What’s so scary about smart girls?

*This blog is crossposted  from the Half The Sky Movement website.

Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted in April. Malala Yousafzai was shot for speaking up about her right to an education. Every day around the world, girls are in danger simply because of their desire to get an education. The Half the Sky Movement created a video that asks one simple question:

What’s so scary about smart girls?

Why are girls terrorized, injured, kidnapped, or killed just because they want to go to school?

While the sheer scale and audacity of the Nigerian kidnappings are horrifying, attacks on education happen all over the world with alarming regularity.

An attack on education is defined as an intentional threat or action against students, teachers and institutions for political, ideological, or religious reasons. A study conducted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack found that between 2009 and 2013 there have been attacks in at least 70 different countries. Save the Children reports that in 2012 alone there were 3,643 attacks; 75 children and 212 teachers were killed or injured.

Girls suffer disproportionately when it comes to such attacks. Most often, they are targeted specifically because of their gender, where they also face the additional risk of sexual or gender-based violence. When there is a continuing threat of violence, female students are often pulled out of school by their parents ahead of male students.

But educating girls is the key to building stable, egalitarian communities. An educated girl knows her value and will demand her rights. A child born to an educated mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. A woman earns 20 percent more for every year of school she attends. Educating girls now will create opportunities in the future. As Nicholas Kristof notes in his article What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?,

“Ultimately, the greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.”

We are not afraid of smart girls.

For background information on the Nigerian kidnappings see this selection of Nicholas Kristof’s columns in the New York Times:

Standing With the Kidnapped Girls in Nigeria | 03 May 2014
‘Bring Back Our Girls’ | 04 May 2014 | New York Times
Honoring the Missing Schoolgirls | 08 May 2014 | New York Times
Why the Kidnapped Schoolgirls Matter | 10 May 2014 | New York Times

The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women.

The site features new and original content as well as a blog, social media feeds, celebrity and crew diaries and up-to-date information about continuing work related to the issues. Visitors can engage with the issues, connect with our 30+ partner NGOs and become advocates themselves.


The project includes more than 20 short advocacy and educational videos on a variety of issues, in addition to the television series. These video modules were designed in partnership with the Half the Sky Movement and partner NGOs, and they will be used by these NGOs to engage constituencies, communities, local governments and opinion leaders on key gender issues.  Each video covers a critical issue in a way that best serves the organization’s goals and helps to directly build their operational and outreach capacities. 

Are you wondering how you can show your support for the 234 girls kidnapped in Nigeria? The ONE campaign have blogged about three actions that you can take.