What Can We Do To #BringBackOurGirls?

by olgasoutstanding

The short answer is that we are not all-powerful.  Living in a powerful, developed country does give us responsibility, but it doesn’t give us magic powers.  Not one of us – not even the Marines as a group – can walk into Nigeria, do away with Boko Haram, give every child a polio vaccine, and rescue the young students that have been kidnapped.  We certainly can’t bring their brothers back from the dead.  Petitions and naming are problematic.  There is a strong, not very subtle tone of racial paternalism and sexism (girls: need protecting; boys: radio silence) to this campaign.  But we are outraged for good reason.  Many of us have children in our lives and are heartbroken over what is happening in Nigeria.  We feel deeply empathetic.  We want to help.  We want to show support and compassion.  How can we do that and not make things worse?

First, join an advocacy group.    Advocacy groups study these issues day in and day out, all year around.  Some of them focus on letter-writing.  Others focus on citizen lobbying, incorporate art, or do other creative work.  All of them have a strategy and knowledge-based suggestions for government action.  Policy-makers don’t always know what to do.  While advocacy certainly has its flaws, it can also be extremely effective. For example, I have personally known several people who were freed from prison because of the work of Amnesty International.  One of them was even told that he would not have been freed – ever – if it hadn’t been for a letter-writing campaign.  Here are just a few advocacy groups you can work with, donate to, or both:

Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Peace Brigades International
Genocide Watch

Another way to help is simply by donating funds.  All the groups above accept donations.  There are also NGOs that focus on peace, women’s rights, and African issues.  Join them!  Here are a few:

Search for Common Ground
The Fund for Peace
Peace Direct
African Women’s Development Fund
Women for Women International

There are many, many more of these organizations.  If you’re not sure whether or not an organization is reputable, feel free to contact me via the comments and I’ll let you know.

Social media is a great tool to raise the profile of global situations, but it’s very easy to feel hopeless or get burned out because after you sign a petition… what next?  After the Marines are sent in… what happens?  Was it right to pressure the government to send in the Marines in the first place?  Working with a reputable organization can connect you more directly to what is going on and give you specific action that you can take, with specific results.

Finally, if you want to post about an issue on either side, I recommend that you refrain from insulting your reader.  I’ve seen numerous articles about why “nobody is talking about kidnapped Nigerian girls” – except that everyone is talking about nobody talking about it.  On the other side, I’ve seen people calling those who have helped to spread the word “slacktivists” and essentially insulting their intelligence.  Both sides need to remember that no one has infinite time or attention; we all do the best we can.  I am proud to know people who are so good-hearted and truly want to help, even if they are not sure or disagree as to how.