Last week, Guardian lead writer Anne Perkins wondered about the discrepancy between media coverage of the South Korean ferry tragedy and the abduction of 200 girls from a girls’ school in Chibok, in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. She asked why there was so much coverage of the Korean children who died in a ferry accident and so little of the Nigerian schoolgirls.
The coverage of both stories was never directly about the children, since, in both instances, the children were gone. The coverage was necessarily about the parents. And here’s where the absence of coverage by major, but not all, news media of the Nigerian parents’, and especially women’s, response is so telling. The Guardian has covered the story fairly regularly. In the United States, after the initial abduction of 200 to as many as 273 girls, the major news outlets, print and broadcast, have devoted little to no space to the Nigerian parents. For example, The New York Times ran one piece, soon after the abduction, and since then has been pretty much silent.
But the women of Nigeria have been anything but silent.
Nasirullahi Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), an Islamic women’s group, staged a peaceful protest in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, in the eastern part of Nigeria. They marched to the State, where Ummuhani Abdulrahman, the leader of the Ilorin branch of NASFAT, explained that they were protesting the Nyanya Municipal Motor Park killings in Abuja and the schoolgirls’ abduction in the northeast. She then presented a letter to the governor to be transmitted to the President: “Our hearts are bleeding. We are mothers. We know what it takes to lose a pregnancy how much more a child. We want these children to be recovered because they are our futures. They are what we depend on as mothers.”
Across Nigeria, women are speaking as mothers, as sisters and aunts and daughters, as students and educators, as women who were once girls. They are marching, writing, singing, and uniting.
Today, women of Chibok, dressed in black, marched on the National Assembly, in Abuja. They marched to protest the violence that took their daughters and the violence that followed, the silence from government: “Our daughters were carried away by the insurgents like cows into the wilderness. If they are dead; we want to see their corpses. For the past two weeks that the incident occurred, nobody has talked to us; has the government thrown away the bath water with the baby? We have come here to express our dismay, probably if the government sees us like this; it may ginger them to do what they are supposed to do. We want government to rescue our daughters from their abductors.”
There are plans for further actions: there was a Million Woman March yesterday, in which women wore red; a Women United for Peace in Nigeria march today; other smaller actions and events across the country.
Across Nigeria, women are intensively mobilizing. Reading the American press, one is forced to ask, “Who cares?” Who cares about close to 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, abducted and now, according to one recent local report, ferried off to Chad or Cameroon, to be sold to the highest bidder? Who cares about hundreds of thousands of Nigerian women whose hearts are bleeding?