“But, what can I do about it?”
If you’re like me, then that doubtful question inevitably invades your thoughts whenever a catastrophic event occurs on another continent. Given the fact that #BringBackOurGirls is trending worldwide, it’s likely that the same question is haunting many mindsets right now.
Nearly 300 school girls remain in captivity after being abducted by Islamic extremist terrorist group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria more than three weeks ago. Another 11 girls, ages 12 to 15, were kidnapped by men armed with AK-47s on Monday evening, according to local reports. Since this mass abduction, Boko Haram has allegedly forced many of the girls into marriage with their abductors and is now threatening to sell the girls into slavery. The sheer number of children kidnapped, coupled with the slow response to the crisis by Nigeria’s government, has garnered global attention and condemnation to this mass abduction, and rightfully so.
In addition to the dangerous search parties and tireless protests organized by the families and the neighbors of the missing girls, both social media and the Internet have played huge roles in spotlighting this tragic event. Several think pieces questioning the lack of coverage on the mass kidnapping compared to the relatively gigantic amount of coverage on Donald Sterling’s racist comments began to emerge before mainstream publications began to realize the actual significance of this story. Since then, protests have erupted in New York, London and Los Angeles, with demonstrators calling on their own law makers, as well as Nigeria’s, to #BringBackOurGirls.
“But, what can I really do about it?”
Despite the taunting nature of that question, there are a number of steps you can take to help bring about the saving of the missing school girls. A global social media march has been organized during which supporters are encouraged to promote the BBOG campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more for 200 minutes on May 8. If you’d like to make an impact right now, consider signing a Change.org petition in solidarity with the school girls. Launched by a Germany-based Nigerian woman, the petition has already attracted nearly 500,000 signatures.
Amnesty International has backed the #BringBackOurGirls campaign with a Tumblr page where visitors can submit solidarity photos to tell [the girls’] families that our thoughts are with them, as well as learn more about the international issue of violence against women and the corresponding legislature that, if passed by Congress, would coordinate and improve existing U.S. foreign efforts to stop this global crisis. According to Amnesty, 1 out of 3 women experiences violence during her lifetime.
If executed properly, a well-organized rally can help to spread awareness of the missing Nigerian girls by garnering media attention, which leads to informing even more people about the issue. Start by recruiting a team of volunteers to help plan the rally. Also, aim to book a powerful group of inspirational and insightful speakers to attend. Contact media members at least three days prior with a schedule of events and make sure to have all the right permits, if necessary.
Putting together an amazing short presentation for your co-workers or classmates is another great way to take Boko Haram’s mass kidnapping out of the headlines online and into a larger IRL (in real life) discussion. Tell your colleagues about your cause and why it is important and how it affects them. To keep everyone’s attention, include facts that will shock and surprise them into remembering your presentation. For instance, include the history behind Boko Haram, list how many people have been killed by the group in the past few years, who funds the group and what has or has not been done to try and solve the problem.
Once you’ve wrapped up your presentation, give your audience tangible information to follow up on the cause. List organizations or websites where they can support campaigns around the cause and reach out to both their own local and national lawmakers and Nigerian officials. Don’t forget to leave your information up in a classroom or lunchroom where people can stop and learn more.
What happens next with these missing girls is crucial to the safety of women and girls around the world. So, whether you're tweet-protesting #BringOurGirlsBack, spearheading a rally or simply signing a viral petition, just know that while you might not witness any immediate impact now, the collective voice yields much more power than it is given credit.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)