#Bringbackourgirls was the hash tag that made the whole world turn to the crisis of the 219 Nigerian girls and women kidnapped by jihadist terrorist group Boko Haram in April 2014 in Chibok (the number of kidnapping has increased to more than 2000 women and girls from the Borno State, Nigeria). The vast amount of attention that this event had led to First Lady of USA Michelle Obama, celebrities and politicians to campaign for the peaceful return of the girls. However, like all crisis and news the phrase “the play must go on” is perfect to describe the silence of mainstream media in continuing the campaign; political and media interested varnished. April 14, 2016, marked the second anniversary of the kidnapping and mainstream media, and social network was alight with news that some of the kidnapped girls had managed to escape Boko Haram. However, one has to acknowledge some of the reasons why the campaign faded away until now:
- The international and national community are not too sure where they are and identifying the girls will be very hard. Due to Boko Haram being constantly on the move in the vast region including the Sambisa Forest, the Nigerian government is unable to maintain the location of Boko Haram. Further, there has been lack in publicising information on the efforts being made to save the girls by the government in which Mike Omerri, director general of Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency told Al Jazeera that realising information “wouldn’t be beneficial”.
- Mainstream media moved on very quickly from Boko Haram to other terrorist concerns – ISIL (also known as ISIS). Boko Haram proved not to be a threat that could harm the citizens of the West. While ISIL had gained territory and began to kill Western civilians on video. Further, the Ebola crisis proved to be more of an international crisis rather than the Chibok kidnapping.
- Race and ethnicity played an important role in mainstream media forgetting or silencing the crisis. The media can be claimed to be very selective in their reporting and that selection process can be subjected to race, ethnicity, nationality and religion. The Chibok girls are black, from Nigeria and mostly Muslim. When terrorists, attacked Western countries, the media enabled people to be blinded by concentrating and forgetting other atrocities around the world. The Nigeria flag was not illuminated at Wembley. Ironic, knowing that the #Bringbackourgirls campaign was internationalised and saw so many politicians and companies talk about it.
Nonetheless, of the 219 girls kidnapped the girls freed have come back to face hostility, discrimination and rejection from their families and communities instead of support. These girls have endured sexual violence and traumatic experiences at such a young age. Instead of support, counselling and being eased back into childhood life, these girls face suspicion and mistrust from their communities. Those that have been impregnated and were forced to have sex are rejected even more; as they have ‘shamed’ and their children have ‘bad blood’ (latter is a research title conducted by UNICEF) due to social, cultural and religious norms related to sexual violence in Nigeria (this is also common in many African countries).
What many forget is that these children are victims caught in the conflict. Regardless of the growing fear that these girls have been indoctrinated and radicalised by their captivity hence the suspicion the children need help from the community and protection by the government. A proposal for government to provide support for the children and their families is to provide counselling and reintegration programmes for the victims. A clear challenge would be funding, the political consequences of reintegration programmes would mean redistributing funds into these communities (which is very hard considering that a vast amount of Nigeria’s citizens’ leave in poverty; which is very ironic as Nigeria is ranked as having the best economy in Africa). It is a well-known fact that Nigerian politics is taunted by corruption – this same corruption will deter funding and support to the Borno state and to those affected by the kidnapping. Furthermore, it is also surprising that African countries have also seemed to ‘forget’ or ‘silence’ the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. At a time that Africa needs to support and unite with Nigeria to tackle Boko Haram, Africa has failed to be together.
What is the future of these young girls? Will their communities and families continue to reject them? Will the government provide necessary funding and support platform for the girls and their families? Will all the kidnapped girls come back ? All these questions but no definitive answer, this is a plea for Nigeria and African governments to lobby and fight the Boko Haram threat and truly Bring back our girls.