Bring Back Our Girls. Bring Them Back Alive.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When I first caught part of the news report, I thought I misheard something. I was listening (barely) to the radio in the kitchen over the din of our morning get-readiness.

Over 200 girls abducted from their school in Nigeria almost two weeks ago.

It couldn’t be right, couldn’t be a current story. Nothing about the slip of news I had picked up sounded real, and I tried to pushpin it to the back of my mind. Bookmark it for later.

But I couldn’t shirk it. I needed to check it out, to follow up on what I’m sure I heard wrong. Was it maybe two girls, instead of 200 hundred-plus? It had to be that, had to be two.

BringBackOurGirls_Names_ShaunKing | Ms. Mary Mack

Credit: @ShaunKing on Twitter

I scrolled through my usual online news feeds. Nothing but Donald Sterling’s racist remarks kept coming up. So I clicked over to the UK papers. The Guardian’s headline confirmed the horrible: it really was a mass abduction. Over 200 girls (234, as first reported), kidnapped by Islamist insurgents — rounded up  at gunpoint and snatched away from their school. The girls had just sat their final school exams, the news story said. And they were taken because they dared to be there, in school, young women getting an education.

This can’t just happen, I kept saying. But it did, and no one in North America seemed to know or want to know anything about this horrible crime.

The more I read about the story in the British media, the more I asked: Where’s the American outcry? Where are the links and columns and reporting and CNN’s Breaking News chyron, and the rants and rally cries? How can this large group of girls just vanish? As this story in the Guardian asked: 200 girls are missing in Nigeria — so why doesn’t anybody care?

From Sanford, Florida, to Chibok, Nigeria, is black life really worth nothing?

Imagining the terror those young, frightened girls  going through broke me. Watching the mothers and fathers of these gone girls — 276 still missing — bawling, pleading to the grim skies for the return of their daughters, my heart was sick. And seeing reports that the girls who did not escape were to be sold as slaves (and married off) for what amounts to 12 American dollars, I felt weak, utterly powerless.

Yes, the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag started to build late last week and is trending; there’s a movement and its beating drum is getting good and loud. The global community is sitting up and saying in strong and clear voices that girls cannot just disappear. These girls — each with a full name and story — matter. They are worth more than $12, and they need to be returned to home, alive.

The world is awake on this now, the media is watching, and we’re on the same page: This mass abduction is an atrocity, and we will not stand for it.

But in addition to the online activism, news commentary and all of the (necessary) petitions and protests, what else? That one question keeps churning for me: What more can we do to ensure each girl is brought home swiftly and safely?

And I’m not alone. Other people cannot sit still with this question; they crave action.

Today, May 6, marks three weeks that nearly 300 girls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, while they slept in their dorms. Amy Poehler’s excellent online network and community movement Smart Girls at the Party will join Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, to co-host a Google Hangout and call to action today at 12 noon ET/9 a.m. PT.

The open forum will have a panel of experts, organizers and global citizens talking about what’s happening now with this story and what we can do to help. RSVP to join the conversation here –> #BringBackOurGirls: A Call to Action. You may also post questions for the group on Twitter at AmyPoehlerSmartGirls.

And Girls Rising offers this Nigeria Action Pack with three things we can all do to get our daughters back home.