Editorial: A stand for kidnapped girls, and education of women

In this Monday April 21, 2014 file photo, In this Monday April 21, 2014 file photo, four female students of the Chibok government secondary school who were abducted by gunmen and reunited with their families walk in Chibok, Nigeria. The number of kidnapped schoolgirls missing in Nigeria has risen to 276, up by more than 30 from a previous estimate, police said, adding that the actual number abducted by Islamic extremists on April 14 was more than 300. Police Commissioner Tanko Lawan said the number of girls and young women who have escaped also has risen, to 53. Photo Credit: AP

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Beyond the horror of Boko Haram's mass abduction of teenage girls in Nigeria, it's the terrorist group's pernicious agenda to keep women uneducated and subservient that demands a forceful response from the United States and the world.

When women prosper, so do their families and their nations. That's why champions of ignorance and sexist oppression such as Boko Haram -- whose name means "western education is a sin" -- must not be allowed to prevail. Their victories are defeats for the international effort to promote equality and economic development.

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"No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. Gender equality is critical to our shared goals of prosperity, stability and peace," John Kerry said in 2013 after becoming U.S. secretary of state.

The Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank selects women for the microloans it pioneered four decades ago to finance income-producing activities among rural poor people. Ninety-six percent of its borrowers are women, who bank officials said are more likely than men to use their earnings to improve their living situations and to educate their children. UNICEF, the United Nations agency whose mission is to make the world a better place for children, also operates on the premise that advancing the rights of women advances humanity. Among its objectives is ensuring equal access to education for girls.

Boko Haram aims to stop that in Nigeria. The group brazenly abducted 300 girls three weeks ago because they had the courage to attend school. Eight more girls were taken Monday, hours after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seen on video vowing to continue taking girls and selling them into slavery.

The FBI and U.S. military personnel President Barack Obama has promised will lend technical and investigative expertise to the effort to rescue the girls and strike a blow against this despicable repression.

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