Stoking the embers of #BringBackOurGirls

On April 14, a group of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and kidnapped approximately 276 female students. How could such a barbaric act be successful and how is it possible that today we know little more than we did a month ago?

Since then, the world has taken up the rally call of “Bring Back Our Girls” – urging, asking, begging, demanding the return of these girls. So far Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, called by the world Boko Haram, have not been found and have continued their acts of terror on Nigeria.

On May 20, concerned members of the Boston community gathered to learn about and discuss the issues surrounding this horrific issue with Ambassador Walter and Dr. Arese Carrington. After their discussion the floor was open to an emotional and passionate question/answer session.

Fast Facts from Dr. Carrington: Nigeria is 118th/134 in the gender equality index, however count for 1/4 of all women in Sub Saharan Africa. Only 15% of women have a bank account. In the worst state of Nigeria, 94% of women are illiterate. Nigerian’s count ofr 2% of the female world population, but 10% of the maternal mortality rate.

Ambassador Carrington, former envoy to Nigeria, lead with some history and culture of Boko Haram, religion in Nigeria, terrorism, and ideas for a peaceful conclusion. Speaking as a diplomat he believes that negotiation is the only way forward – there is too much danger of collateral damage to the people ‘we’ are trying to save if a military operation is used.

Dr. Carrington then spoke about some alarming figures about girls in Nigeria and how the inherent divides in the culture (gender, north/south, urban/rural) are involved in the reason that Boko Haram has been so successful. She stressed that women are being denied even the most basic Human Rights, however the benefits of education are enormous and educated girls can truly be weapons of mass development. It is immensely detrimental to the whole society that girls are now afraid to do go to school and their very dreams are interrupted if not destroyed. “An uneducated population is a population in bondage.”

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign, with popular culture icons, like First Lady Michelle Obama, supermodels, movie stars, and musicians, has skyrocketed the exposure of the issue, putting pressure on the Nigerian government

A common thread through the conversation was the role that social media has played in this case. Amb. Carrington believes that there would be little hope for the girls if ‘major’ players (like the U.S., U.K. and France) had not joined in the search – although it is up to Nigeria to bring them back and set the terms for rehabilitation as well as penalty – and it is because of social media that the world now uses #BringBackOurGirls. Social Media has taken a hold of the topic and refused to let go, speaking where the press had not; creating outside pressure on Nigeria which has demanded action. As Amb. Carrington said, #BringBackOurGirls is lighting a fire that we must keep stoking. The “embers are not allowed to die until the last of the girls havs been returned home”

So what were the recommendations moving forward? Well here are a few thoughts from the Carringtons.

      • We must think long-term. Nigeria needs to demand security now, not in 2015 with the upcoming elections, but right now.
      • We need to get and expose the facts. It is all well and good to express opinions, but the most important and powerful message is the one that has facts backing it up.
      • Nigerians living outside of Nigeria are the ones that can really make a difference – be ambassadors and get in touch with your local representatives and insist on action
      • As is true with most countries, there need to be more women in power positions to push the women issues, such as equal pay, right to education, right to health, basic human rights.
      • We all need to keep the fire burning – we should all be activists!

THANK YOU to everyone who came out and had their voices heard on the 20th!

                   IMG_0820   IMG_0807


IMG_0815   IMG_0795

Read more about this issue! Some suggestions: Council of Foreign Relations on Boko Haram, BBC: Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists, BBC: Timeline of Events, BBC 5 Questions AnsweredBring Back Our Girls Tumblr,