By Mudiwa Dutiro, co-founder of All 4 Girls Empowerment (A4Ge), a student project at African Leadership Academy
On the 14th of April 2014, 276 girls (exact figure still unknown —‘276 girls’ stated by Reuters on 13/05/14) were kidnapped from their boarding hostels at Chibok Secondary School in Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria. This horrific incident was spoken about in hushed tones for far too long, until justifiable global attention was drawn to the event. The initial minimal and muted reaction to the kidnappings was shocking. If attention had been drawn to this situation from the beginning, we possibly could have been engaging in dialogue about how best to support the already returned 276 girls.
This article is not intended to tag on the media attention that the issue has created, but hopefully to extend A4Ge’s support for the girls, families and communities affected; and also highlight the need for African communities to not downplay our own problems, but to realize the magnitude of events happening all-to-often on our soil, that are not receiving the uproar that such events warrant.
Borno state had closed schools in the state after a number of Boko Haram attacks, but these girls had returned to school to write their final exams. According to accounts from media sources, armed members of the Boko Haram Islamist militant group ambushed security guards on the evening of the 14th of April at the Chibok secondary school and proceeded into the girls hostels where they removed them from their beds and forced them into trucks apparently claiming to be the Nigerian military who were taking them to safety.
As a co-founder of All 4 Girls Empowerment, a project that aims to empower an African girl so that she is no longer a target or victim of sexual harassment or abuse, I find the kidnapping of over 276 girls in Nigeria extremely horrifying. The idea for A4Ge stemmed from the continuous ill treatment of girls across the continent, a need we believed was necessary to address by creating a platform for girls to share their stories, get connected with organizations that offer help, and create a network with girls who have suffered similar situations and with people who want to support and empower them.
As the media has speculated, the kidnapped girls are likely being sold as sex slaves in neighbouring countries, which further highlights the reality of the situation in Africa where many girls are being used as sex slaves. This treatment of girls should not be our reality and as African communities and communities around the world, we need to continually support each other and work together to ensure the safe return of our girls.
Justifiable global attention has been drawn to the kidnapping and A4Ge is continually in full support of the safe return of our girls.