On April 15, 2014, 300 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped from their dormitory by Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group responsible for more than a dozen of massacres of civilians in its five-year insurgency in Nigeria. Roughly translated, Boko Haram means “Western Education is a Sin”. In a video message, a leader of the insurgent group has threatened to sell the schoolgirls and force them to marry or into slavery.
Nigeria officials, however, report that some of the girls have already been sold off as brides for as little as $12. Their ultimate destinations vary, from the coffee and cocoa plantations of Uganda and Ethiopia, brothels of Russia or the palaces of the Middle East where they are employed as nannies, often subject to physical and sexual abuse. The area in northeastern Nigeria where the girls were kidnapped has been under a state of emergency for nearly a year, and their school was reportedly the only one still open. The growing number of kidnappings in troubled parts of Nigeria has effectively brought education to a halt, according to humanitarian groups. Between February and May, more than 15,000 students in the northern region of Nigeria stopped attending school out of fear of attacks.
For the most part, the media has remained largely silent and coverage of the incident has been largely overshadowed in recent weeks by major news stories having to do with — the South Korean ferry, the racist remarks made by the owner of the L.A. Clippers, and missing flight 370. But now, nearly three weeks later, the social media universe has spoken, and a hashtag associated with their disappearance has been tweeted nearly 1 million times.
There is now a petition calling on the Nigerian government and all enabled international parties to rescue the missing girls, and more than 250,000 people have signed it. There are tumblr blogs, Facebook pages, and — finally, some would say — mainstream media coverage. Protests are also being held around the country to raise global awareness of this issue.
In an act of leadership, President Obama’s administration has committed to sending technical experts to Nigeria to assist with finding the girls, as many have argued that the Nigerian government has done very little to address this travesty to date. In addition, Great Britain, China and France have all pledged to lend their support in the search to find the girls. First Lady Michelle Obama, and other high profile celebrities like Kerry Washington, Alicia Keyes, and Anne Hathaway have also taken to social media and added their voice to the calls for the safe return of the girls.
We are on standby and praying for the safe and eventual recovery of these young women to their families.
Stand with us and #bringbackourgirls.