I have just returned from an unforgettable journey to Africa. Yet the return is bittersweet, as I have come home to the reports that hundreds of Nigerian girls have been abducted from their schools.
A school, an education, these are things we here in the UK, both female and male, can take for granted. For many kids it is a place of safety and friendship, it was for me. But for these girls, school has turned into a place of danger and fear. And Africa is in the headlines again, not for the lush beauty and overwhelming hospitality that I felt in Zimbabwe recently, but for cruel acts of violence and hate inflicted on women and children. It is a double cruelty this time, as the women and children are one in the same, the girls being aged anywhere from 12 to 18.
So, this morning I have been changing my profile pictures on my social networking sites; joining petitions and watching the news intently to find out what the world communities are doing about this terrible crime perpetrated against innocent girls. All the while I hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to try and link in with the world outcry that is now developing, which I hope continues to grow louder and louder.
Like most concerned people, when events like this happen, at first I feel sickened; then I start to feel outraged; then somewhat helpless, as I start to question the effectiveness of status updates in the battle against such criminal actions. Sometimes I have to concede that only high powered intervention from the likes of Obama and Cameron may be of any use. (I would love to see some statistics on how much impact the voices of the social networking community have on the activity of world leaders. However, I may never know.) But while such social avenues exist, let us use them anyway, because you just never know who might be listening. And I suppose, in some ways we, as a world community, act as the voices of these girls, who are somewhere in the wilderness, unable to speak themselves. If they could speak, they would probably say what we are saying: 'save us', '#BringBackOurGirls'.
So, that being said, I have found a couple of sites which offer guidance on getting involved. You can visit www.facebook.com/bringbackourgirls, where there is a list of suggestions on how we can all get involved. For the UK they have a link to a government petition, where we can urge parliament to get talking about the situation: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/64170 (although, I wonder how much time this will take). Obama is already on the move, having now dispatched a collection of legal and military representatives to Nigeria. This is a positive step, but we mustn't get complacent.
In short, we need to get moving and we need to talk, pray, petition and protest. I have signed the petition, and I hope others will too. In the meantime, I am off to try to find more ways to keep helping.