Conservatives in the US are mocking the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign that went viral on social media two weeks ago. But enthusiasm for the hashtag has increased, not waned.
Controversial pundit Anne Coulter was scorched for her sarcastic take on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Her “hashtag contribution to world affairs” kindled a flame war of comments and Photoshopped responses. Fox News contributor George Will complained that those tweeting the hashtag are doing so only to feel good about themselves. “Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, ‘Uh-oh Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior?’” Will opined.
Despite the naysayers – or in light of them – the BBC reports #BringBackOurGirls has been retweeted 3.3 million times since it was first used in Nigeria on April 23. The hashtag is mostly used by Twitter users in that country and the United States. You can track popularity of the hashtag by going to www.topsy.com, and inputting #BringBackOurGirls.
While tweeting #BringBackOurGirls has amped up awareness and increased pressure on the Nigerian government, Will is right about one thing: A hashtag alone won’t win the girls’ freedom from their Boka Haram captors, nor will it prevent another mass kidnapping of schoolchildren from happening again.
According to A World At School.org, “30 countries have experienced a pattern of intentional attacks on education in the last five years. The organization, which champions education for every child, states that schools and universities have been bombed and burned, and students, teachers and school officials killed, maimed, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups, and extorted precisely because of their connection to education.” Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Pakistani Taliban when she was 15 just because she wanted an education, is perhaps the best-known case. That was before the current abductions in Nigeria took place last month, but schoolchildren have also been kidnapped in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately they are used as weapons of war, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, which advocate for the protection of students, teachers, schools, and universities in conflict in countries affected by conflict.
Global interest in the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls is intense, so it is understandable that many people feel helpless and want to take action, even if it’s only tweeting a hashtag. Here are a few other things you can do to make a difference:
- Donate to the Nigerian Safe Schools Fund. The Fund was launched this month by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School.
- Join The Global Education First Initiative Google Hangout. Participants will discuss how and why we all need to advocate for education everywhere. Friday, May 16th, at 12:30 p.m. ://bit.ly/1jaFSqK
- Spread the Word: Along with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, tweet these links:
- .@educationenvoy delivered #BringBackOurGirls petition to Nigerian Pres @wef who supports #safeschools. You can too ://bit.ly/1g1CyxH
- Never again can we let this happen to our children. Help invest in #SafeSchools ://bit.ly/1g1CyxH #BringBackOurGirls #WEFAfrica
- Schools should be safe places for children to learn. Invest in #SafeSchools in #Nigeria ://bit.ly/1g1CyxH #BringBackOurGirls
- Pres Jonathan supports #SafeSchools for girls at #WEFAfrica Add your support ://bit.ly/QlG6ye #BringBackOurGirls
- Support groups that support girls’ education. These include The Malala Fund, the official organization led by Malala Yousafzai, which is focused on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education.
- Tweet the president and your members of congress. Tell congress and President Barack Obama to keep pressuring the Nigerian government to continue searching for the girls, provide additional protection to schools and colleges at risk of attack, and take steps to mitigate the impact of attacks on children’s right to education.
- Sign the petition. Show support for families of the abducted girls and encourage efforts to rescue them.
- Stay Informed. The Global Coalition documents attacks on schools, teachers and students. They have a video and maintain an interactive map of these types of targeted attacks.
- Keep following #BringBackOurGirls on social media. Keep up with news reports on this story as well as calls to action. Also follow our posts here on All Digitocracy.org.
Afi Scruggs contributed to this report.