by Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Global Coordinator for Southern Africa
Two weeks ago, 234 teenage girls were kidnapped in the Nigerian city of Bornu while taking their exams. It is assumed that the girls were taken by Boko Haram, a local Islamic extremist group whose name means “western education is forbidden.” It is feared that the girls have been sold into marriage to the militants and some have been moved to nearby countries of Cameroon and Chad.
The global movement of activists behind #BringBackOurGirls and countless One Billion Rising organizers and participants have been working tirelessly to bring the plight of the girls to the world’s attention. One Billion Rising coordinator for Nigeria, Amy Oyekunle urged activists across the world to keep this issue in the media attention by using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on social media as a well as signing a petition. In Germany One Billion Rising coordinator Ivana Smith is organizing events in Bonn and Berlin and she is getting lots of different people involved. Lindsey Horvath, Coordinator in Los Angeles organized a press conference and protest rally and more actions are planned until the girls are brought home. V-Girl Busi Mkhumbuzi has launched a “wear a head wrap” online picket and she now has over 100 people participating in the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls. She has also collaborated with Nigerian students and the University of Capetown and they are having a prayer vigil. In New York activists held up posters and handed out fliers outside the Nigerian Consulate. One Billion Rising enthusiast Thenjiwe Mswane has worked in collaboration with activists, media and civil society organization to get South Africans involved despite the looming National elections. Actions are planned all across the country. Other actions are being planned in Zimbabwe, Swaziland (where they started their protest action today in Manzini and will continue until the girls are brought back), Lesotho and Botswana, United Kingdom, the United States and Italy. One Billion Rising activists are using social media to demand that the Nigerian Government and governments all over the world get involved in searching for the girls and bringing them back home safely.
There are reports that some have died and a number of them are reported to be ill. Since this kidnapping at least eight more girls have been taken from the same region in Nigeria. In over two weeks not a single girl has been rescued and Boko Haram is getting bolder with each passing day.
Though world leaders have not yet directly intervened, we are seeing that the noise being made by the international community, by activists like you, is having an impact.
The United States and Britain have taken initial steps by offering military and technical support, and the Nigerian police have offered a $300,000 reward for help finding the kidnapped girls.
This is only the beginning. We must continue to MAKE A RESOUNDING RISING NOISE and let the world leaders know that WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!
We are calling on everyone to take a moment on Sunday, 11 May (Mother’s Day in the U.S. and other countries around the globe) to RISE AND MAKE SOME NOISE! Honk your horns. Scream. March in the streets. Protest in front of embassies, consulates, in parks and town squares. And continue to use social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc – to let the world know that we will not stop until they #Bringbackourgirls!