I don’t know any terrorists, but they seem to be very fearful people. They are afraid of new ideas, other religions, air strikes, and bathing. Nicholas Kristof, of The New York Times, says that what terrorists are really afraid of are educated women.
Kristof points out that the Boko Haram did not choose to bomb a church or go after politicians. They targeted a girls’ school. The biggest threat to a terrorist is a woman who can read, write, work, and raise educated children.
Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.
In that sense, Boko Haram was behaving perfectly rationally — albeit barbarically — when it kidnapped some of the brightest, most ambitious girls in the region and announced plans to sell them as slaves. If you want to mire a nation in backwardness, manacle your daughters.
Educated women change a country dramatically. They tend to give birth at a later age, have fewer and far healthier children, doubles the work force, and strengthens a cycle of education and jobs rather than illiteracy, poor health and poverty.
One example of the power of girls’ education is Bangladesh, which until 1971 was (the seemingly hopeless) part of Pakistan. After Bangladesh gained independence, it emphasized education, including of girls; today, it actually has more girls in high school than boys. Those educated women became the backbone of Grameen Bank, development organizations like BRAC and the garment industry.
Again, I don’t know any terrorists, but it seems to me that our best bet is not to invest more in drone strikes and CIA infiltration, but to invest in girls, their education and their futures.
Read “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?” in The New York Times.