News / Africa

Rights Advocates: Kidnapping, Rape of Women and Girls Too Common

A woman attends a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped Chibok school girls, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, May 6, 2014.
A woman attends a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped Chibok school girls, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, May 6, 2014.

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis

The abduction of more than 200 young girls from a school in northern Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram has been big news in recent months.  But human rights advocates respond that this type of violence against women and young girls is nothing new.

In fact, kidnapping is one of the many forms of violence regularly practiced against women and young girls in developing countries. Other abuses include rape, sex trafficking, child marriages and child prostitution.

“The abduction of girls, use, misuse, abuse, selling of girls is a fairly wide practice,” said Michele Rickett, founder and chief executive officer of “She is Safe,” an organization that rescues and rehabilitates women and girls who are victims of abuse. “And, it’s only exacerbated under conflict, or - as in the case of the Boko Haram - they’re sort of combining purposes.”

Rickett is the author of “Forgotten Girls,” a newly released book that chronicles the lives of victims. The author has lived in and traveled to some of the most high-risk areas of the globe, and knows first-hand the plight of the abused women and girls.

“Often, when soldiers or terrorists of any kind go through a village, they will torch the village, take the boys and train them to kill, but take the girls and use them to do their cooking and cleaning, and for sex as well.  So, that’s a pretty common practice wherever you see conflict in the world,” the author said.

Rickett said the often conflict-as-usual attitude of mistreating women was different with the April 2014 abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls because of the advantage of the unexpected voices of the mothers of the girls. They were not going to remain silent.

“There was more than two weeks after the girls were abducted that the government really began to respond to the needs.  And it was because the mothers were rallying and gathering others. So, I think that gives us a little clue how to keep the issues alive, even though it might be in a war or conflict as usual, in the abuse of girls,” remarked Rickett.   

The mothers’ cries for the return of their daughters was heard around the world and many others joined in the call for their return. Other voices included human rights advocates, political figures, and celebrities.

Rickett says the public outcry was a sign that people do care about what is happening to women and girls in developing countries and conflict regions; That is the passion that will raise awareness to the urgency of breaking the cycle of violence.

The women’s rights advocate also pointed out the need for more programs to help women and girls cope with mental and emotional trauma that comes with being repeatedly abused.

“The post- traumatic stress on these girls really does call for a concerted effort for after-care -- to get them into a safe and predictable location where they can receive physical nourishment, emotional nourishment. And for their broken spirits to be healed as well,” Rickett said.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs