Like the rest of the world, I have been horrified by the news that nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria. I only pray that the girls are found safe and well very soon. My heart goes out to the families of these girls. I am particularly appalled that the Nigerian Government has only just moved into action to try to find the girls – after International interest and condemnation of the kidnapping. The latest news is that specialist teams from UK, France, USA, China and other countries are being sent to Nigeria to find the girls.
The news of this atrocity didn’t hit the news wires until late last week: this was over three weeks after the girls were kidnapped. The region they were kidnapped from is remote, and the population is very poor, but I am surprised news didn’t spread earlier. That is unless this is more commonplace than we aware of, or that people were too frightened to speak about the kidnapping.
Let’s be clear about the kidnappers: they are the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, who are threatening to SELL the girls. The group leader said: “I will repeat this: Western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” In other words, girls should not be educated.
Chibok is in the remote North East of Nigeria, and by accounts circulated in the press, the Nigerian Government appears to have largely ignored the plight of the population in that region. It took THREE WEEKS for the Nigerian President to comment. Angelina Jolie hinted yesterday that atrocities like these have happened before, and no one has opposed them. She has made an excellent point that until people question and challenge this behaviour, it will to be accepted as part of life in certain parts of the world.
What I have found extraordinary is how quickly this terrible story has picked up momentum largely through the power of social media and news wire services. The #bringbackourgirls and #realmendontbuygirls campaigns have highlighted the plight of the victims and put pressure on governments to act. Significant ‘celebrities’ have posted selfies with the hashtags. These images have appeared on the front pages of newspapers that would normally feature football and starlets falling out of their dresses, and whilst their articles are about the celeb rather than the NEWS, it is highlighting and reminding everyone of the victims.
Social Media can be a great, powerful tool to use for campaigns. The #everydaysexism campaign has resulted in some companies reviewing marketing campaigns, images being used and challenged accepted behaviour towards women. Let us hope and pray that this major Social Media campaign, and subsequent action from governments will lead to the safe return of the girls.