Ruth Pogu and Hassan Adamu, who were abducted in 2014 along with 274 other schoolgirls in what prompted the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, emerged from the jihadist group’s Sambisa forest hideout in recent days, alongside men who called themselves their “husbands” and children born in captivity. The fighters surrendered amid a surge in fighting between Boko Haram and its rival, Islamic State West Africa Province. Another woman, taken last year from Chibok, was with them.Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2021
Seven years. I remember reporting on the kidnapped girls of Chibok in 2014, when GirlSpeak did monthly episodes on girl-related news. It was heartbreaking then, as it is now. In fact, reporting such atrocities against girls eventually led to refocusing GirlSpeak on less heartbreaking topics. I couldn’t keep up the monthly research and read-throughs; no one could. We choked up too much.
Seven years later, I was scrolling for content for our Stop the War Against Girls (SWAG) page on Facebook. It is in some ways easier to handle; there is no speaking involved, no opinions given. We simply post the news, perhaps a quote from the article itself. Perhaps, over time, we’ve become numb to the act of finding and posting.
Over time, we became numb to the girls of Chibok and their plight. It never ended – it just faded from view. As so many girls do these days. They make the news, make a headline, and then fade as the next major break comes along. For the past four years, their news was made more difficult to find by the divided politics of America (where I live), and then the tragedies of a global pandemic. Those things still rage today, but like Chibok, we are becoming numb.
Numb. Seven years later, and I no longer cry. I am numb to it. Numb to the violence. Numb to asking, “When will it end?” I am still part of the fight. Part of what makes me spend countless hours administrating, researching, writing, and producing for Girl Museum. Yet I am numb.
Just a few moments ago, Ruth Pogu and Hassan Adamu crossed my news feed. I cry, again. Because it never ended for them. It never became numb for them.
But it may end. Ruth and Hassan’s release – or rather, surrender with their “husbands” – is part of a transition we’ve been waiting seven years to see. After the death of Boko Haram’s leader in May, the group has floundered – losing territory and soldiers as Nigeria offers safety to those who surrender. It is floundering, but it is not over. And there are still girls of Chibok waiting to be free.
Bring Back Our Girls.
– Tiffany R. Isselhardt