I want you to imagine 230 Nigerian high school girls studying in their classrooms, preparing for their final exams, excited about their futures because they have an education. Imagine that one of them is your sister or your daughter or your niece. One night, while sleeping in her dorm, the military arrive telling the girls that danger is eminent and that they must follow at once. They follow willingly, believing the men in uniforms, because they are accustomed to living in a place where the terrorist group Boko Haram threaten their right to go to school. Once loaded onto a truck, the men light the school on fire and holler praises to their God. Your daughter, niece, and sister realize that the men are not who they say they are. They begin praying and begging for their lives.
Photo by James Marshall/Corbis
The men travel with your daughter into another country and force her to marry a strange man who buys her for $12, and will likely rape her and strip her of her innocence. She is now a slave. She cannot go home. She is scared. She wants her family. I want you to imagine that no one is really talking about it except the families of these girls in a small village most of us have never heard of. Understand that it's getting little news coverage and that the government isn't doing nearly enough about it. You realize you may never see your daughter, niece, sister again. Just like that, she's gone.
Now imagine that this happened in a first-world country like the U.S.. Do you feel any different? Are you as outraged?
I read an article that made an interesting comparison in the amount of news coverage between the South Korean ferry boat tragedy and these recent abductions in Nigeria. The author points out that the kidnappings took place two days before the ferry accident, yet the Korean story dominated the news for a week. Why?
AP/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap
Well, South Korea is a first-world country with lots of media outlets. We got to see the parents of the students in agony, jumping into the water to try and find the bodies of their children. It was heart-wrenching and awful. But Nigeria is a third-world country that is unfamiliar to the west, and doesn't get much news coverage. We don't see the suffering parents of these girls who are undoubtedly grief-stricken and desperate. And so it is difficult to wrap our hearts and minds around this story, to feel the same level of empathy and horror when details are slim and a few blurry photos are all we have to connect with.
But the pain is the same. The parents of the Nigerian girls love their children just as much as the South Korean parents do. Their grief is the same. They bleed the same red blood, they cry the same salty tears, they wail the same haunting prayers.
AP Photo/ Gbemiga Olamikan
I have yet to read any stories that talk about what is being done on a global scale to bring these girls back. UNICEF and UNWomen need to be doing more to get the Nigerian government to intensify their search efforts. Countries like the United States will happily stake their claim on Nigerian oil, but they have made no effort to help restore its real treasures -- the stolen girls. We have the most powerful military in the world and yet we only employ them in ways that benefit us. Our priorities are all fucked up.
I want President Obama to imagine that Sasha and Malia were among those girls. I want him to be angry and do something about this NOW!
And I want you to be angry, and sign petitions, and educate people about what's happening. We cannot let this story get lost in the fray of other stories. I see those girls in my dreams. They need all of us to help bring them back. Yes, they need YOU too!
I will not lose hope. I will use my voice because those girls can't. I will make a ruckus because I am free to do so in my country. I will plaster my social media outlets with this story and force you to pay attention because these girls matter.
Those 230 beautiful, innocent girls are our sisters, our daughters, our nieces. Please use your privilege and power for good and help bring them home.