“If things had been different, I could have been sitting exactly in the same region around the same time,” said Abyan Mama-Farah, who is Nigerian and was raised in northern Nigeria for the first five years of her life. “It could have been me.”
Mama-Farah, a third-year feminist studies and biology double major, organized “Bring Back Our Girls Anniversary Day of Global Action” at UC Santa Cruz. She organized the event in solidarity with the global day of awareness by the Bring Back Our Girls Foundation.
Boko Haram militants abducted more than 270 girls from the Chibok Government Secondary School from the northeastern village of Chibok in Nigeria last April. Today, about 230 are still missing.
Following the kidnappings last year, Nigerians expressed their anger toward the government’s lack of response on social media by tweeting #BringBackOurGirls.
The Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls gained international popularity with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister David Cameron and most importantly the millions who shared pictures of themselves holding signs with the message.
A small group of students gathered at the Amah Mutsun Conference Room of the Bay Tree Bookstore to remember and reflect on the kidnappings of the girls. The students shared an intimate space to discuss the historical, social and political factors related to the kidnapping.
As stated on its website, Bring Back Our Girls hopes to give people tools to “activate our governments so they will rescue the girls in Nigeria and protect schoolgirls across the world.”
An Islamist militant group, Boko Haram has continued to present itself as a threat to the residents of Chibok. Last June, a Boko Haram offensive attacked nearby villages of the town where the girls were kidnapped –– at least 11 parents of the kidnapped girls have been killed.
In January, Boko Haram attacked a village in northern Nigeria, leaving 2,000 people dead. Since last April, more than 2,100 people have been reported to be killed by Boko Haram, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Although an international issue, Mama-Farah said UCSC and the greater Santa Cruz community should treat the kidnappings as if they had happened in our immediate community –– educate other students, staff and faculty on why it’s important to not forget the girls and their families.
“Distance is a thing of relativity and in our life, greater travel has shrunken the globe,” Mama-Farah said. “What happens in Nigeria and to Nigerians is connected to Santa Cruz by the shared nature of our humanity.”
“Bring Back Our Girls Anniversary Day of Global Action” didn’t bring in many attendees, but it still inspired a “productive conversation about the historical variables to consider when examining such a complex situation.”
Mama-Farah collected emails of attendees to update those interested on developments of further actions or meetings, and to continue to spread awareness of the issue.
“I am saddened but not surprised to see the event pass as a fad through the minds of my peers,” Mama-Farah said. “I am saddened that after all this time these girls remain lost, that so many similar events go unreported and unacknowledged.”
Learn more about #BringBackOurGirls at bringbackourgirls.us.