On April 15, 2014, Boko Haram abducted over 200 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State. This wasn’t their first time attacking a school.
Though about 50 of them managed to escape, the fate of the remaining girls remains undetermined. Reports say they have been forcefully married to their kidnappers. Many are outraged not only at the fact that Boko Haram is terrorizing the country, but at the fact that it has gone on for so long and has only intensified since the year began. According to the Nigeria Security Tracker on the Council of Foreign Relations website, the group is responsible for close to 4,000 deaths this year alone – and we’re just in the first quarter. Some are heartbroken, and most feel helpless.
Within days of the kidnapping, people started expressing these emotions via social media with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls as its first use came on April 23. In the past week, its use grew so much its remained a trending topic for the past three days and people are using it to organize protests and other gatherings like wearing red or tying headwraps to express sympathy for the girls and support the movement. There are also numerous petitions urging international bodies and the US government to interfere and support the Nigerian government.
One of the most notable of these petitions is this one on Change.org that urges people to sign and declare “solidarity with the kidnapped girls and call upon the world not to forget them, support all efforts to ensure their safe return, and ask President Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian Government to ensure all schools are safe places to learn, protected from attack.” The petition has close to a million signatures as of May 15 and is getting more every other minute.
“I believe it would ultimately aid in the rescue of the missing girls,” said Ify E., the creator of the petition. “The level of awareness it has created around the world is unprecedented in comparison with any other campaign on a Nigerian issue, and this is rightly so, because the tragedy of the abducted girls is unacceptable. It would also show that the right use of online petitions/social media amplifies the voices of people to bring about positive change.”
The petition as well as the hashtag has driven the movement so much it has garnered the support of the international community and the well-known including Chris Brown and Russell Simmons to name a couple. Along with the protests in cities all over the world, there have been many in Nigeria, and ironically, Dame Patience Jonathan has promised to protest herself if they aren’t brought back home safe.
I personally fear that this might end up as another #childnotbride or more famously, #kony2012 campaign which builds momentum but results in little to nothing. Mainly because I’m not even sure our government considers “social media” as a legit form of media yet. The US has expressed support and offered to help but has made no sanctions yet. These days, it’s common to turn to slacktivism when we as people and citizens feel helpless.
“Many Nigerian at home and abroad have given up hope, they believe activities aimed at bringing the government to action are futile. ” Ify says. “Considering the trend of news and events from Nigeria, they cannot be entirely [sic] blamed for this growing attitude of complacency. But I refuse to give up, and challenge other people to do the same.”
God Bless Nigeria