Monday, May 5, 2014

Why I'm Talking to My Boys About Bringing Back Our Girls (and What I'm Saying)

I have been emotionally invested in the abduction and return of the 234 missing Nigerian school girls since last week. It has occupied my thoughts and my prayers and weighed heavy on my mind.

I have bombarded my Facebook feed and Twitter with links and cries to #BringBackOurGirls. I have talked to my husband about it. I know he is watching because, well, he follows me on social media and so can't get away  from it.

But I realized today as the outcry begins to reach fever pitch that I must talk my boys about these girls. Even though I wish very much that they did not live in a world where girls can be abducted and sold into slavery for $12 for going to school, the fact is they do. And the best chance I have of changing that world, better than any hashtag, is to raise children who do not live in blissful ignorance, children who blush first with shock and then with anger over the injustice of modern day slavery. Children with knowledge and education and passion for the poor and the oppressed of the world.

All of my children happen to be boys. The most poor and oppressed of the world happen to be mostly girls and women. It seems easier to figure out how to discuss this atrocity and initiate a call to action among other girls who can picture themselves in these girls school shoes.

But if we are to raise a generation that triumphs over these evils, and I firmly believe we are capable of doing so, we have to stop calling these issues "women's issues" and make them "human issues", "justice issues", "the right thing to do" for all of humanity.

I believe my sons could be part of the solution to the injustices humanity faces. I believe they know girls who are part of those solutions too. I want to ensure they grow into men who believe that with every fiber of conviction they have. I want them to be men who will step up when it is their turn in the ring and have the education and the passion to deliver the knock out punch to injustice. And I want them to be men who will lean over the ropes in the corner, brows beaded with sweat and voices hoarse with overuse from cheering on the women in the ring as they take their turn to strike back at injustice.

For that to happen, I must start now, must build a little fire in their guts to fight injustice and to not be afraid of the reality that most of the world's injustices are commited against women and girls, that girls are the most oppressed people group on the planet. I want them to know it is not a shame to them as men and they do not have to shuffle awkwardly away from that reality. That they can be men who lean into that and begin to change that reality just by being willing to discuss it, sit with it, claim it as their problem.

And I want them to learn to listen to women and the way these realities affect them. To hear the ache of the hearts of women they love and respect, the cries of the mothers, and desperation of the girls. And to not be afraid of the emotion of it all. To take it and hold it in cupped hands and guard it well. And let it be the spark that lights them up to defend their sisters.

I have a house full of boy children. But I want to be sure they know they are not sister-less. And that their sisters, they need them. And this world needs them. And this world needs their sisters too. And that is why they must care about bringing them back. That is why they must care that women are set free. That is why they must care that girls get to go to school.

Because they live and will live in world that is made whole by the women who walk it with them. And their silenced voices and locked away lives leave half the sky missing. And I want my boys to see the whole sky. And love it with all their hearts.

So this is the essence of what I am sharing with them today:

1. The bare facts: 

              234 girls missing
              16-18 years old
              stolen from school in the middle of the night
              why the girls lived at school:

            Families had sent their girls to the rural school in Chibok for a desperately needed education. The northeastern town is part of Borno state, where 72% of primary-age children never attended school, according to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria.
              in rural northern Nigeria
              by terrorists oppsoed to girls seeking an education
              taken to another country
              being sold for $12 a piece

2. Some perspective:

              more girls than the number of passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

              ten classrooms full of girls (based on US average of 23 kids in a classroom)

              families had invented approximately $1200 in these girls' education (based on $100 a year estimate for government school fees and supplies for 12 years)

              In a country where more than half than the people live on less $2 a day that is an investment                 of 1/3 of a family's income

              These girls were sitting for their final exams, just months away from significantly contributing                 to the income of their families

              Explain the impact the fear will have on other families and girls and the domino effect of                       thousands of girls afraid to go to school.

3. Lack of and late response of media

            Just doing the best I can to describe this in my own words to them and touching a little on the reality               of institutional racism and that the news media markets to an audience and covers what viewers will               watch. We'll have a conversation about what that says about the perspective of most viewers in                     developed nations.

4. Lack of government and world response:

            Again, doing what I can in my own words here. My kids have lived in developing nations. They are               well aware of how lack of infrastructure affects efficieny and ho long-standing cultural norms affect                 people in those nations. They are also pretty aware of the vulnerability of the poor to violence and                 the lack of protection afforded them. We'll just talk about how all this contributes to the reasons why             no real plan of action to locate the girls has yet been developed and instituted. I will ask them their                 ideas on what they would do if they were in political power in this situation.

5. And lastly, what they can do:

  •             Pray...for the girls, for their families. But also for their captors and the government officials                   who can rescue them. I might share Sarah Bessey's beautiful post with them.
  •             Read them the story of the Good Shepherd (timely since it will be Good Shepherd Sunday in               the Church this weekend) and ask them to think about why it is our responsibility to act as we             are able on behalf of these girls. How would the shepherd who went after the one lost sheep               want us to respond?
  •             Have them sign the petition and write their note in their own words ( I am not sure             if there is an age for the petition, but I will have them to it anyway for the chance to articulate               their "why" response)
  •             Introduce them to a few amazing online friends who are modern day freedom fighters and                   abolitionists


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