Violence instilled fear in her community, but Joyce remains unshaken and ready to fight
Three years after the Chibok girls’ kidnapping, 21-year-old Joyce talks about fear, education and holding on to hope.
Joyce has been out of school for two years, but she continues to fight and give hope to girls in her community. At 21, she is a seasoned girls’ rights advocate — marching through the streets, making speeches at local markets and teaching girls how to protect themselves.
Nigeria is the wealthiest African nation, yet 10.5 million children are out of school — the highest of any country in the world. More than 60% of those children are girls. Many girls are out of school in Nigeria because of long-held community traditions and because families can’t afford the cost of fees, books and uniforms.
Joyce is one of those girls. Her family’s financial constraints meant her parents could only afford to send one child to higher education. Like many families in Nigeria, they chose to invest in their older son’s future, believing that he is more likely to get a job and earn higher wages.
Despite being out of school, Joyce remains strong and is more committed than ever to helping other girls get an education through her work as a Girl Guide. “Guiding continues to give me hope. That’s why the Chibok girls matter to us. It’s not just their fight; it’s a fight for all of us,” says Joyce.
Joyce was a teenager living in Jos in central Nigeria when she learned of the 276 girls taken from their school by Boko Haram in Chibok. She says she still remembers the “ripples of fear and shock” it sent across villages and communities. Joyce refused to stay silent and chose to help combat hopelessness and inspire her community to take action.
“We had to raise our voices and speak out for those who aren’t able to have a voice, for those taken into captivity and for the children in Chibok whose lives had been torn apart by violence,” she explains. Joyce and her fellow Nigerian Girl Guides support victims of violence by visiting internally displaced people (IDPs), donating food and clothes and creating a comfortable space for girls to talk about their experiences. They teach community members about violence against women and girls — and how to tackle gender barriers through activities such as role play, discussions and games.
Joyce tells us that people in her community blame the victims of the kidnappings for seeking an education. Joyce firmly disagrees and asserts that girls should not be punished for wanting to go to school. “Every girl deserves to get an education. It’s a basic human right,” she says.