#BringBackOurGirls’ Statement on The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
25 November 2016
As the United Nations and the international community kick off 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence from November 25th to December 10th we, the #BringBackOurGirls movement, stand in solidarity to commemorate today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
It is widely known that our movement, advocating for the rescue of the remaining 196 of 219 abducted Chibok girls, is self-funded and does not solicit nor receive funding of any kind from local or foreign sources. We, however, recognize that many other initiatives around the world which work to promote the rights and the cause of girls and women are weakened by a paucity of resources. This is why we welcome and support the theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: ‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls’.
We therefore call on our government, local and international partners, and citizens to align with the theme and ensure adequate financing of all women-related initiatives with government and the wider society. We encourage citizens and private companies to donate to the handful of dedicated local and international organizations that do the hard work of ensuring that abductees and victims of violence receive the rehabilitation, reintegration, and resettlement that is essential for getting their lives back on track.
We also encourage citizens to invest two other things in addition to their hard-earned finances: time and voice. We are grateful for the voices that have joined ours to advocate for the release of our Chibok girls, all other abductees and the plight of IDPs in the current humanitarian crisis. We acknowledge that this unison of voices has played no small part in leading up to the negotiated release of 21 of our girls by the Federal Government, the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We believe that our Chibok girls are receiving the type of care that we anticipated they would need two-and-a-half years ago. But with just 10 percent of our girls back and still 196 waiting to be rescued, reconnected with their parents and re-enrolled in school, we ask that citizens everywhere increase investments of time and voice into our campaign and into other efforts working towards the elimination of violence against women.
Since our movement’s inception, we have been painfully cognizant of the importance of this particular International Day and have been standing for the elimination of violence against a symbolic cohort of Nigeria’s girls who were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria on April 14, 2014. While numerous local and international groups have worked tirelessly to advocate for, and end violence against women in its more widespread forms – domestic violence, rape, female genital cutting, child marriage, trafficking, paedophilia, child abandonment and neglect, etc – the Chibok girls’ abduction introduced Nigeria and the world to a unique form of violence against women.
This unique form of violence?
Mass abductions by terrorists from the very institution that many have long argued is the single most important factor in empowering girls to become fully-contributing citizens to society: school.
For 956 days, our Chibok girls have been subjected to this particular form of violence which — like the other forms — is multifaceted and includes various components that are constitutional, institutional, religious, communal, familial, physical, and psychosocial in nature. For 941 days, our movement has advocated around a complex web of causes and effects concerning the elimination of violence against women – particularly within the context of the Boko Haram insurgency. Namely, we have advocated around what we believe to be contributing factors to the acts of violence against women (and also men, children, and communities as a whole). Most of these are explored in depth in our crowd-sourced document Citizens’ Solutions to End Terrorism, but two are found below:
1. Eradicating Systemic Corruption
Our movement has long argued that the corruption chain in Nigeria must be broken and that the weakest link in the chain is the judiciary. We maintain that this must be addressed in accordance with standards of democracy and by upholding the constitutional rights of all parties involved. While the government’s attempts to deal with the judiciary have been laudable, the manner in which it attempted to do so in some cases flouted the accepted conventions of democracy.
We want to see the swift and conclusive prosecution of all individuals who diverted funds meant to equip our brave soldiers for the task of rescuing our Chibok girls, eliminating Boko Haram once and for all, and securing the Northeast and the rest of Nigeria. This also goes for perpetrators of other rampant forms of violence against women across the country. Victims of violence deserve justice. We realize that this can fully be achieved once the government invests in intelligent, rigorous, due process-compliant, and conclusive prosecutions — within the context of a sanitized and strengthened judiciary.
2. Corruption and sexual exploitation in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country.
Even before our first visit to an IDP settlement in the FCT area in September 2014, our movement has been calling attention to the needs of internally displaced persons. We were sensitized to these needs early on because many of our Chibok parents and families were displaced, as well as some of our other members. Some members narrated disturbing accounts of poor feeding and food distribution practices in official camps, which were echoed by reports in both the local and international media. We issued our own statements on the matter and a few of our members have been actively involved in addressing the growing complex needs of IDPs, often in partnership or in tandem with institutions such as NEMA, SEMA, the Nigerian military, and a host of local and international partners and institutions.
However, the release of a Human Rights Watch report earlier this month highlighted the pernicious violence inflicted upon female IDPs. Not only have some female IDPs been torn from their families and held hostage by Boko Haram, like our Chibok girls, but they have also been allegedly provocatively “married” to their abductors, borne children of their abductors, and have had to dwell in IDP camps due to the annihilation of their homes and villages – just to be subjected to sexual exploitation in camps and, in some cases, rape. Our society finds this repugnant and we demand that all such illegalities be punished starting with the man found in the company of Amina Ali Nkeki, one of our Chibok girls who the government announced was found on May 18, 2016.
We strongly urge the Nigerian government to conduct and complete its own investigations of the matter and to name and punish perpetrators, accordingly. We also urge that the women subjected to this multiple infliction of violence receive, at baseline, the care we proposed for our Chibok girls for their complete rehabilitation, reintegration, and resettlement. Our instrument — the Verification, Authentication, and Reuniting System (VARS) — outlines in detail what such support could look like.
Strong nations protect and help build up their women, who in turn build up their nations. Violence against women erodes our efforts towards achieving sustainable development goals and towards building a stronger nation. Together we can eliminate violence against all women and build a stronger Nigeria and a stronger world.
For and on behalf of