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Seventeen days ago, and two weeks into the ordeal of what we now know to be nearly 300 young female Nigerian scholars, Al Jazeera America began publicizing the Twitter hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls.   I had not seen any other news outlet acknowledge the story at that point.  Plenty of time and money had been spent for weeks on the missing airliner and the sunken ferry, but it seemed at the time that no one was particularly concerned about thugs invading a girls’ dormitory on the eve of final exams and abducting them for doing exactly what they were there to do: studying.

First and foremost, at that time,  the story needed publicity – a higher profile – and the hashtag campaign seemed exactly what was needed so I came here, posted about it, and tweeted the post with the hashtag.  Reactions to that post indicated what I had predicted.  A lot of people did not know about this situation.  I continued posting and tweeting and as the days went by the hashtag campaign did what it was meant to do.  It went viral.  Big names picked it up and the media could no longer ignore the story.

The whole point of the campaign was to raise public awareness, and it worked.  Now it is a story.  Now it gets coverage.  People know.  The global hashtag campaign forced the hand of the Nigerian government which had done nothing to help the girls or their families.  Now on the evening news we see the girls, their faces sad and surrounded by veils.  We see the abductors, cocky and jeering.

The girls are not home yet.  We are not even sure where they are.  We have heard the stories of a few who escaped, and at least one says that she cannot return to school.  Mission accomplished, Boko Haram!  At least one young woman will not be studying Darwin,  or be looking online at powerful telescopic photos near the moment of the Big Bang, or grow up to find ways to build a greener future for her country – the leading oil producing nation on the continent.

The supremely ironic, crazy attack by right-wing media on the hashtag campaign and on Hillary Clinton (I predicted that here) should come as no surprise and is no coincidence.

Rush Limbaugh Claims Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama ‘Sympathize With Boko Haram

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noceilings_eventpage

Why Education Matters

The kidnapping of over 300 teenage girls at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in Nigeria has captivated attention and headlines across the world, inspiring outrage, compassion, and calls to action.  The girls were taken by Boko Haram, whose very name declares that education is sinful.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the girls, their families and those working to bring them home safely.

These devastating acts reflect a much larger problem – girls are being targeted and threatened with violence, kidnapping and more just for seeking an education.

That’s why the global community must stay committed to helping protect and promote girls’ education around the world so that every girl has the opportunity to live up to her full potential.

The numbers tell a hopeful story about progress in girls’ access to education over the past two decades.   Here are some important facts and statistics about girls’ education in Nigeria and across the globe, and why protecting schools like Chibok is vital to girls, women, and the world.

FACTS: Why Education Matters

  1. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2013 shows that where the gender gap is closest to being closed in a range of areas—including access to education, health survivability, economic participation, and political participation—countries and economies are more competitive and prosperous.
  2. Half of the reductions of child mortality between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to increased education for women of reproductive age.*
  3. A 2011 World Bank report found that investing in girls’ education and opportunities in Nigeria and 13 other developing nations could increase a country’s gross domestic product by 1.2% in a single year.
  4. A 2002 study on the effect of education on average wages estimates that primary school education increases girls’ earnings by 5 to 15 % over their lifetimes.

FACTS: The Gaps that Remain 

  1. Girls and women continue to make up the largest share of the world’s illiterate population (61.3%), and literacy rates in Nigeria hover around 50 to 60%.
  2. Gender gaps are especially wide in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, where 40.1 % of girls and 33.1 % of boys are not enrolled in secondary schools like Chibok. This translates into 11.8 million girls in the region not accessing the education they need to attend university, find work, achieve financial independence, and contribute to a growing economy.**
  3. Girls also face early marriage as barrier to education, and should the girls from Chibok be sold into slavery or forced marriages, their chances of achieving their dreams will be all but dashed. In a study conducted in Kenya, researchers found that a marriage partner is associated with a 78 % increased risk of termination of secondary schooling.
  4. Globally, there are 37.4 million girls not enrolled in lower secondary school compared to 34.2 million boys, a gap of 3.2 million.***

​ It’s an unfortunate reality that it takes an act of courage to seek an education in places like Nigeria. But the girls at Chibok, despite the threats, pursued an education because they and their families understood just how valuable it is. Their resolve will set an example for generations to come and exemplifies the importance of working for the advancement of girls and women across the world so that every girl has a chance to go to school, fulfill her dreams, and break the ceilings and barriers she encounters.

This Mother’s Day, let’s remember the mothers who are missing their daughters, in Nigeria and around the world.

