By Maggie Cremin
Following the kidnapping of the young women from Chibok, located in Borno State in Nigeria, there has been a worldwide response. However, this is not the first terrorist attack that the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has perpetrated. For years, there have been numerous public attacks in locations varying from religious institutions, government offices, public markets, bus stops, and schools. The attacks have been predominantly in the northeast of Nigeria, but have spread more recently to other states including Abuja, the capital city. WHY NOW!? Why is the international community just turning its attention to the atrocities being committed in Nigeria now? Last night the Stanford Women’s Community Center, SASA, CAS, SABF, MSAN, NAACP, ISSU, NAIJA,* and Stanford students from Nigeria hosted an event to shed light on what is happening in Nigeria. Professors and students shared facts about Nigeria’s history and the events that have taken place. But they also created a space for students and members of the Stanford community to reflect on what has happened in Nigeria and the attacks that continue to occur.
Students highlighted that anyone in the room could have been born in northeast Nigeria. We could have been one of the girls kidnapped, one of the family members, one of the victims. With this perspective, we reflected on what we could do in response to such horrid and inhumane attacks. Most importantly, we want to look to the Nigerian people for guidance and draw attention to their positive efforts to support the families who are victims of these various attacks. In addition, we should be sensitive to the complexity of the situation and not make fleeting or generalizing statements about Islam, terror, rape, trafficking or gender.
Feelings of anger, sadness, and hope were shared. Anger that there has been so little response by the Nigerian government and the international community. The Nigerian president did not release an official response to the April 14th kidnappings until May 4th. President Obama did not release a response until May 6th. Now there are even more questions of why? Why did it take so long? What is going to happen now? Sadness for all the death and lost well-being, the fear that the people must live with and the hurt they hold in their hearts for lost loved ones. But nonetheless we still hold hope. Last night’s event was a great example of hope, love, and support. People want to find a way to help our sisters and brothers in Nigeria.
But how? Is the reoccurring question. What I learned last night was that the first step is educating yourself about the situation. 1) What are the facts? For example, the #BringBackOurGirls was started by Nigerian women, not an American woman. 2) What are the motivations for giving aid now? The United States often offers aid to a country in order to gain access to their natural resources, especially oil. 3) Talk about the event with peers, a professor, a friend and find a way to show your support.
We send our support to the Nigerian people that they may stay strong and continue to make positive changes.