Since the time when the girls were taken from their school by armed militiamen, the impact of the conflict on children has grown dramatically. Over the past year, 44 children have been used as suicide bombers. In fact, the number of children used in suicide attacks has increased ten-fold over the last year and over 75% of the children involved in the attacks are girls. Nearly one out of every five suicide bombers is a child.
A few weeks ago, #TimeToAct was just a drop in the ocean of the 140-characters messages that tweet from our mobiles daily. Over the time, the hashtag has created a virtual layer where thousands of tweets, pictures and videos are streaming. "Time to Act" has become the social network's motto of a campaign asking to tackle rape in war zones.
Unlike hashtag campaigns that have come and gone before, #BringBackOurGirls has unified a global audience and, apart from a microscopic percentage of Boko Haram supporters, the whole world is behind the message, if not the means, of the campaign. Hashtag campaigns about everything from Orca captivity, to gay marriage, to Invisible Children; even the #YesAllWomen hashtag have all divided national and global opinions (rightly or wrongly) where #BringBackOurGirls has united the world's population in solidarity.
Despite the criticism of armchair activism, this could be a watershed moment if attention surrounding these events can transform into something altogether more sustained and ambitious. If we can seize the momentum of interest and look beyond the immediate ambition to #bringbackourgirls, it could be possible to shape a world where we #protectallgirls.
Is Nigeria intending to negotiate the release of the 276 kidnapped schoolgirls or it preparing to attack Boko Haram? The answer to this question does not seem clear, even to the Nigerian government itself. Throughout much of the crisis the administration of president Goodluck Jonathan has dropped fat hints that it is engaging or attempting to engage in some kind of behind-the-scenes dialogue with the kidnappers.
The danger of the hashtag is the accompanying sense that the hashtagger has 'done their bit' in a humanitarian crisis. No need to submit a monetary donation, volunteer for a charity or arrange a fundraiser like the good old days; the beauty of social media means that you just have to press a key and you've made somebody's life that little bit better. But have you?
In the week immediately following the kidnapping of 276 school girls in Nigeria, editors commissioned more pieces on George Clooney's rumoured engagement than on the capture of a school full of girls. But it turns out we do care more about what happens to innocent girls in a different part of the world.