* Emmanuela Gakidou et al., “Increased Educational Attainment and Its Effect on Child Mortality in 175 Countries between 1970 and 2009: A Systematic Analysis,” The Lancet 376, no. 9745 (September 2010): 959–74. Although economic growth was also significantly associated with reductions in child mortality, the magnitude of the association was much smaller than that of increased education. 21 regions, approximately 4 million out of the 8 million children whose lives were saved can be attributed to education for women.
** Shelley Clark and Rohini Mathur, “Dating, Sex, and Schooling in Urban Kenya,” Studies in Family Planning 43, no. 3 (September 2012): 161–74.
*** UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Global Education Digest 2011: Comparing Education Statistics across the World (Montreal, Quebec: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011).

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Prior to departing Nigeria, Mme. Secretary stopped off at Embassy Abuja to greet the Marines who guard it and the staff who worked so hard to make this quick trip run smoothly and successfully.

Remarks at Meeting With Embassy Staff and Families

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy
Abuja,, Nigeria
August 9, 2012

AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: (In progress.) And thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to meet with our great mission team. In Nigeria, they say that rain brings a blessing. And based upon the rain we had two hours before you arrived and the rain we’ve had, your visit is quadruple-blessed. Friends and colleagues, join me in welcoming our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you all very much. And let’s just feel blessed. (Laughter.) It’s a great pleasure to be back in Nigeria to see so many of you here today, even some familiar faces from my last trip.

But I do want to start on a somber note and take a moment to remember the friends and colleagues that were lost in the airplane crash two months ago. And I want to express my personal condolences to the families of Anthony Okara and the five Nigerians who worked for our local partner organizations. I know many of you worked closely with him. They were your friends. They were vital partners to all that we are doing together to really advance this important relationship. And we are very, very grateful.

It’s been three years since I was last here, and in that time Nigeria has made a lot of progress. We’ve seen elections that were free and fair, a government working to institute transparency and reform, admirable leadership in regional and global affairs. And at the same time, we know Nigeria is facing serious threats from extremism. But through every one of these issues and many, many more, you have provided invaluable assistance to the Nigerian people.

And I especially want to thank the Ambassador. Ambassador McCulley, you have led this mission through all the difficulties of the last year. You endured terrorist threats against the Embassy, the bombing of the UN headquarters, a strike that brought Abuja to a standstill, and still you and this team kept going. You all never wavered or put off your responsibilities. I understand that some of you were leaving home at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to get to work before protestors barricaded the roads back in January. And that kind of dedication is extremely admired.

I also know that the security measures we have put in place, the curfew and travel restrictions to keep you safe, can be a real burden. But please know that nothing is more important to us than your safety, and making sure you have secure places to live and work is our top priority. So we are counting on the efforts moving forward toward completing construction on the new Embassy annex and a new residential compound. If you have a budget and you want to handle the construction of your house together with its design, coordinate with the apt design for their custom home builder melbourne western suburbs service. In the meantime, I want to make your lives a little easier, so I’m happy to say that we have officially approved a third R&R leave for post staff. (Applause.)

Now, I think that these gestures really speak volumes about the quality and quantity of work that is being done by the people at Mission Nigeria. Everyone at our Embassy, at our Consulate General in Lagos, our USAID and CDC staff, our Defense Department’s Walter Reed Program, and so much else, you work to deepen one of the most important strategic partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we know that what you do is really making a difference.

I also want especially to thank our locally employed staff. Will all of the Nigerians who work here for the U.S. Embassy raise your hands, please, so we can give you a round of applause? (Applause.) We are so glad to have you as our colleagues on this team. We know that it’s not always easy, for all the reasons I mentioned, plus I’m sure others as well, but you are so valuable. And very honestly, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, everyone comes and goes, except our locally employed staff. And you remain kind of the memory bank, the continuity of everything that we do here and will do into the future.

So thank you again. Nobody ever wants to admit that you’re going to celebrate my departure on this very short trip. (Laughter.) But I don’t mind if you do. I will soon be the responsibility of Ghana and – (laughter) – but seriously, it was a short trip because of scheduling challenges, but it was a very important stop. And it just goes to underscore how much we count on you in every way regarding this vital relationship. So please keep up the very good work.

Thank you all. (Applause.)

According to her schedule, she is now in Accra and has met with President Mahama.  Tomorrow she will attend the funeral of his predecesor John Atta Mills who died in office and while up for reelection on July 24.

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It was a short stop, just under three hours on the ground, but Nigeria got their farewell visit today from outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who probably will not be making another trip to Africa in her current post.  Even after she had arrived on the continent, African countries lobbied to get a visit on this trip, and although Nigeria was not on her original itinerary, she did manage to find a way to make the stop.

