When I was a little girl, I had some thoughts about my future. They were storybook thoughts, but I still think today that they were very well-planned.
Even now, the images of myself as a rancher, or a truck driver seem as though they are waiting for me at the end of a cheap telescope turned the other way; very small and distant, but very distinct.
I must have been about eight or nine, and I had no understanding from my Catholic education about how maturity actually worked. So I thought every woman had to have a child. It would just appear and I knew I would have to find a way to get rid of it. There was no room in my plans for a kid. There was also a prerequisite office job and a water cooler featured in there somewhere.
Then I could get on with my life on the open range.
So as I walked to and from school in my Chicago suburb that butts up against the west side of Chicago, alone, I would juggle the events of my future and sometimes, walk my imaginary horse alongside me.
I mention all of this because of the news that the over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram have allegedly been married off. Some news agencies report 219, others up to 276, but The Guardian reports that about 500 female infants to older women who have been kidnapped and essentially tortured since 2009.
That is more than all the women I know. Imagine every woman you know has been kidnapped and persecuted. Somebody came to their door and escorted them to an old van, opened the back, pushed them in and it’s the last you saw of them.
Those young women, the girls like myself, had a plan. They were learning, they were informing their future and the possibilities likely lay shimmering before many of them.
They have parents who felt it was important that their daughters have those dreams and encouraged them, like every good parent, to think about what they would like to be when they grew up.
That’s all gone now. With the insane defiance of Boko Haram, any freedom the girls will secure will come if they successfully escape their captors. And should they escape, how many of them will carry indelible scars from the months treated no better than an unwanted dog.
I often think, like the populations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, that should this collective kidnapping be taking place in France, Canada or Australia, and not to mention the US, the outcry would be deafening.
But like Ebola, in those countries nobody even heard of before the recent outbreak, misunderstood with their bush-meat ways and unknown languages and cultural traditions, these African women are victims of our ignorance.
Does this mean we are ignorant of what it means to be human, or does this question what it means to be human?
Too many fail to understand that the Nigerian schoolgirls and women are girls and women before they are Nigerian; they have been robbed of freedom to which we should all have a right, and they are forever damaged in a way that no person should ever have to carry.
I remember my young dreams. How many of those women will remember the dreams they had, and the freedom of the future they have lost?