and attention? Are we going to get our girls home and return to life as usual? Or are we going to seize this opportunity, assess our state and begin our journey on the way to recovery? It starts with rescuing our girls. It starts with ensuring adequate health care to reduce infant mortality of one death in every 29 births. It starts with ensuring that there are good schools for our girls to attend. It starts with ensuring that our girls are granted equal pass to life-improving programs without having to look over their shoulders. It starts with men sharing in responsibilities like keeping the home, doing the dishes and lending a helping hand. It starts with ensuring that Nigerian women are guaranteed a voice like and a seat next to Nigerian men. The era of overlooking the role of a Nigerian woman should be over.

To every Nigerian girl out there, the rest of the world stands with you. Seize this opportunity to embrace the way forward for your family, friends and country. The odds have been stacked against you for centuries, and despite your daily struggles, your stories have often remained untold. Yet, I commend you for your strength and resolve. Despite your backseat role, you have been the unsung heroes. It is time for you to share your story. It is time to take your rightful place on this vehicle and join the rest of its drivers as we steer our way to a better place.

To the rest of the world, thanks for your conscious efforts to stand with Nigeria as we work to #bringbackourgirls and forge our path forward. We hope that bringing back our girls is not where the buck stops but the start of bringing our girls home to a place where they have a voice, do not have to look over their shoulders before gaining an education or pursuing their dreams, and are major players in driving Nigeria and Africa forward. That is the home they deserve to come home to. That is the home that every Nigerian woman deserves. May God guide us as we work in love to restore faith in one another. May the eyes of our heart be opened to the understanding that the social inclusion of and investment in every Nigerian woman is the way forward.

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