According to recent reports, actress Anne Hathaway grabbed a megaphone in L.A. during a rally to raise awareness about the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and said:

“These Nigerian girls are part of the five percent who are able to seek an education, they were taken from their beds in the middle of the night by cowards, cowards who tell them that girls do not deserve an education. Do we agree with these cowards?”


While the notion to join the cause and raise awareness is noble, Hathaway’s facts are off. In fact, according to World Bank, female literacy for Nigerian girls aged 15 to 24 is at about 65 percent, and adult women aged 15 and above is at 49.81 percent. According to UNICEF, between 2008 and 2012, the primary school enrollment ratio was 57.6 percent.


To say that Boko Haram and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is all about gender is incorrect, as well. Much like a cake, you cannot define the cake just by the eggs. In short, the issues presented in Nigeria related to Boko Haram are those of government, gender, education, and religion. However, they are so interconnected, it can be hard to pinpoint where one issue begins and another ends.


Boko Haram — roughly translated to mean “western education is forbidden” — is a violent militant group that is trying to create an Islamic state through use of suicide bombings, burning villages, as well as kidnappings. They target not only young girls, but young boys, teachers, schools, villagers, and anyone else in their way.


This militant group believes that their government should follow Sharia Law, or the law of Islam, derived from the Qu’ran through the actions and teachings of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.


Marriage, divorce, and religious practices (such as fasting and prayer) are the most significant aspects of Sharia, but criminal law is the most controversial. While there are many interpretations of the teaching of Muhammed, some are particularly extreme. For example, theft is punishable by amputation. 


This does not mean, however, that everyone who believes in Sharia law is looking for this kind of justice system: there are only some who believe the more extreme interpretations. Just like some Christians could argue that, according to the Bible, it is lawful to stone your wife for having an affair, every religion has many different interpretations and Sharia law is no exception.


Throughout their violent attacks in Nigeria, the Boko Haram sect have attacked boys schools and killed at least 169 boys. They have killed approximately 171 teachers, and countless innocent victims in their quest for a change in government rule. Recently, they threatened to kidnap schoolboys. In short, they want to stop individuals from getting a western education.


The sensationalizing of the abduction of schoolgirls — just one of the many violent acts carried out by Boko Haram — leaves out the bigger picture and the real threats that are being made.  Moreover, the misinterpretation of the Boko Haram agenda by the western world and beyond does not do justice for anyone.


The story of Boko Haram is much more complex than popular celebrities, media, and news publications have created. One could possibly blame it on the need for a quick and short answer to the lack of clarity about the complexity of the issue facing everyone in Nigeria today.


What are your thoughts on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign? What about Boko Haram? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @kateeb790!