Fearless Filmmaker Fights for the Right to Education

Bring Back Our Girls.

A year ago, this cry was spread throughout the globe after the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped approximately 300 Nigerian girls from their school. Initially, there was little coverage of the tragedy, but within weeks the movement to rescue the students had ignited through social media, until notable figures such as Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai posted pictures of themselves online holding signs reading: Bring Back Our Girls.

Los Angeles mom, filmmaker, and activist Ramaa Mosley felt compelled to raise awareness in her community about the kidnapping and the importance of girls’ education. She contacted her friends, urging them to speak out about the tragedy, spoke on CNN, ABC and NBC, and coordinated nonviolent marches to demand the return of the schoolgirls. People, believing that she was claiming all the credit for the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, sent her death threats, calling her racist and accusing her of co-opting the movement. To this day, she continues to receive threats, but refuses to stop advocating for girls’ education.

I joined Mosley in a Bring Back Our Girls Los Angeles march starting at the Federal Build. Students around the world marched together that day to raise awareness about the kidnapped Chibok Girls and the right to education. I caught up with Mosley to interview her about the march, girls’ education, and pressing for change.

Q: It’s been one year since the Nigerian girls were kidnapped. What reaction/thoughts come to your mind when you remember this?

RM: Now, one year later, though I have tried as best as I can, to help and bring the story to the news, the girls are still missing. When I sit and think about this, it feels like my heart will explode with sadness. It is difficult to understand how this could have happened.

I don’t understand how human beings can treat others so horrifically. My mind has trouble understanding how governments can allow such violence.

Q: You received, and continue to receive, backlash from people who believe that you are taking unfair donations as well claiming to ‘create’ the #bringbackourgirls. What would you say to such people? What did you learn from that experience?

RM: I never accepted donations and I never claimed to have created the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Those are the facts and they are irrefutable. I have worked with the Nigerian founders of the Bring Back Our Girls movement, and they know how dedicated I have been to this cause. I feel as if the Chibok girls are my own daughters. That is why I jumped in with both feet to try and help. When people started lashing out at me, I found it very hurtful. Then, I used it to teach my children about cyber bullying.

I am thankful that the media covered the story, but in their rush to do so they mistakenly credited me with having created the hashtag. This happened in onscreen graphics that I couldn’t see. My goal in working on helping bring the story of the girls’ kidnapping to the world was to have the Nigerian government act immediately and rescue the girls. I also wanted to speak about the importance of educating girls globally. I learned a tremendous amount of information about dealing with the media from this experience.

The truth is, there isn’t a person involved with this movement who hasn’t been attacked for some reason or another. When you put yourself out there to speak out, you risk being a target. I am okay with that. I will always choose to speak out for those whose voices have been silenced.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish through marching?

RM: I hope that the marches will reignite the flame and people will once again pressure their governments to take action. I specifically hope to see the Nigerian government take sufficient action to rescue the girls. I hope the marches are a call to action to remind the world that the girls are still missing. I want to see the girls home and safe. I believe the movement must help create a worldwide mandate for educating girls globally in a safe environment.

Q: Why is it important to educate girls?

RM: It is important that we march around the world because girls are our future. Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.

Educated girls stand up for their rights, marry and have children later, educate their own children, and their families and communities thrive. Yet millions of girls around the world face barriers to education that boys do not.

Removing barriers such as early marriage, gender-based violence, domestic slavery, and sex trafficking means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all.

We know that educating girls is the smartest investment of our time. When girls are educated, communities thrive and economies grow. However 62 million girls are missing from classrooms worldwide, and tremendous opportunities are lost.

Q: How does it feel to be involved in a movement that is so powerfully led by youth?

RM: For me, it is essential that school girls and boys in the first world take up the cause of ensuring that girls and boys in second and third world countries get an education. The power of the youth voice can not be underestimated — youth have the power to get people to pay attention in a way that an adult may not be able to. Look at Malala!

Q: You run Adolescent, which is dedicated to mentoring and representing young filmmakers. Why do you feel youth voices, especially with issues on girls’ education, is important?

RM: Youthful voices have innovative and creative ideas about how to approach problems.  Youth can have powerful voices to speak to their peers and also to their elders. Youth are not encumbered by cynicism or rules therefore they can more easily find solutions. I find that youth are generally bring their exuberance and willingness to play to the table, something that clients find very appealing.

Q: You say you will continue until the girls are brought back, but have you had any doubt or fear as the year has passed? What is your approach to a situation where it seems less and less likely that all the girls will be returned?

RM: Every day that passes with the girls still gone is marked on my calendar and in social media. I have many doubts and many fears but those do not stop me from daily action. I have to continue working and will not give into apathy.

Q: How can people get involved?

RM: They can write their government leaders and demand that they take action.

(Images via here.)

Amanda Gorman, 17, is a writer, activist, Harry Potter fan, and the first ever Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She has served as a U. N. Youth Delegate at the UN Headquarters in New York City, and an Ann Inc. Vital Voices Fellow in D.C. Her work has been published in award-winning anthologies, mariashriver.com, The Huffington Post, and her poetry book, The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough, released by Penmanship Books.