Five hundred days ago, in the town of Chibok, northern Nigeria, Borno state, over 200 girls were abducted from their hostel by Boko Haram. The few who have returned are scarred by the emotional, psychological and physical brutality of their captivity. The fate of those that remain is unknown.
The Chibok Girls’ lives matter. Their situation is our shared problem as a global community. The humanitarian impact of Boko Haram is growing by the day; thousands are displaced, swelling the numbers of refugees in the region. Violent extremism is one of the greatest peace and security threats we face globally at present, hallmarked by the targeting of women and girls, the use of trafficking for funding sources, and sexual violence as a tactic of terror. Our response must therefore include prevention efforts, directly addressing the drivers of extremist violence with an aim of building resilient families and communities.
UN Women applauds the Buhari Administration in their efforts to put an end to the situation of child abduction that continues to afflict the northern regions of Nigeria. We are encouraged by the mounting news of releases of abducted girls. With the support of the global community, we can counter this scourge of violence in the region.
To build societies that are conflict-resilient and able to permanently address the root causes of extremist violence requires investing in policies and programmes that support good governance and sustainable development. By definition, this must involve policies and programmes that empower women as decision makers and partners.
We congratulate the government on the passage last May of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill. We encourage the State and local governments to enact this in their states and localities, to make budget allocations to prevent and respond to violence against women, and to build a strong foundation of human rights.
Nigeria cannot do this alone, nor should it have to. We must all do more to protect girls, as well as boys, who are at risk in areas affected by Boko Haram, including protecting their rights to security, life and education. We must support the reintegration of those rescued and ensure that they are welcomed and supported, not stigmatized. Many need access to comprehensive care services, including support for trauma and health impacts as well as income-generating skills. In this respect, I call on the international community to step up efforts to support national authorities in addressing their needs.
During this global week of action in commemoration of the Chibok Girls, we join the call of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to unconditionally release the Chibok girls and the many children and adults kidnapped in the North East. We must consider that these are not just Nigeria’s children, they are our children. In the spirit of what is termed in many parts of Africa as Ubuntu — where my neighbour’s child is my child — on this day we, the global community, must stand with our Chibok girls. We must remember them each day and do all that we can to help increase efforts to rescue those who remain in captivity.
We must also on a practical level support Nigeria and the global community to prevent the spread and influence of extremist groups such as Boko Haram.
No child should have to fear going to school. No child should ever have to fear being a child. And no child should ever have to fear being a girl.