Even as Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc across the country—displacing millions, the majority of them children—Nigerians are taking to the streets today to prove that the terrorist organization hasn’t won and to remember the 219 girls abducted by Boko Haram one year ago today, many of whom are still missing.
For most outside the country, the terrorist act is widely associated with the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, which spread across the Internet like wildfire last spring before petering out just a few months later. Today, Nobel Prize recipient and human rights activist, Malala Yousafzai, and others are taking to Twitter to remind the world that these girls are not forgotten, and must be saved.
Meanwhile, the girls’ kidnapping from the northeastern town of Chibok continues to dominate headlines at home, with Boko Haram—whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”— claiming that many of the girls have converted to Islam and been married against their will.
With the Nigerian government short on effective solutions to the Boko Haram problem, citizens are placing red tape over their mouths and marching through the capital city Abuja, promoting the hashtags #365DaysOn and #NeverToBeForgotten. Many are hopeful that the protests will inspire dictator-turned-President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, who recently beat out incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, to address the ongoing conflict head-on, especially given his substantial military background. But for his part, Buhari isn’t making any promises.
“We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued,” said Buhari in a statement released today. “Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.”
Discouraging and heartbreaking as that may be, there’s still time to do your part: Today, the Malala Fund is encouraging women around the world to write open letters in support of the missing girls through its #DearSisters campaign and continues to accept donations here for Nigerian organizations working to advocate for girls and women across the country.
On the Malala Fund website, Yousafzai posted a moving letter to the young abducted women, a message of hope and solidarity. She writes: “Remember that one day your tragic ordeal will end, you will be reunited with your families and friends, and you will have the chance to finish the education you courageously sought. I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you, and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong, and never lose hope. You are my heroes.”