She was greeted at the airport by Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Viola Onwuliri.  Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru (in tan) accompanied her to the Presidential Villa where she met Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, (the lady in the colorful dress), and President Goodluck Jonathan (in black).

Here are her remarks following her meeting with President Jonathan and his National Security Council.

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Remarks Following Expanded Meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan And the National Security Council

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Presidential Villa
Abuja, Nigeria
August 9, 2012

Well, thank you very much, Mr. President, and those were extremely kind and generous words. But I appreciate that you know how committed the United States and the Obama Administration is to our partnership with your country. We consider it absolutely vital, and through our bi-national commission, which, as you mentioned, has helped us to expand and deepen our cooperation on a full range of issues, we are working on economic matters, the improvement and the productivity of agriculture, education and health, security, the diversification of your economy, and so much more.

We intend to remain very supportive on your reform efforts. Thank you for mentioning the work we did together on the elections. We’re also very supportive of the anticorruption reform efforts, more transparency, and the work that you and your team is also championing, because we really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless. But the most important task that you face, as you have said, is making sure that there are better opportunities for all Nigerians – north, south, east, west – every young boy and girl to have a chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential. And we want to work with you and we will be by your side as you make the reforms and take the tough decisions that are necessary.

So thank you, Mr. President, for this meeting. (Applause.)

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So far this is all that we have coming out of Nigeria today. Voice Of America is a reliable source.   Here is what they reported of Mme. Secretary’s visit there today.

News / Africa

Clinton Presses Nigeria’s President on Security

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

VOA News

August 09, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Nigeria’s president to adopt new strategies to halt escalating violence.

Clinton traveled to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Thursday, where she held talks with President Goodluck Jonathan and his security team.

VOA’s correspondent Anne Look, who is traveling with Clinton, said the security talks were to focus on northern Nigeria, where radical Islamist group Boko Haram is blamed for scores of attacks.

Clinton was expected to press for a strategy that addresses grievances that have led to the unrest.

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Public Schedule for August 9, 2012

Public Schedule

Washington, DC
August 9, 2012

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
PUBLIC SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9, 2012

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

Secretary Clinton is on foreign travel to Abuja, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana. Secretary Clinton is accompanied by Counselor Mills, Assistant Secretary Carson, Spokesperson Nuland, Director Sullivan, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs Grant Harris, and VADM Harry B. Harris, Jr., JCS. Please click here for more information.

4:00 p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Security Council, in Abuja, Nigeria.
(CAMERA SPRAY)

5:00p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with Nigerian Anti-corruption Leaders, in Abuja, Nigeria.
(CAMERA SPRAY)

6:00p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with the staff and families of Embassy Abuja, in Abuja, Nigeria.
(POOLED PRESS COVERAGE)

8:20p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, in Accra, Ghana.
(CLOSED PRESS COVERAGE)

Getty Images
Ghana’s new President John Dramani Mahama and his wife Lordina arrive to view the body of late President John Atta Mills at the parliament in Accra on August 8, 2012. Ghana began three days of funeral rites for Mills on August 8, with his body to lie in state ahead of his August 10 burial to be attended by foreign dignitaries, including Hillary Clinton. The death of Mills on July 24, five months ahead of polls in which he was to seek re-election, threw the West African nation into mourning and upended the presidential campaign in a country that recently joined the ranks of the world’s significant oil producers. Mahama, who had been vice president, was sworn in to serve out the remainder of Mills’ term hours after his death, as dictated by the west African nation’s constitution.

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U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) reacts during here visit to Malawi August 5, 2012. Clinton paid a lightning visit to Malawi on Sunday to congratulate its new president, Joyce Banda, one of only two female heads of state in Africa, for pulling her impoverished country back from the economic brink after a political crisis. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara (MALAWI – Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)

The rumor mill has been whizzing out of control all weekend with stories of additional countries to be added to the already packed schedule for this trip.  Originally arranged as an 11-day trip,  the addition of  Turkey next Saturday for talks on Syria extends that by at least one day.  Within the African leg of the trip, Voice of America reports the inclusion of Ghana, Nigeria, and Benin.  The first was expected since the purpose is to attend the funeral of  Ghana’s late President John Atta Mills who passed away unexpectedly on July 24.  Sources for that early story appeared credible.  The Nigerian leg was announced by local sources last night.  Benin comes as a complete surprise since neither very early reports nor the buzzing rumor mill had ever mentioned a stop there.  VOA reports:

Clinton is due to fly to South Africa Sunday, and later on to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.

In Ghana, she is expected to attend the state funeral of the country’s late president John Atta Mills.

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