Bring back our girls

The image at the top of the Bring back Our Girls Facebook page is a reality check. It’s a montage of portraits of (I assume) some of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria a year ago. The faces of sixty teenagers and young girls, most of them looking directly at the camera, as though asking the viewer, ‘what will become of us?’.

Tomorrow, April 14th marks the one year anniversary of the kidnapping, and this week there are actions around the world to remind us all that the girls are still missing. My small action is this post.

Originally I planned to only share songs from Nigerian women. My intention was to showcase the power and talent of Nigerian-heritage female vocalists as a counterpoint to the victimisation and disempowerment of the Chibok girls. Women like Wunmi, shared above, Asa (pronounced Asha), and their musical forebears the Lijadu sisters.

Then I found that the campaign had inspired people around the world to make their own songs and poems. Some are predictably maudlin, with sad piano and placards asking us to imagine our daughters being raped. Thanks, I’d rather not.

It’s great that they are adding their voices to the global chorus demanding the girls’ return, but I prefer songs that are more hopeful, more political, or more angry.

I particularly like the image of the lighthouse which will not be submerged by a wave, in this spoken word piece.

Like the shooting of Malala, the Chibok kidnappings have mobilised people around the world who know the value of education and independence for women and girls. Here’s an upbeat contribution to the campaign from a North American women’s fitness club.

As I write, hundreds of people in southern NSW are celebrating the life of an Australian woman who recently lost her life to male violence: Stephanie Scott, who should have been married on Saturday.

No-one can bring Stephanie back, or the many other women around the world who have been killed or abused by greedy, disturbed, spiritually ugly males who feel entitled to decide whether we live or die.

At least we can make sure women like Stephanie, and the Chibok girls, are not forgotten. We can honour their lives by working towards making this world safer and more humane for everyone.

Sometimes, when young men commit horrible crimes, I feel a measure of sympathy for them. I wonder what has brought them to such a situation, where they have so totally stuffed up so many people’s lives, including their own  I don’t believe anyone is born evil, and I know that there are social determinants such as racism and classism that can badly damage and distort people’s relationship to their world. So I give people the benefit of the doubt, I try and remember their humanity and vulnerability, and try to practice forgiveness.

But frankly, this week, I’m over it. I’m not feeling very forgiving. These men have made terrible choices that others in similar circumstances would never make.

I don’t feel very optimistic about Boko Haram releasing the schoolgirls. From my safe and privileged home on the other side of the world, I can’t do much more than hope they are all still alive, and are somehow able to make the best of whatever situation they are in.

And of course most of all, I hope that Boko Haram can heed the message that people all around the world are trying to get across to them — beautifully expressed in this old song from Onyeka Onwenu — and find enough love in their hearts to let the girls go home.

Looking back on what I’ve written, I guess finding love is a challenge for me too. Perhaps, in these awful times, it is for all of us.

So I leave you with Onyeka’s warmth and love, which I hope will soothe us all and help us through hard times.



4 thoughts on “Bring back our girls

  1. The kidnapping of the Nigerian girls by Boko Haram was such a devasting incident, not for just the families of the girls but the nation as well. Very sad a similar incident happened much closer to home for many Australians too. Really sad, since in a developed country like Australia, women still have to be vigilant while out on their own. We all deserve to have the right to walk around freely without the fear of someone taking advantage of us. Sometimes I wonder if education really enough to put an end to violence against women. As you said, we all have a choice on how we choose to act but sometimes we can’t help act the way we act because of other factors.

    • Yes, it’s hard to imagine the grief of the families. We all face hard times in life but these kidnappings and murders would be an emotional test that I don’t know if i could pass. I suppose I do remain hopeful though, because I see how much things have changed for the better over time, although we still have a long, long way to go.

      • Agree that we do have a long way to go towards stamping out violence in society. Sometimes I feel a number of Australians are disensitised about such issues, especially the Boko Haram incident or when they happen abroad. Our country is located geographically south of the equator, away from the rest of the world, and Australia is a first world country. No surprise that we can get complacent – and when it comes to an incident happening close to home, we worry about it for a few days and move on.

      • Yes, out of sight out of mind, and it is overwhelming how much trouble there is in the world.

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