The news of a ceasefire between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, and the promised release of the 276 girls abducted from a town in northern Nigeria has been met with cautious optimism by the international community. If true, and the girls are released safe and well, this is a huge victory for international community. The #bringbackourgirls campaign successfully amplified the voices of those in Nigeria fighting for the return. The hope today is that the Nigerian government has successfully brought an end to the matter.
The Nigerian government has been working tirelessly towards a resolution but they haven't got this far alone. Check out the 12 people and organizations who have been fighting to bring back the 276 girls since their abduction on April 14, 2014.
1. Ramaa Mosley
Documentary filmmaker Ramaa Mosley is credited with initially raising the US and international consciousness of the Chibok Schoolgirl kidnapping. From very early on, Mosley undertook a series of TV interviews on the subject across America and used social media to bring attention to the issue across the world.
Mosely popularised the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, using it to provide a voice on social media for the campaign. The hashtag quickly went viral and was used by such influencers as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and celebrities including Mary J Blige and Alicia Keys.
2. Malala Yousafzai
The recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient has been at the forefront of government intervention to bring back the over 200 kidnapped Nigerian girls. Prior to Malala's action the government of Nigeria had been avoiding taking public action against Boko Haram. However, after meeting with the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, Malala announced "The president promised me... that the abducted girls will return to their homes soon." And it looks like Jonathan was finally able to follow through with his promise!
3. The families
Arguably the heros of the story are the girls themselves and their families. The strength and resilience shown is an inspiration to all. Six months on, and many of the families still come together on a daily basis in the town of Chibok to chant “Bring back our girls"
UNICEF, an organization focused on the realization of children's rights, has been vocal in their opposition to Boko Haram and their commitment to bringing back the kidnapped girls. They were the first major international agency to release a statement on the incident and have since been a consistent voice in the global campaign to secure the safe release of the girls.
5. Michelle Obama
The First Lady of the United States broke with convention to highlight the plight of the girls. She took the rare step of delivering the President's weekly radio address to express outrage over the kidnapping.
“Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night," Mrs. Obama said in the address. "This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education - grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."
Michelle Obama has been widely credited with turning this from a Nigerian security issue into a global debate.
6. Maryam Uwais
Nigerian Lawyer and Activist Maryam Uwais was one of the first to hear of the kidnapping. In the early hours of the 15th April, a distressed guard told her of the events. Since that moment Maryam has done everything in her power to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda in Nigeria. She's held protests, vigils, written op-eds and met senior government officials to increase pressure and secure the release of the girls.
7. Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Education, has used this platform to bring world attention to the issue. A passionate speaker and gender equality campaigner, The former British Prime Minister has been travelling the world reminding political leaders to continue to do everything in their power to secure the safe release of the girls, to prioritise girls education and make sure every school is a safe school.
8. The #bringbackourgirls campaign
The #bringbackourgirls campaign started by Ramaa Mosley, is probably the most visible campaign to support the return of the girls. Capitalising on the popularity of the hashtag, the campaign has worked with partners including Girl Rising, to build a campaign platform. Organised groups across the world sprung up, with regular local rallies, protests and vigils of support, as recently as this week.
9. Alicia Keys
Just a few days ago, the songstress organised a rally in New York in support of the #bringbackourgirls campaign to mark the 6 months since the 276 girls were abducted. Keys expressed frustration at the lack of progress and urged leaders to be clearer in communicating with the public what was happening.
The online petition platform Change.org quickly facilitated a petition by one of it's supporters. Calling on World Leaders to do all they can to secure the safe return of the girls and to ensure that schools are safe environments for all kids, the petition currently has over 1 million signatures.
11. Amnesty International
The human rights agency has been prominent voice in the violence that surged through Nigeria at the time of the kidnapping. Urging its supporters to take action, it's been targeting political leaders, including the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, to do more to end the situation.