Opinion

Bring Back Our Girls: The crisis in Nigeria

Emma Waverman comments on the mass kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

1Malala-BringBackOurGirls

Malala Yousafzai. Photo: The Malala Fund.

Twelve dollars.  That’s the going price for a young Nigerian girl sold into marriage.

Two hundred thirty-four girls were kidnapped from their dormitory in Nigeria and have disappeared, likely sold into marriage or sex slavery. They were kidnapped late on April 14, and they have disappeared into the night. They aren’t the first girls to go missing, and they certainly won’t be the last.

Perhaps it was that very sense of ennui that kept their plight off the pages of mainstream media until now. Or maybe the media was too distracted by a shiny objects like planes, ferries and crack-smoking mayors to take notice of 234 empty beds, 234 weeping parents, 234 girls plucked from their childhood.

The worldwide silence that existed after the girls disappeared shows us, once again, that girls aren’t important—African girls least of all. Can you imagine what would happen if a North American 15-year-old girl was stolen from her bed in the middle of the night? It would be 24 hours of news coverage seven days a week. They would have a channel devoted to her.

These girls, just like the young girls living down the road from me, had goals, they had dreams, some of them rational and some of them full of fantasy. They attended high school away from home, in a country where very few kids get to go to school, even fewer dream of higher education.

They were stolen in the night by Boko Haram, a guerilla group hell-bent on revenge and have taken a stand against girls getting an education. Their leader is even bragging about stealing the girls and selling them across the porous African border.

Boko Haram rules through fear and violence. But the families of the girls kept searching for their missing daughters, and soon the word spread through the country. A few tweets went out, word spread. While the mainstream media ignored the story, a movement was starting. And soon millions of people were using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. The Bring Back Our Girls Facebook page has more than 60,000 likes and is a clearinghouse for rallies and information on how to help.

You have maybe seen that #bringbackourgirls is all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Often a Facebook “like” or tweet holds little meaning, but maybe this time the collective weight of our concerns forced the media and governments to take notice.

People are protesting in front of Nigerian embassies, the story is on the news, people are asking questions of the corrupt Nigerian officials. For now, we are talking about the disappearance of these girls. It is the cause du jour, but when our attention has moved on, will the girls be safe?

The missing girls don’t know that an international conversation is happening about them. They don’t know that across oceans and fields, across borders and languages, mothers are sending silent messages to them, parents are holding their girls extra tight.

They probably don’t know anything beyond their fear of the sounds on the other side of the door.

But they also think that a girl’s life is worth only $12.

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