Global Women Demand: Bring Back Our Girls!
Thoughts? Suggestions? @WomenWerk #WWBlog
On April 14, 2014 armed militants from the terrorist group Boko Haram abducted over 200 girls during a 5 hour-long attack on the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School, Borno State in Northern Nigeria. These girls had registered to take their final year exams at the school following the mass closures of schools due to repeated attacks by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization. On April 15th, the Nigerian military claimed to have rescued 107 girls but late refuted their claim due to an error. Such misinformation and flagrant missteps have become characteristic of this tragic saga. To date over 50 of the abducted girls have returned home; all of who have escaped, none were rescued.
For almost three weeks, the Nigerian government did not provide informed updates and women began to take notice. Outrage at the militants coupled with what seemed to be the neglect of media and the international community drew greater attention to the situation. Public outrage in Nigeria led to protests and a a critical social media campaign now known as #BringBackOurGirls both on Twitter and Facebook. Over 1 million tweets have used the hashtag since April 22nd. Rallies were also organized by the diaspora community in New York, Houston, London, Washington D.C, Ottawa, among others to support and raise awareness. The names and identies of some of the girls were recently released by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
WomenWerk was active in the rally held in New York City on May 3, 2014 with over 200 participants. We spoke with protestors about their thoughts on the crisis, citizen engagement and government inaction. Here is live feedback from the women we spoke to during the rally:
Many have been critical of the slow uptake by the international media response to the story. While international media has reported the story from the beginning, there was little traction in the early weeks. The international community has now taken notice. United States Secretary of State John Kerry announced on May 5th the deployment of a US team of security personnell to assist in finding the girls. While some welcome international assistance, others are wary of intervention by the international community citing past failed interventions and the growing US military presence on the continent through AFRICOM. Others are also critical of the lack of engagement by other African leaders and institutions such as the African Union.
Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the Nigerian government to spearhead efforts to rescue the missing schoolgirls. Following a prolonged silence, President Jonathan spoke about the crisis during his recent media chat.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on the missing girls:
“We are talking to all the neighboring countries: Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Benue and even across North Africa, so that wherever they take these girls we will surely get them back, if we get the maximum cooperation from the guardians and the parents. Let me again reassure Nigerians, we will get the girls out.”
In regards to the worldwide protests:
“I appreciate the concern shown by Nigerians—and even our friends and brothers globally because we see what they are doing globally in terms of protest, which is quite healthy; Because it’s good for us to express our displeasure at this act of few people to keep the country backwards, to move the world backwards, at a time when the interest of government is to improve our economy and create jobs for our people.”
A representative of the Nigerian government had this to say in an exclusive interview with CNN:
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