05/23/2014 12:36 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2014

Missing Nigerian Schoolgirls Highlight Communities in Need

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Watching the bombs go off in Nigeria as terrorists continue to shout their message of terror and suppression, it is hard to believe that those 200 school girls abducted last month have still not been found.

Despite the assistance of foreign experts, those girls are still missing and their fate starts to fall off the news agenda as attention is diverted by more bombs, more killings. From the outside, it is hard to see much hope in the pictures coming out of Nigeria today but it is important to stay focused on who we should be listening to -- people not terrorists. Watch the video our partners Save the Children took for our MY World survey last year and see the real face of Nigeria -- schoolchildren just like any others: engaged and energetic. They talk to the camera with dignity and intelligence, telling us what it is they want for a better life -- education, better access to jobs and a good government. One girl says she wants to see the end of drug trafficking. Another simply asks for "whiteboards for our classroom."

How is it that in 2014 a girl still has to ask for a whiteboard in her classroom? How is it that in 2014 more than 200 girls can simply vanish into a forest for more than a month? Millennium Development Goal number 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women. We still have a long way to go in a world that allows these questions. Save the Children talked to more than 500 Nigerian children in several different states as part of our global survey that has, to date, spoken to more than 2 million people about their hopes and dreams for a better future. The aim is to make a more inclusive, better-informed 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda to take over from the Millennium Development Goals.

The MDGs have had great successes but they were not set by the people. If enough people raise their voices, like these schoolchildren have, the new agenda will be. MY World spoke to more than 2,500 people in Borno state itself, the state the schoolgirls were taken from. Youth corps members volunteered to go out and interview those who could not vote by Internet or mobile phone. They found that the Borno peoples' top priorities for a better life were good health, an honest and responsive government and a good education. Improving security came fourth on the list of actions people thought needed to be carried out to address livelihood constraints. Security came after tackling corruption, ineffective government and job creation. Does any of this sound like something that might have helped these schoolgirls? Ask the people what needs to be changed first and these are the answers you get. Improve security, so our children can not be taken from us and our towns are not blown up with bombs, shake up government, so if it happens something is done about it, and create some jobs, so our young people have a focus and a dignity of life which prevents them for falling in with groups like Boko Haram.

What has happened to these girls is a tragedy, something that will mark their and their families' lives forever. What will also be a tragedy is if we continue to ignore what ordinary people tell us they need. It is those who are living those lives who know where the problems lie.