Bring back our girls: the forgotten victims of conflict
In April 2014 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants. Once the news broke there was international shock and outrage. And despite one of the biggest global social media campaigns supported by high profile individuals such as Michelle Obama, two and a half years later only a handful of these girls have escaped or been rescued and returned to their families. The rest have become ‘brides’ to the militants; have been sold into modern-day slavery, have become combatants themselves or have died of neglect and abuse.
Whilst shocking, this event is unfortunately not unique. Twenty years ago, in October 1996, 139 girls were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda. One of those girls spent eight years in captivity before escaping. Victoria Nyanjura survived the ordeal and is now an active campaigning member of the Women’s Advocacy Network in Uganda. She brings the survivor’s voice to the session.
Here, we examine why it is that national governments are unable to protect schoolgirls from abduction by militant groups and why the international community’s response appears so impotent in securing the release of these highly vulnerable hostages. How can global social media campaigns be harnessed into action to protect, rescue and prevent school girls being abducted? How can we support the survivors of schoolgirl abduction? And what can be done to ensure that schoolgirls abducted in regions of conflict are not forgotten?