Three and a half months ago, 276 young Nigerian girls were abducted from their school, and the Nigerian government has yet to take action. Sister Rosemary Ukata and her organization, the HHCJ Center for Women Studies and Intervention in Abuja, Nigeria, are fighting for the girls’ return. Ukata spoke at Lehigh’s campus in order to raise awareness and understanding about the abduction.
Ukata told the girls’ story to a group of students in a seminar Tuesday afternoon, hoping that her voice would be heard among the Lehigh community. She urged students to understand the politics of third world countries and to support the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign by writing and talking about it.
“If you say it doesn’t concern you…biologically it affects you, because we are connected globally,” Ukata told The Brown and White. “What happens in one area, if we don’t all join hands to denounce it, to fight it, denounce it from the system…we need to fight the fight. It’s a fight in the long term and the short term.”
Several girls have escaped and revealed some of the horrors that they were subjected to while at the Boko Haram camp, according to Ukata.
The girls’ capturing at their high school in Nigeria has been attributed to the lack of governmental support for its citizens and extremist views on religion and beliefs, according to Ukata. She said no individual religions should be above the government; however, religion tends to control people where there is an absence of government.
Ukata believes the support of Nigeria’s women’s education is extremely important in order to build a solid foundation on which families may grow.
“If you teach a woman how to be literate, you are teaching a generation how to be literate,” Ukata said.
At the beginning of her seminar, Ukata asked students and those who joined to imagine what it would be like to be the kidnapped girls.
“Imagine being carried away by unknown persons to an unknown place where you will not see any of your loved ones…all you see is guns and weapons, with angry looking faces,” she said.
Two students who are part of the Lehigh United Nations program in Ghana, Sara Burman, ’16, and Sana Corman, ’16, both said they were very glad that Lehigh students had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
“We really wanted to spread some awareness and give people some tools that they could use if they wanted to get involved,” Burman said.
Corman said Ukata’s NGO has a close relationship with Lehigh, which prompted her visit to campus this week.
“This was for the whole student body because we have such a big presence in the UN and the United Nations youth program,” Corman said.
Ukata further criticized the Nigerian government, suggesting that many countries have offered to join in the search and rescue of the girls, but their own government has yet to find a solution. Since the girls were kidnapped, Ukata said that an additional 67 women have been captured. This most recent abduction caught the world’s attention, but this kind of abduction has been happening since 2012. She said countless women and girls have been forcefully taken from their homes and turned into sex slaves.
“If I had to stand in front of Lehigh, if I had to stand in front of the United States at The White House, I would tell everyone ‘have nothing to do with terrorism,'” Ukata said. “It’s against human nature.”