Why Was Abduction of over 200 Girls in Nigeria Ignored?
Over 200 Nigerian girls went missing – abducted for trafficking just because they were getting an education. Why didn’t this initially make the news?
I start this by inspiring confidence in the reader; I know very little about Nigeria or Nigerian politics. I do know however, when practically every TV channel ignores something I could easily tell was a huge story, there must be something behind it. Be prepared, a rant may be coming.
Photo: BBC News
I read about the girls in Nigeria the day after it happened. It was a footnote in a news app on my phone. I turned on the TV and nothing was said. This went on for a few days, which turned into a couple of weeks. I asked my partner if he thought it was weird nothing had been said about over 200 girls going missing in Nigeria, to which he shrugged and replied, “Well, it’s typical.”
It may have been ‘typical’ but surely it wasn’t just me whose blood boiled. On 15th April 2014 over 200 teenage schoolgirls were abducted from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in north-eastern Nigeria. Exact numbers of how many were abducted and how many escaped seemed to vary from each news site. The group responsible for the abduction was Boko Haram, an extreme Islamist group whose name means “death to Western education.” The ‘crime’ these girls are guilty of is just attending school. To add to the horrific ordeal, these girls are now being sold off at $12 each. The future of these girls is uncertain, and they must be utterly terrified.
So what exactly is typical about the lack of information surrounding this story as it happened? The conclusion my fella seemed to jump to was one I’d had myself; because the story concerned young women from Africa, a mix of misogyny and racism snuck into the tale and these girls weren’t as newsworthy as the competition.
I had a look at the competition, and it was tinged with a mixture of tragedies. In the UK the 15th April rang with the Hillsborough disaster anniversary, a death at the London Marathon and the US memorial for the Boston bombings. Perhaps news editors could be excused for ignoring the 200+ young women being abducted and trafficked? Personally, I don’t think so. Not on a TV bill that included commenting on what Prince William and Kate were wearing on their jaunt around New Zealand.
I am concerned this broad-brush approach to reporting the news goes beyond ignorance and directly feeds the patriarchy we are trying so hard to move away from. No one seems to have an answer as to why this wasn’t important to the international news when the story hit. Few want to mention the elephant in the room – that the media chose against reporting on an issue in Africa, when arguably, if it happened in Europe or the US, there would be a global outcry. Because Africa is a nation in which this has happened before, this was somehow seen as un-newsworthy. Why? Because it affects young women who were working to get an education which directly defied an extremist religious group, known for their human rights violations.
Looking at news articles and feminist websites, many women’s issues are making the news. Looking at the scale of the current Nigerian incident, I can’t help but feel the feminist issues that make the press are much smaller in scale than this abduction. A quick search on the web delivers me information about sexist joke toys being removed from a major chain store – an important step but nowhere on the scale of hundreds of young women being taken forcibly from their school. Does this mean that the media focus on women’s rights only on the small scale while ignoring huge issues and events?
I can’t begin to imagine the horrific ordeals these girls are going through. They are being sold into near slavery and officials fear for their safety. I sincerely hope they are all returned to their homes and schools safely. I fear this won’t be the case for all of them. My concern is the media chose initially to ignore this story. It’s a big story. It demonstrates just how serious it becomes when women are seen as a commodity to be stolen and treated in a way that becomes a matter of life and death.
If the media ignore something as big as this, what else are they choosing not to share with us?
UPDATE: Amnesty.org has revealed the national military had four hours’ warning off the planned raid by Boko Haram, yet did nothing. Follow the media stories and demand an answer any way you can. This isn’t the time or place for silence.
Photo: BBC News