It's been three weeks since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northeastern Nigeria by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. A global social media campaign — #BringBackOurGirls — has since taken off calling for their return. And now, the U.S. is sending in reinforcements to help find the young women who officials fear could soon be sold into slavery.
With the world's attention on the West African nation, let's take a look at what life is like for Nigeria's girls. Nigerian women are "the nation's hidden resource," the British Council in Nigeria declared in its 2012 "Gender in Nigeria Report." They tend to be better educated than their male counterparts, and make up a majority of the rural workforce.
And yet, the country's yawning gender disparity means women are reportedly five times less likely to own land than men, and hold only a handful of the country's decision-making positions. The report ultimately concluded that investing in girls today will improve productivity and growth, as well as lead to a more peaceful, healthy, and skilled workforce in the future.
With that in mind, here is a glimpse of what it is like to be female in this diverse African society:
May 15, 2012: A girl shows off a slate with letters and numbers outside a school in Koluama village, Bayelsa state. | (REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)
Nov. 27, 2009: A man drives his motorbike with his children after prayers on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, in Kano. | (REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)
Aug. 4, 2009: A girl hawks drinking water on a street in the northern city of Maiduguri. | (REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)
Nov. 25, 2009: A young girl plays on the ground at an open market in a village near Abuja. | (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
Feb. 9, 2006: Girls laugh outside their school in Jos. | (Anthony Asael/Art in All of Us/Corbis)
Nov. 27, 2012: A girl sits in a canoe as she sorts out crabs near the river Nun in Nigeria's oil-rich state of Bayelsa. | (REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)
Date unknown, 2008: A girl stands in a classroom in Iwaya, one of the poorest areas of Lagos. | (REUTERS/Maxim Zannu/Handout)
Sept. 27, 2012: A girl pilots a canoe through the floating slum of Makoko in Lagos. | (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
July 21, 2008: Children fetch firewood amidst the rubble of a demolished building in Abuja. | (REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
Sept. 6, 2010: Muslim girls walk through the village of Ganjuwa. | (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
July 1, 2007: A child naps in a classroom at the Maryland Convent Private Preschool, which was founded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos more than 40 years ago. | (Silvia Morara/Corbis)