So many hashtags are written to bring back our girls – Nigerian girls stolen in the night by religious extremists. Their suspected captors, the Boko Haram, take their name from what they oppose. The militancy of belief that sees doctrine and power over people opposes the rights of any who step out of their box.
Perhaps these girls are the tipping point to finally draw our attention to this disregard of life. These girls had been given the chance to dream bigger than old cultural norms would allow. Those who do not accept the change, do not accept their humanity. Seeing roles instead of young women, they are abducted and the school which held their dreams is burned to the ground.My mind is numbed by a feeling of helplessness. Yet, remembering how social media helped bring awareness in other areas of the world I choose to hope. Can our voices make a difference? Or do our voices simply raise the fever of those who would do this action in the first place?
I read the hashtag posts and find the Nigerian police have posted a reward and phone numbers for any who might have information. Will they get responses? Will fear of intimidation stop voices that need to speak? Will feelings of privilege or jealousy halt voices? Will some stay silent because in some way, they feel the terrorist are right and these girls are being in some way punished for stepping out of the role their belief supports? Do some believe that the atrocity they are facing will in some way save their souls? What will be the tipping point? What will it take to get a response to help these girls? How many will be wondering where Allah, where God is in a time like this?
Will we understand that this is not an event somewhere else but one that affects us whereever we are? Can we keep from turning a blind eye by labelling someone as “them” and not “us” so that their situation has less meaning then if it had been our own child? Could God be in the touching of hearts around the world to make a difference? Could we be working to silence God if we choose to be indifferent?
I see the pictures of girls who escaped and wonder what their voices would be saying if we could hear them. I see the grief of the parents and think of my own children in empathy with their grief. I look at my life, knowing there is nothing there that measures up to what these parents and girls are going through. Yet there is within my life feelings which help bring a level of empathy for these young girls. I look to find those seeds to help bring understanding to the powerlessness I feel toward making a difference.
I don’t stop there. I look to other women I have learned about and ask myself if I could have stood as strong in their circumstances. Could I have made my voice be heard? Can I make my voice be heard? So I look at those women again and ask, what made the difference there?
Molly Melching goes to the country of Senegal. Her interaction of listening first to see what the people are longing for leads to the formation of Tostan, an organization that creates change in the treatment of women through education and empowerment of the voices needing to be heard. The villages begin listening and changing from within.
Wangari Maathai becomes aware of needs for the women in villages in her country of Kenya. As she seeks to help them she learns the link between their needs and the the ecologocial disaster to her region as trees are indiscriminately cut down. She encourages the planting of trees and stands up for the need to guard the trees from over development as a part of that movement to make a difference. Facing opposition as a woman who chose to “disobey”, she inspires others to stand up for the rights of women and their environment.
Malala Yousafzai began as an 11 year old by writing a journal under a pseudonym. Once when faced by a soldier threatening her, she let him know that the education of his children was as important to her as education for others. By 15, she was seen as enough of a threat to the powers who did not want change so she was shot along with two of her friends. She survives this terror and does not let it stop her. By speaking up for her own education she ends up being a voice that is heard around the world.
These women inspire me in their courage to stand up for change. They inspire me by the listening and observation that helped them make decisions that make a difference. What I fear is so much less and yet I have let it inhibit me from speaking out. I am still listening for more answers even as I begin by sharing here. Can these women and others like them show us the way to make a difference for these girls and others in similar circumstances?
My mindful gift for today is the examples of wisdom and courage that are beacons in our own journeys toward making a difference in our world.
Here are only a few of the sites and videos that will help you learn about these three amazing women and what they are doing for the world:
Any quotes and pictures are from other sites as I have never had the privilge to meet these women. But I do have the privileges of letting their examples teach me.