Gender Action Project statement on developments in Kenya and Nigeria

We are saddened by the shocking massacre of 147 people at Garissa University in Kenya. We are saddened by the loss of African life and African potential. As we hold the Kenyan people in our thoughts at this difficult time, today we also mark the first anniversary of the well-reported kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram.

On this day last year, 276 school girls were kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria. 57 eventually managed to escape but over 200 are still missing. In earlier months, the ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬ campaign, which demanded the release of the kidnapped girls, helped to highlight the plight of the Nigerian girls. One year down the line, the hashtag has faded away, the kidnappings are no longer headline news and the girls are still missing.

On an intellectual level, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign brought about interesting debates. Some criticized the campaign, calling it ‘slacktivism’. A few commenters pointed out that the campaign could actually aggravate the situation in Nigeria. A number of people questioned the Western media’s selective reporting on all issues pertaining to Africa. Some spoke about the rapid loss of momentum in the campaign. Some criticized Michelle Obama for participating in the campaign while the US continued to increase their military presence in the Middle East, causing the death of many children who would not ever be ‘brought back’. Others responded by asking why the Western media can’t discuss the deaths of children in third-world countries without derailing from the topic.

But perhaps the most interesting thing of all is our ability to intellectualize the kidnapping of these schoolgirls. We commented before we mourned. Others, still, pointed out the inability of Western journalists and commenters to connect on a human level with the experiences of the girls, partially because they are black, female and Nigerian.

It is important for us to remember the socio-political issues surrounding #BringBackOurGirls. It is important that we consider the events in the context of structural patriarchy in a so-called ‘post’-colonial world.

But moreover, let us respectfully and empathetically show solidarity with those who were affected by the kidnappings.

The Gender Action Project Committee 2015

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