“I don’t know why you women are here. You should be home in the kitchen.”
Those were words I and my classmates (more than half of whom were women) heard 33 years ago, pronounced by a torts professor on our first day of law school. I was shocked and indignant. Never before had I experienced such sexist remarks. His words did little to deter my ambition, and I was free to pursue my education and begin a legal career.
It’s not just the 30th anniversary this month of my law school graduation that brought this incident to mind. I’m haunted by the recent kidnapping (and Lord knows what else) of more than 300 Nigerian girls by the Boko Haram, an extremist group whose name means “Western education is a sin.” I never had my school set on fire or was kidnapped and sold off as a bride for $12 as these girls have. I was never shot in the head like Malala Yousafzai because I advocated for girls’ education. I never had acid thrown in my face as I went to school, as girls have in Afghanistan. I have been free to pursue an education and become the woman I wanted to be, despite occasional hurdles placed in my way, like that law school professor. The same is probably true for many of you.
“Bring Back Our Girls” is the cry that has gone up since the Nigerian girls were kidnapped. These girls and the more than 65 million girls worldwide who are denied an education are our girls, they are the neighbors that Jesus calls us to love. As participants in Women of the ELCA, we agree, among other things, to support one another in our callings and work for healing and wholeness in the church, society and the world. Sisters, we must use every means at our disposal to bring back our girls, beginning with prayer.
While we can and should join campaigns (like on change.org and Facebook) and encourage our government to help, we must also bring back our girls in our own communities. We need look no further than our own neighborhoods to find girls who need our support, girls who are beaten and abused, starved for food or love, trafficked or left for dead. We are called to bring back those girls, our girls. Jesus would have us do nothing less.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.