Thursday, May 15, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls


For over a decade, Nigeria has suffered increasingly violent abuse and largely from forces within. Increasingly radical ideologies and terrorists groups are catching thousands of innocents in the crossfire. One month ago today, the world sat quietly as it was announced that almost 300 young girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night. The school had recently closed due to the increasing dangers of the Boko Haram, an extremist militant Islamic group fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government to create a purely Islamic state. The Boko Haram, who's Hausa name translates to "Western education is a sin," first started out in 2002 as an alternative Muslim school and synagogue preaching that associating with Western society was forbidden. After their military insurgency in 2009, they were classified by the US as terrorist group in 2010. On April 15, with now a fighting force of thousands of men, they escalated to kidnapping 276 girls from theirs school beds in the town of Chibok, threatening to convert them, sell them, and marry them off. These girls, aged 15-18, the stars of their families and villages, Muslim and Christian alike, were so passionate about their education that they insisted the school reopen for final exams despite the risks. It didn't take long for the world to respond on social media; some tweeted, some instragrammed, and some posted to facebook with one single message: #BringBackOurGirs

What I love about this message is that it preaches love and hope and support. It doesn't rage against the Boko Haram, spewing their hate and repeating all the horrible things they've done. In fact, it doesn't even mention them, taking away their power. This message is not a plea, it's a demand. It doesn't instill fear either, it empowers people on both ends. #BringBackOurGirls claims these girls. These are OUR girls. As people around the globe began to share this message, it became a global issue and effort. Strangers around the world, who maybe had nothing else in common, were suddenly united as "we."  We care about these girls, we value their education, and we want to see every effort made to return them safely home.


When I first searched the hashtag on instagram, I actually misquoted it: #BringOurGirlsBack turned up over 22,000 posts. "Wow," I thought. That's wonderful. When I realized my mistake, I found that #BringBackOurGirls resulted in over 403,000 posts. WOW. Now that is something, and on only one site! Change.org has collected 949,991 signatures on a petition to "express solidarity with the kidnapped girls and implore the world not to forget them, support all efforts to ensure their safe return, and that efforts are made to ensure all schools are safe places to learn, protected from attack."

Okay, so here's the thing... life would be so simple if I could share with you a crafty and fun project that would help these girls return home, but that's just simply not the case. The reassuring thing is "that the plight of schoolgirls in a remote community in a corner of Africa can still attract the attention of a hyperactive world and appeal to the common humanity in all of us," as said by Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, senior special assistant to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. While that's very true, this is where I feel frustrated and helpless. There's usually something I can do to help in some small way, but what can we do about this?

At this point, we can just share this important, heartfelt, powerful, universal message. Take a moment. Write down this message. Think about the families who have no information about their daughters. As Michelle Obama explained, this is "not an isolated incident. It's a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions." It will take less than five minutes to post your own photo if for no other reason than to raise awareness. Scroll through the strangers who have already posted and join "us," the global "we." Have a voice for those who are struggling to be heard.


Hashtag: #bringbackourgirls #bringourgirlsback #itsthelittlethingsdotme #TeamITLT AND 
Tag us @itsthelittlethingsdotme so we can make our own collage!

"These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world and we are committed to standing up for them, not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long hall. we are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve. [...] So today, let us all pray for their safe return. let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time. and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright." - Michelle Obama