Two hundred and seventy six. Let that sink in.
Those who did not know were soon very familiar with the name Boko Haram, the terrorist sect that was setting north eastern Nigeria ablaze. Prior bomb blasts and acts of terror had set Nigeria on edge, but the kidnapping of 276 young females, which left in its wake devastated, heartbroken parents and a town torn apart. The event horrified the world in unison, and gave Boko Haram a VIP pass to the front lines of terror.
Bring Back Our Girls
I’m not sure who we were appealing to. The government who does not care about its citizens? A government who, in 2016, denied the bill to grant women and children equal rights as men. A country where children in the North as early as seven years old are sold off to marriage to depraved old men. A country where there is endless poverty and countless die and starve every day while politicians line their friends’ and family’s pockets in a grotesque show of greed. A country where citizens have to rely on their own wits for daily survival, where electricity, clean water, healthcare, and security are a roll of the dice.
Or maybe to the citizens themselves who believe a woman’s place is firmly underneath the thumb of a man? Women do not belong in classrooms, after all that is where the girls were stolen from. The citizens, some of whom have spewed conspiracy theories and disbelief at the girls being abducted at all; just a political distraction and hi-jinx played by the North to regain power. The citizens who sit placid, while their country rots and their people die, shrug and say “every man for himself.”
Or maybe to God? Oh we are a very religious people, we Nigerians, we just love to pray. We pray for a “better Nigeria,” we pray for the end of corruption, we pray for God to touch the heart of our leaders, we pray when our husbands think they have a right to remain bachelors, we pray when our eyes are bruised and our scars are not just external, we pray for our safety when crimes become a sport, we pray for our lives as we drive on run-down roads with cars that won’t pass a safety inspection and drivers who have never taken a driving lesson, we pray when the future of 276 children are stolen right before our eyes.
James 2:14, 17. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
I’m sleep though.
Certainly not to Boko Haram. Even if they weren’t extreme Islamists, there isn’t a high stock placed on a woman’s importance in Nigeria. They have already promised that some of the children have been married off, and threatened to sell others into slavery. In a country with a predominantly poisonous patriarchal mindset, even the government has confirmed that women do not deserve justice.
What if they brought back our girls? What scars will forever lay on the hearts of these violated young women? What horrors have they had to endure in the name of holy war? Who will give them the necessary therapy and help they will need in a country where mental illness is not considered a real thing? Who will teach them that they are important, and that they deserve to live whatever life they want to live? Who will teach them that women and children are not casual spoils of war? Who will wipe away nightmares and memories that may haunt them for the rest of their lives?
Fast forward to 2016, where everyone is worried about the state of the economy, the rise of the dollar, the scarcity of fuel and our jet setting Commander in Chief who seems primarily concerned with the nailing of his corrupt predecessors. We need to make the Chibok girls, and other victims of Boko Haram, a top priority. Countless women, children, men, boys have been stolen, raped, killed, burnt alive, forced into slavery, used as suicide bombs, terrorized, changed forever by heartless inhumane acts in the name of religion.
They are not just another hot headline, another forgotten hashtag, another catchy buzz phrase, another casualty. They are real people and they need our help and support. Let us not forget them, let us not stop talking about them, let us not stop holding the powers that be accountable. Let us not stop until these children are allowed to be children again.
Two years and counting: #BringBackOurGirls
Originally published on medium by Ozzy Etomi