Time to #BringBack the attention to the Chibok girls

Imagine you’ve been taken. You hear that millions of people know you’ve been kidnapped. The wife of the President of the United States has demanded your return. World leaders are meeting to talk about your abduction and how to get you back to your families. A hashtag has even been created calling for your release.

You might think: now we have this worldwide attention, and everyone knows about us, surely we’ll be rescued soon?  Yet – nothing.  Days give way to weeks… Weeks to months… Months to years… First one year. And then, two.

Few of us can truly imagine the full spectrum of emotions felt by the 276 girls who were abducted from their school in Chibok, north-east Nigeria, two years ago.

It is hard to imagine the sheer terror and panic that these girls must have experienced on the night of the 14 April 2014, once they realised that they were being abducted by Boko Haram militants. Not taken to safety by the military, as the militants pretended they were doing.

Some of the girls managed to escape. But two years on, 219 of these young women are still separated from their families.

#BringBackOurGirls

The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls spread like wildfire around the world: it was held up on placards on red-carpets, in the Oval Office, referred to at international summits and blazed a trail across social media. Two years on, there’s barely a mention of these girls.

The abduction of the Chibok girls may be the most well-known kidnapping committed by Boko Haram but sadly it is one of many.  In the last five years, we have reported that about 2000 girls have been taken by Boko Haram.  Many are still missing.

Those who do make it home, find the return is not an easy one.  Many women face discrimination or rejection, especially if they have had a child with a Boko Haram militant. Others are cast out simply because the community fears them.

731 days and counting

The Chibok girls and the other thousands of girls and young women who were taken from their families deserve more than just public outcry and a trending hashtag.

The seeming proof of life video published today by CNN which shows 15 of the girls who had been kidnapped two years ago must surely galvanise the Nigerian government to step up its attempts to locate and bring these young women home and to restore security to the region.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has said much about squashing, decimating and conquering Boko Haram.

This cannot become a reality until parents are reunited with their daughters, and all those abducted are returned home.

Lawful security needs to be stepped up in Nigeria’s north-east to prevent further kidnappings. Robust safeguards and adequate psychosocial care and support is essential for all the girls and young women abducted to be able to live a full and free life once again.

The day count for the return of these girls continues to grind onwards and upwards persistently and unrelentingly. Today marks 731 days since the abduction of the Chibok girls. This ever increasing number needs to be stopped. The world must not be repeating this call in April 2017.

It is time for ‘bring back our girls’ to be more than a hashtag.  It is time for it to become a reality. 

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