Nigeria and the power of lobbying

By Sarah Cant

It never ceases to amaze me that many young women and even some female sociology students announce that feminism is dead.

It seems to them that the gender battles of the 19th and early 20th century have been won and so that calling oneself a feminist is unduly forceful and antiquated.  There is actually plenty of sociological evidence based on the experience of women in the UK to suggest that this view is short –sighted. And, in other parts of the world the subjugation of women means that feminism has never been more needed  and that the voices of women have been actively silenced.

Moreover, this is a worsening situation.  Take the recent events in Nigeria as a case in point.  It is now 23 days since 276 girls were kidnapped by extremist militants from a group called Boko Haram, which roughly translates to ‘Western Education is Sinful’. The girls, aged between 16 and 18, were taken at gunpoint from their school and it is alleged that they have either been forcibly sold as brides to the insurgents or will be sold into slavery.

This high profile case has done little to throw the spotlight onto other worrying and invisible stories about the plight of women in Nigeria. 80% of women surveyed in 2012 had experienced sexual abuse; 31% before the age of 13. Smaller numbers of girls are regularly abducted –  a further eight were snatched on May 4th. Nigeria, according to the UN, has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the world. And, the idea of educating women being sinful has increasing purchase, mapped out in actual literacy rates (UNICEF shows 58% of women aged between 15 and 64 in Nigeria are literate compared to 75.6% of men).

Yet, the power of lobbying is also revealed by this story – it was the mothers of the girls taking to the streets – their voices, their outrage, their tears –  that prompted an international response and media coverage.

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