After the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, a worldwide social media campaign known as #BringBackOurGirls captured the attention of the international community. After five years – the anniversary of the kidnappings was this April – attention has died down. Yet between 2013 and 2018, there were more than 1,000 children taken by the group according to Human Rights Watch, many of whom are still missing. Of the Chibok girls, 112 are still missing. Some (56) had escaped shortly after being taken, by jumping off the lorries used by the kidnappers and hiding in the bushes. Through negotiations by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 21 girls were freed in October 2016. In May 2017 similar negotiations resulted in the release of another 82 girls. Three girls were found individually after more than two years in captivity.

Those that have been freed frequently face stigmatization in their communities, although some have been able to go the capital of Abuja or abroad to continue their education. In July 2018, eight fighters that are suspected of having participated in the 2014 kidnapping in Chibok were arrested, yet there is still no information regarding the whereabouts of the remaining girls; some are believed to have died.

To address the situation, the government of Nigeria launched the Safe School Initiative in 2014, to protect schools that are a frequent target of attacks by Boko Haram. The situation, however, has yet to improve: many schools in the northeast are still unsafe, resulting in only about half of children being enrolled. Many schools are also not opened in the first place, with teachers refusing to work due to concerns for their own security – a situation with long-term implications that will be felt in the region for at least another generation.

Although the international community has moved its attention elsewhere, the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls has not disappeared, with a live overview of the number of girls found and still missing available here.

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Tim Green via Flickr

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