According to the President of Nigeria, 82 of the 276 school girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram three years ago were released in May.
While this is a great relief for the girls and their families, it still leaves 113 held in sexual slavery.
Three years ago, when the girls were captured, the world was rightly outraged. Men, women and activists cried out, ‘Bring back our girls’.
But the cries for freedom died down well before the girls were released. Did people really care about the girls, or did they just jump on board the latest social media bandwagon?
Concerned global citizens updated their Facebook pages and tweeted photos, holding plaques saying ‘#BringBackOurGirls’. Even Michelle Obama got into the act, tweeting a picture of herself with a sad face and a poster saying ‘#BringBackOurGirls’.
Once Michelle Obama was in, together with a whole lot of celebrities, people claimed ‘victory’.
Mainstream media commented on all the Facebook posts and hailed the campaign as one of the great successes of the social media age. Participants congratulated themselves for the amount of publicity they were able to generate.
Months then years went by. Attention faded. Time went on. Twitter fell silent even as the mothers maintained a daily vigil outside government buildings in Nigeria. Many of the Chibok girls remain in sexual slaveryto date.
Over 100 girls are still in captivity. They have been turned into breading machines for the terrorists, creating the next generation of brainwashed suicide boomers. The mothers know this but social media has grown forgetful.
Could it be that the measure of success for the protesters wasn’t the release of the girls but the number of tweets they were able to send out? Did the hashtag activism overshadow the plight of the kidnapped girls?
When horrendous things happen we should care. We should care when children are being kidnapped and raped. But we cried loudly about freedom for the girls for such a short time.
Our voices neither freed the girls nor remained concerned about them once a certain amount of time passed and attention moved to the next shiny social media thing. Just like the world moved on from the #StopKony campaign just two years prior.
‘But there nothing I can do about this’, some might say. And perhaps they are right. Maybe there really is nothing we can do but express outrage. And expressing outrage does helps a little. But it helps more if people keep going until the thing that sparks their outrage actually stops.
Like they did with segregation.
Like they did with apartheid.
Concerned citizens didn’t fall silent then. So why are they falling silent now? What has happened to the world that it can now treat atrocities so superficially?
Last month the Associated Press (AP) released results from an investigation that uncovered nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers and other personnel around the world over the past 12 years. More than 300 of the allegations involved children
This is something that the world should get outraged about.
And yet people have done nothing, even as the UN Secretary General recently admitted to 311 instances of sexual assault. These were crimes committed by UN staff and peacekeepers in 2016 alone.
As global citizens, we should rightfully do something about this because our taxpayer funds support the UN. Our money supports UN staff and peacekeepers on their missions around the world, where they are supposed to protect the most vulnerable.
But in actual fact, this latest AP report just adds to a long list of accusations on the UN’s own peacekeeping abuse page. Mass rape and sexual abuse, including the defilement of children, has been going on within the United Nations for years.
Where is the hashtag?
There is none. And maybe it’s because UN atrocities happen to little black girls in African wars that the world doesn’t care about.
Either way, the attention of hashtag activists is extremely limited in time and scope. Maybe that’s why many no longer strive to succeed, they just strive to tweet.