The World Marks one year since #BringBackOurGirls attack in Nigeria

by Azeezat Fadekemi Sulaiman– Editor

Rather than make us retreat into the shadows, the kidnapping of the Chibok girls has ignited women all over the world to take a stand and fight a battle that Boko Haram will never win and we must all join in for the future of the African girl child.

 

On April 14, 2014, about 250 parents in the Chibok region of Borno state woke up to the horrible news that their daughters, enrolled in the local school had been abducted by armed gunmen overnight. Some of those parents are now dead and many others still live in despair as no one knows for sure when or if their loved ones will ever return.

A year on, some of those girls are yet to return home amidst growing fear that Boko Haram, the group responsible for the reprehensible act may have taken the girls as child brides or sold them off to the highest bidder across the porous Nigerian border, where the group’s stronghold lies.

Tales of what may have become of the girls have come to light after about 50 girls who managed to escape captivity told of their experience in the hands of the terrorists. Many were forced to convert to Islam while those who refused were threatened with death. The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau even posted an image of the girls all in Hijab, proclaiming them as ‘converts’ as they recited Arabic verses in a short clip.

There are also reports that some of the girls may have succumbed to illness while in captivity and lost their lives. Some of the escapees could not remember their names when they were found abandoned on roadsides in Northern Nigeria after the traumatizing experience they’d suffered.

Today, 2 of those girls who escaped spoke at a rally in Abuja organised to mark the anniversary of the abduction of their friends and colleagues. In emotional scenes, they broke down in the middle of their speeches unable to go on. No one can understand the anguish they must feel.

For those in the seat of power in Nigeria, the Chibok abduction has had dire consequences. Nigeria’s outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan was severely criticised for what many perceived as his administration’s lack of commitment to finding the missing girls. Particularly as he did not hazard a visit to the troubled region to visit the girls’ families until months after the incident. The first time the President met with the parents, it was facilitated by girl rights campaigner and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousefzai who spent her 17th birthday with some of the girls who escaped.

This loss of confidence is believed by critics as one of the reasons Jonathan lost the just concluded presidential elections in Nigeria which saw former General Muhammadu Buhari emerge the country’s new leader.

One year on: How the world has changed. Photo: CNN

One year on: How the world has changed. Photo: CNN

Malala’s campaign was for the return of the girls was part of a wider international campaign launched by the Bring Back Our Girls group in Nigeria. Led by Nigeria’s former Minister for Education Oby Ezekwesili, the group got the hashtag trending for days on social media and soon enough, it caught the attention of high profile celebrities including Alicia keys, Kerry Washington and most notably the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama who tweeted a picture of herself holding a #BringBackOurGirls placard.

On the one year anniversary of their unlawful abduction, the world has once again stood in unison to condemn the action of Boko Haram and the terror war they’ve inflicted on the education of the girl child. If you find the hasgtag #BringBackOurGirls trending on your Twitter and Facebook timelines, it’s because this is an issue everyone must speak up against.

Children, girls should not be killed, abducted or abused for seeking what is a basic human right- the right to be educated. The right to have an equal chance of having a future like anybody else. The chance to dream and be free.

On the 13th of April, 2014, some unnamed masked men took that chance away from those girls. Today, we join the rest of the world in condemning their actions and call for the safe return of the missing Chibok girls and many others who have been prevented from having an education.

Bring Back Our Girls.

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