A Voice for the Stolen: Speaking Up For Nigeria

Reports surfaced early last week that hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 2000, were massacred by Boko Haram forces in northern Nigeria, near the Chadian border. Boko Haram, a militant, extremist Islamic separatist movement that is classified as a terrorist organization, is responsible for thousands of deaths since its emergence in 2009. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 200 schoolgirls, reportedly to make them wife-slaves; those girls remain unaccounted for and hundreds more women and children have been imprisoned and enslaved since.


Recent reports out of northern Nigeria indicate Boko Haram is using kidnapped girls as suicide bombers.


Why am I telling you this?


Because so few are talking about it.


Last week, I raged, I posted on Facebook, I tweeted, I trolled the internet for information. NPR, through the indomitable reporting of Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, as well as syndicated shows Here and Now and On the Media, has done an admirable job of keeping the Baga Massacre in the news; British media, including the BBC and print media The Guardian and The Independent, are producing the most audible, visible, and compelling reports and narratives. Yes, the Bring Back Our Girls campaign raised awareness during the initial days of the schoolgirl hostage crisis last year, but interest waned as time wore on and both captors and victims remained faceless, hopeless headlines. Headlines that grew smaller and have all but disappeared.


Why am I telling you this?


Because little girls are being forced to blow themselves up.


Because little girls are being forced.


Because little girls.


I believe that lifting up women and girls—ensuring access to education and health care, providing freedom from oppression, delaying the age of first childbirth, promoting engagement in their country’s economic system—is the single most important way to end poverty, improve a country’s economic and political stability, and yes, even combat religious extremism and terrorism. Ample evidence of this—across cultures, nations, ages—is borne out by statistical research, surveys, white papers, dissertations, and by those who work tirelessly in shelters, refugee camps, schools, hospitals, non-profits and NGOs around the world. We know what to do. Corruption, misogyny, greed, extremism, and lack of political and popular will stand in the way.


But now it not the time for my opinion. Now is not the time for me to tell you why stability in Nigeria is critical to American political and economic security. You can read about that for yourself. I posted a few links below that I hope you find useful.


I don’t know what can be done to help those women and children in Nigeria; nothing can be done to bring back the lives of those slaughtered. But I do know that we can all contribute to projects which work for women’s and girl’s empowerment. I’ve included links to few of those below, too.


On a day when we honor one of the world’s greatest human rights activists, can I ask that you read something about what’s happening in Nigeria? Can I ask that you stand up for the right of women and girls to be free from violence, no matter where they live? It doesn’t have to be Nigeria. It can be the women’s shelter across town. You are needed.


Understanding the history of Boko Haram & Northern Nigeria

Northern Nigerian Conflict, James Verini, National Geographic, November 2013.

The Ongoing Horrors of Boko Haram with journalist Alexis Okeowo, On the Media NPR/WNYC, January

The Kidnapped and Enslaved

Missing Nigeria Schoolgirls: A Chronological Storyline NBC News

Baga Massacre

New Reports Show Unprecedented Horror in Nigeria’s Baga Massacre, Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

Satellite Images Only Source Showing Extent of Baga Massacre, Victoria Richards, The Independent, January 15, 2015

Media Reaction to Baga

Is The World Ignoring Nigeria? Here and Now, Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson, NPR/WBUR January 16, 2015

Why Journalists Don’t Seem to Care About the Massacre in Nigeria Mark Hay, GOOD Magazine January 13, 2015

What the United States is Doing to Improve Security and Stability in Nigeria

U.S. Efforts to Assist the Nigerian in its Fight Against Boko Haram

What Can I Do?

Mercy Corps: Be The Change

Mercy Corps: Why Women Are Key to Building Resilience: Projects in Mali, Niger, Nigeria

Half the Sky Movement

There are dozens of organizations that support women’s empowerment around the world. Here’s a great list compiled by Half the Sky Movement: Organizations Devoted to Women’s Empowerment Projects

Light through the clouds  © Julie Christine Johnson 2014

Light through the clouds © Julie Christine Johnson 2014

14 thoughts on “A Voice for the Stolen: Speaking Up For Nigeria

    • Oh, Leslie- thank you! I was so heartened to see the John Kerry is headed to Nigeria tomorrow and that he’s spoken out against the human rights abuses in Nigeria. I’d like to think the letters I sent to the White House and to my state legislators, asking they give voice to these issues, had something to do with that. 😉 Hah. Not likely, but one voice + one voice + one voice + + + equals a chorus, eventually.

      Peace to you.


  1. Unfortunately, there are many atrocities and acts of violence taking place everyday in Africa, but the world doesn’t hear about it.
    This story is heartbreaking, and it angers me that this gets little to no news coverage in comparison to “Je Suis Charlie”.
    Stories like Baga can be overwhelming, because you feel impotent to affect any change, but it’s no excuse to ignore it and live in denial. Your suggestion to do something in your back yard, or support women’s empowerment projects is the best solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • R.G Bowers: Women’s empowerment… I did not really understand why my feminist Seattle daughter was so transformed by roller derby until she sent me this wonderful video about the Portland roller derby women. https://vimeo.com/107804536

      You get worn down in advocacy over time. Lucinda Marshall stopped writing here: http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org/about/lucinda-marshall/
      but has continued here http://lucindamarshall.com/

      I agree with you Julie that “…small voices, just need to keep speaking up.” I think it is especially valuable if people seek to build their own spaces to say more than social media space and pressure allows. This is not the difficult task of novel assembly, but there is a freedom in setting out ideas and developing them, and in a blog of whatever technical kind the essence is that you index your writing, as the blog app allows, and you will over time build a sedimentary rock, an edifcie of ideas. Which helps the writer as well as any chance reader. We find power and ideas through the construction of phrases. They don’t all come at once, but they can follow each other if we start… or that has been my experience.

      Chance and luck bring us together, we have to take the chance and go out to have the luck arrive. I remember many years ago reading a biography of Napoleon, reporting that at Waterloo he said; “Have I abandoned my luck?” I like that way of thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tom, it’s so tough to sort through the many organizations and possibilities. I’ve “been with” Mercy Corps for years and my own experiences in Chad with the Peace Corps opened my eyes to what NGOs and government orgs. can do so badly. In rare cases, well. I think MC is in the small tier of those that get it right.


  2. I was pleased some years ago to enable these women in the DR Congo express their views on the importance of the rights of women.

    Click to access 0804.What%20is%20peace.pdf

    …article published at http://www.offourbacks.org/index.htm in an issue edited by Lucinda Marshall
    … whose last note points up the difficulty of sustained advocacy.

    Our project at
    http://easterncongo.net/ makes only slow progress. But young architect Crystal remains determined.

    You are right. If only people could commit energy in some sustained and positive ways rather than just in social media lazy blurts the world could be better.

    My grumpy thoughts on Boko Haram v Charlie Hebdo here.

    Perhaps the best and clearest words on my blog are yours I quote at the top of the right column, thanks again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis, I am so grateful for this tremendous response, the likes and your voice. The intersection with the Paris attacks is so complicated and the connections are harrowing. Incidentally, I think the British government bungled their attempt to ask Muslim leaders in the UK to speak out against Islamic extremism, but I think this is exactly what the Muslim world needs to do: reclaim its faith from the wicked and morally corrupt. But that’s a discussion for another time.

      And we, the small voices, just need to keep speaking up.


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