After two weeks of paltry media coverage and government inertia, the world has come together to demand the safe return of more than 200 Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram on April 16. Through all of our clicks, shares, tweets, likes and comments, we are sending a loud and clear message to those in power and those who abuse it: kidnapping girls and forcing them into slavery is an unconscionable atrocity that must not, that will not, be ignored.
Imagine being ripped from your bed in the middle of the night. Imagine this unspeakable act taking place at school, a safe haven your parents perhaps made great sacrifices for you to attend. Now imagine being sold for a few bucks to a stranger, a man who feels he owns you, a man who believes he can abuse you any way he wants without risk of reprisal. Imagine being raped by this stranger. Imagine never seeing your family again. Is this too frightening to bear? It should be.
As Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times reflected this past Sunday, the mass kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls will affect untold numbers of children still safe in their beds. It will deter many parents from sending their daughters to school as they fear for their safety.
Without an education, girls have a greater chance of a lifetime filled with illiteracy, poverty and unthinkable vulnerability. That's why we must take action now. If the kidnapping of more than 200 girls can happen in a tumultuous environment like Nigeria, what will prevent similar crimes from occurring in other struggling African nations, in the Middle East, or anywhere else?
I’ve learned a lot this week. I've learned that human trafficking is not just a problem overseas. In fact, it thrives here in the United States, in our own backyards. Some call the city where I live, Chicago, a "national hub for human trafficking." It is a global scourge each and every one of us needs to help eradicate. Now. Today. Together.
We cannot ignore the abduction of innocent children, no matter where they are in the world. As we’ve seen in other regions, terrorists start locally and then quickly aspire to expand their reach. We can’t simply say we’ve got our own problems here in the U.S. (or Australia or Great Britain; I’ve heard it all over the last few days). My compassion is not based on a passport, a race, nationality, or religion. These are our girls.
The Nigerian leadership knows the world is watching. But we still have much to do. We must keep up the pressure on our leaders to demand the girls’ safe return. New reports surfaced yesterday that First Lady Patience Jonathan ordered protesters detained. President Jonathan publicly criticized the parents of the abducted. Just this morning, I heard reports that eight more girls have been kidnapped. EIGHT MORE GIRLS SOLD INTO SLAVERY.
We cannot let ourselves grow tired of all of the shares, photos, and tweets and return to our everyday lives. This is just what the Nigerian leadership is hoping. Please don’t let this happen.
Don’t turn away from the girls who are relying on us to bring them home. The longer we take to find them, the higher the odds they will become victims of sexual slavery. In the upcoming days, I will continue to post current headlines as well as resources for those who want to join the effort to reunite these girls with their families. Chicagoans, please come to the #BringBackOurGirls rally on May 10 at noon in Daley Plaza. Make your voice heard for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Resources and News:
Want to make a difference TODAY in the life of a girl who has experienced the horrors of sex trafficking? Head over to Kwagala Project now and buy some gorgeous and inexpensive jewelry. 100% of the sales go back to the rescued girls, who are from Uganda. I have a few of their necklaces and bracelets and LOVE every piece.
Best conversation I've seen so far on this crisis is on HuffPost Live, led by Marc Lamont Hill. Well worth the 20 minutes.