Friday, May 9, 2014

I stand behind my charge to #BringBackOurGirls - by Bridget Robertson

Several articles have raised questions and concerns about this campaign regarding the terrible abduction of the girls in Nigeria. I can not speak for everyone involved. I will speak for myself. And at the end I will state what I believe is our real role.

I have stated in a warrior cry that I am demanding the return of girls everywhere. Every nation, state, town in this world . Borders drawn on a map do not interest me. 

I believe this campaign was sparked and driven by social media. Any major media involvement came because the one sentence reports were simply not cutting it. I watched small outlets report first. They had the more  information. And it wasn't much. I saw many blogs with profound statements and demands to #BringBackOurGirls. They stoked this fire not the mainstream media. 

I don't know what always captures the attention of my country or the the western world to awake to larger problem. I do understand that numbers are both a blessing and a curse. Our brains can wrap themselves around 200+ girls. We still have old parts of the brain that go numb if the numbers become too large. Neuroscience has suggested that we can only connect to 300 people at any time. In fact I was even told by several neurologists that we can only comprehend family, clan and tribe. Beyond that, becomes elusive for SOME people. 

On February 9, 2014 animal advocates and activists were deeply moved and outraged. A giraffe, named Marius was killed at a Copenhagen Zoo. Large social media campaigns ensued. Most if not all animal advocates knew tens of thousands of  animals were killed that day. But it was the single killing of the one that  sparked the fire of the movement, bringing this case and problems with zoos to mainstream media. Because one was comprehendible. And it was always about more than just this one giraffe. This was a focus. And I believe it highlights how a movement can gain strength.

I still hold my charge to #BringBackOurGirls because it represents these particular girls as well as the mind numbing numbers. So I will state who I include in that hashtag.

Nigerian Girls - taken on April 14,  2014. The number of girls is between 230-276 depending on the report.

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women - First Nations says, 1,026 Aboriginal women have been murdered and 160 have disappeared. The Canadian Government insists it is only 600. For me a murder univestigated means they must bring to justice those who have killed these women. They can't be brought back to life. They, their families, their tribes and nations are owed this justice. It is the only way to "bring them back"  and begin to heal deep wounds. 

Children removed from American Indian parents in South Dakota - Since 2005 5,000 children have been removed from their parents. It seems poverty has become the latest reason to remove children from American Indian homes. Even when grandparents have asked the courts to grant them custody, they are refused. It's the modern version of residential schools. And it is illegal. The State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over these tribes. They hold treaties with the United Staes government. So where is the State Department and President on this issue?

Human Trafficking across borders - Estimated to be 800,000 per year. Of that number 90% are female and 50% are minors. The numbers may have just gotten to that "too big stage". To counter that,  the city of Nashville, TN has a population of 609,000 people. Just imagine the entire population taken, split up and moved to foreign countries each and every year! 

Children exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year - 1,000,000. That would be the combined population of New Orleans and Portland. Each and every year.

Human Trafficking and Children exploited numbers were found on this site

Missing children in the US - Now it becomes very murky. It seems there is no agreement on what missing means. If a parent abducts different states and policies come into play. Teenagers disappearance is often not even filed or investigated.  Children who runaway and are forced into "sex trafficking" ( It's in quotes because it such a sanitized and inaccurate description) is also nearly impossible to pin down. It is a crime. And criminals do not offer numbers to anyone gathering information. Depending on who's report you read, it is believed that almost every underage runaway or missing child who is alive most likely is being prostituted. What is known, is that it happens in every town and city in this country. There are no "it doesn't happen here places". 

Children in War  - Rape is considered a weapon of war. 90,000 women and children have fled Syria in the hope  to not become the next target of this "weapon". I doubt they are protected in refugee camps either. This estimate is just for Syria. 

Gendercide - Reports show that 200 million girls have been killed as infants just because they are girls. I am aware this act is often committed by the mother who is told it is either her life or her daughters. Sometimes the very real threat is to both of there lives. Sure, China's one child policy has driven this in China where boys are seen to be more valuable than girls. It other places girls are just considered a burden. By simply being born as a female it seems their life is completely disposable.

What do I think is the best way to end this madness? Let's start with the immediate situation. I believe it is essential to listen to the voices of the Nigerian women who began their demands and protests immediately. They have ideas and activity they wanted done. Our task is to follow their lead. We are not saviors or all-knowing. Frequently we forget that there are activists in every country in this world. Their astute ideas and plans can get lost as soon as military options become the front method of handling this tragedy. I would go so far to say that in any of these situations we must step back and take every cue from the people who live within these dangers. Or we become the danger as well. At no point does this relieve us from being involved. Our support, numbers and pressure are vital. We just don't get to lead. We can be ally's or support systems. And every ally's responsibility is to follow! 

So yes I still charge to #BringBackOurGirls. Let's get this right. And broaden this campaign to every situation listed. This list is hardly comprehensive. It is a start. To walk away now is to miss a moment where much of the world cares. They sincerely wish to help. Let's not drown that out. Instead encourage it. We have moment. Let's put that energy behind the mothers and women of Nigeria, following their ideas. And get behind the activists and survivors who are directly affected in all these situations. Our role is critical. Just not a leadership one. Respect that! It can #BringOurGirlsBack. 

-Bridget Robertson

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