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    Boko Haram’s Sick Hatred Of Girls

    The abduction of 200 female students from northern Nigeria was not the first attack on girls’ education by Boko Haram—and it won’t be the last.

    The numbers were shocking: “Nigerian Unrest: Gunmen abduct ‘about 100 schoolgirls’” headlined the BBC after guerrillas believed to belong to the Al-Qaeda allied group Boko Haram attacked a boarding school late Monday night in the Nigerian state of Borno. But this is not the first time that these radical Islamist rebels have abducted girls en masse, and it almost certainly will not be the last.

    In mid-February, according to local press reports, about 400 members of the group, some of them wearing military uniforms and traveling in military-style trucks, attacked the town of Konduga, also in Borno state, near the borders of Chad and Niger. They murdered 51 people and carried away 20 young women.



    Chimamanda Adichie: Literary Lagos

    The new winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction on her literary city and how it inspires her writing.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been a cornerstone of both Nigerian and American literature in recent years. Her debut novel, Half of a Yellow Sun was followed by a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008 and her latest, Americanah, which describes a young couple reintegrating back into Nigerian life after an American education has just won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

    Growing up in a quiet area of Enugu with her Igbo family—an ethnicity and language that many of her characters share—Adichie left Nigeria to study in the U.S. at the age of 19 and now spends half a year in each country, teaching creative writing at the University of Lagos. She’s also penned a collection of short stories, as well as essays on a variety of political and social issues, (her Ted Talk “We Should all be Feminists” was sampled by Beyoncé) which have led to her publication in over 30 languages.  

  • Author Chinelo Okparanta explores the plight of young woman through a series of short stories in "Happiness, Like Water."

    Chinelo Okparanta

    Champion of the Stifled

    The Nigerian-born Chinelo Okparanta’s debut collection introduces the world to a defender of young women who are oppressed and silenced.

    Scheming mothers and selfish husbands, fathers, and brothers domineer over the sensitive women of Happiness, Like Water, Nigerian-born Chinelo Okparanta’s debut short-story collection. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Okparanta was named one of Granta’s six New Voices in 2012. It’s a fitting honor: the unsparing stories of Happiness, Like Water show Okparanta to be a champion of young, frequently misunderstood female protagonists whose voices are too often stifled. In many of these tales, Okparanta’s women struggle to control their fate in the face of oppressive circumstances.‬

    Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in “Wahala!” a story in which a young woman’s inability to conceive turns her husband and mother into co-conspirators. They bring Ezinne to a local dibia (healer) for a session with oils and elixirs and then goad her into hosting a big dinner to ward off any residual “negative energy.” It’s all a prelude to what Nneka and her son-in-law Chibuzo hope will be a swift impregnation. “What with all the safety measures having been taken—the healing and then precautionary dinner—he could see no reason why she wouldn’t be eager,” Chibuzo reasons before forcing himself upon his wife that very night. As he does so, his mother-in-law listens to Ezinne’s moans of pain outside their bedroom door with a smile. It’s a horrifying final image—one presaged by the story’s title, which summons a Nigerian pidgin expression meaning “trouble.”



    No Minimum Age for Marriage?

    Petition aims to strike down law in Nigeria.

    In July, Nigerian legislators voted on a marriage amendment in the country’s Constitution concerning a clause stating that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.” In a second vote, a majority wasn’t reached after some held that it was discriminatory of Islamic law. A Change.org petition for a minimum-age marriage law currently has more than 64,000 signatures, and it needs 10,000 more. “Simply put, the law as it stands today, provides no protection for a minor being subjected to sexual intercourse regardless of age, as long as the same is done within the boundaries of marriage, even though she may not have the capacity to understand or appreciate the nature of the marriage contract,” according to the petition. More than 12,000 cases of vesicovaginal fistula linked to child marriage have been reported in Nigeria, according to the petition.

    Read it at Change.org
  • Emmanuel Wole/AFP/Getty

    Too Young

    Nigerian Senator Married 13-Year-Old

    Supports laws protecting child marriage.

    Nigerian Sen. Ahmed Yerima has been the driving force behind legislation supporting child marriage and blocking attempts to modernize the constitution of the country by treating married girls as adults—even if under the age of 18—and giving them the right to renounce citizenship. Yerima himself has taken a 13-year-old Egyptian bride (though he denies her age), using this law to technically bypass the illegality of such a marriage. Nigerians are now popularizing the hashtag #ChildNotBride on Twitter in protest of this exploitation and hypocrisy.

    Read it at The Guardian
  • Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty

    Warrior for Justice

    Joy Ngozi Ezeilo: Slavery’s Scourge

    The U.N.’s special rapporteur on trafficking in persons on stopping the sex slavery of women and girls.

    When she was young, just 2 years old and barely able to walk, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo was on the run. In 1968 a civil war had plunged Nigeria into chaos. She has no memory now of those days, but her parents told her that she knew the sounds of incoming shells and bombs and would scream as soon as she heard them.

    Today Ezeilo is one of her country’s most forceful advocates for the rights of women. At 47, she’s the mother of three children herself, a woman with a big, contagious laugh but no time for nonsense: she looks at problems—and the people who create them—straight on. As the United Nations special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, with a special focus on women and children, she has global reach in the fight against modern-day slavery. She’s also a distinguished academic. But her firsthand experiences with suffering are what give her such striking passion.