Westminster Column

16th May 2014

The kidnapping of over 200 girls last month by Islamist militant group Boko Haram is an appalling assault on civilization in Nigeria and on all our values. I welcome the announcement this week of foreign teams of experts to help the Nigerian Government to find the school girls and return them to their communities, and am glad that it seems the international community and international press have finally caught up with what has been going on.

I was shocked by the slow way in which the world woke up to the situation, an awakening that can be attributed in large part to the twitter campaign that raised awareness for the issue, with the number of #bringbackourgirls tweets now standing at over 3.3 million. Last week Harriet Harman and I tabled an All Party Early Day Motion (a way of expressing a political view on an important issue in Parliament) relating to the plight of these girls. Let us all hope that this terrible situation will soon be resolved.

This attack is nothing less than an attack on the future of Nigeria, with the kidnapping of so many young girls on the brink of making a real contribution to Nigerian life. These girls were about to take their final exams before going to university, and then would go on to be key contributors to Nigerian civil society in the future. I hope that they will be afforded the opportunity to do so.

Educating girls is one of the fastest and most important ways of making the world a more prosperous, safer and better place. This is why Britain has focused much of its development aid in this area. And it is not only the developing countries that benefit hugely from educating women – it also makes the world a safer and better place for Britain.

Here in the UK we are not only kept safe by our fantastic armed forces, but by the support that we give for development overseas. Britain’s Development policy tackles the root causes that lead to instability within countries, which could lead to them becoming sources of disorder, regionally and internationally.

This is why it is so important that we assist the Nigerian government in getting the girls back and allowing them to fulfil their bright futures – for their own benefit, the benefit of Nigeria and of the wider world.