A decade after the kidnapping of the Chibok women in Nigeria, what has the #BringBackOurGirls motion achieved?


In April 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 highschool women in Chibok, a city in northeast Nigeria. About 57 of the ladies managed to flee on the night time of their seize.

Boko Haram had demonstrated its intentions concerning the schooling of ladies and younger ladies previous to the mass kidnapping — two months earlier than the Chibok kidnapping, Boko Haram attacked a highschool in a close-by state, Yobe. The terrorists separated the scholars by gender, “shot or burned to loss of life” 59 boys and instructed the ladies to “go away and get married and to desert their schooling.”

The kidnapping of the Chibok women mirrored Boko Haram’s perspective in the direction of not solely schooling and tradition, but in addition the place and position of ladies in society.

A brand new trajectory

The moms of the 219 kidnapped women protested, however little consideration was generated attributable to their low socioeconomic standing, diploma of group and site. Inside three weeks, different extra highly effective ladies intervened to advocate for the rescue of the ladies. They included Oby Ezekwesili, a two-time federal minister and former vice chairman of the World Financial institution.

The #BringBackOurGirls/#BBOG motion emerged from a coalition between elite ladies and middle-class allies, marking a brand new trajectory in human rights advocacy led by African ladies.

The kidnapping of the Chibok women and the worldwide ascendance of the #BBOG motion is a research within the interaction of human rights advocacy, terrorism and nationwide and geopolitics. My new guide, Terrorism, Politics, and Human Rights Advocacy: The #BringBackOurGirls Motion, is the primary book-length sociological investigation of the #BBOG phenomenon.

A social drawback

The Chibok kidnapping didn’t immediately garner a excessive degree of consideration. Ultimately, by way of cautious media technique, the #BBOG motion turned the Chibok kidnapping right into a social drawback.

The #BBOG motion used a hybridized communication course of that prolonged past hashtags and web activism. #BBOG engaged in rigorous offline, on-the-ground mobilization and well-co-ordinated protests.

The #BBOG motion originated in Africa and demonstrated how a women-led, non-violent social motion grew to become perceived as a serious menace to regime stability.

The Nigerian authorities tried to destroy the motion by way of a number of avenues, such because the intentional creation of chaos, solicitation of management change, smear campaigns, illegal arrests and bomb threats.

women marching while carrying a sign reading 'rescue our chibok girls'

Girls attend an illustration in April 2014 calling on the federal government to rescue kidnapped schoolgirls from a authorities secondary faculty in Chibok, Nigeria.
(AP Photograph/ Gbemiga Olamikan)

On-line marketing campaign, offline impacts

The #BBOG motion effectively influenced political and social change, reflecting the position up to date, women-led social actions in Africa play in reshaping institutional and non-institutional actions, beliefs and practices. #BBOG contributed to the primary electoral defeat of an incumbent president in Nigeria.

The #BBOG deployed 4 main framing approaches: maternalist (which frames ladies’s roles as moms and caregivers as distinctive and essential); human rights; women’ rights to schooling; and the failure of the state.

The motherist or maternalist framing was used early on to encourage and mobilize ladies in Nigeria, alongside women’ rights to schooling. Quickly, highlighting the federal government’s failure to urgently reply took precedent.

Over time, there was an emphasis on the ineptitude, decadence and
corruption of the Nigerian state and inner decay of the navy.

The worldwide consideration generated by the framing contributed to a change of regime in Nigeria. The worldwide unfold of the #BBOG framing was tactically helpful, however turned out to be a strategic error as a result of it alienated highly effective key stakeholders. This was as a result of it partly relied on the idea that overseas governments, akin to the USA and the UK, may assist rescue the kidnapped women.

Army involvement

Armed forces will not be all the time shielded from the political course of, significantly in growing nations. Issues within the Nigerian political course of and the navy inhibited efforts to rescue the Chibok women. For instance, the spiritual, political and ethnic identities and subjectivities of navy officers had been exploited by politicians through the 2015 presidential election marketing campaign.

For my guide, I interviewed a number of senior generals, a few of whom knowledgeable me that delaying the rescue of the Chibok women was considered as beneficial for the possibilities of then-opposition candidate, Normal Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari gained the election in 2015.

Different elements inside the Nigerian political course of and the navy made rescuing the Chibok women and defeating Boko Haram difficult. These included corruption, intelligence leaks, sabotage, nepotism, alienation of the general public, scarcity of arms and ammunition in some models, insufficient co-ordination of safety operations and “strategic blunders” made by political leaders.

Some troopers perceived the warfare towards Boko Haram as a “garbage” mission. They felt the warfare was not solely poorly executed, however was getting used to the good thing about some senior officers and politicians. This contributed to poor civil–navy relations within the warfare towards Boko Haram.

two women holding babies, flanked by two men in military uniform.

Two Chibok schoolgirls had been rescued by the Nigerian navy in Could 2023.
(AP Photograph/Jossy Ola)

Involvement of elites

Members of elite teams — these linked to main establishments of society by way of schooling, wealth, background, skilled and marital ties — grew to become concerned within the #BBOG motion. This was a double-edged sword.

The #BBOG elite did deliver important benefits: popularity, media protection and deep connections to main establishments and entities in society. Nonetheless, in addition they inadvertently launched sure baggage in an surroundings with weak institutional constructions.

The involvement of elites enmeshed #BBOG in an intricate labyrinth of partisan loyalties and particular person ambitions. Most of the contradictory ideological leanings, intra-elite squabbles and political ambitions of its leaders pre-date #BBOG, and have had a major impression on the motion and its outcomes.

As Chibok and the world mark 10 years for the reason that mass abduction, it’s value noting that #BBOG helped make sure the Chibok women weren’t forgotten. A lot of the women have returned from captivity, however greater than 90 stay lacking, and greater than 30 mother and father have died whereas awaiting the return of their youngsters.

Total, the #BBOG expertise highlights the necessity for activists — significantly within the International South — to be clear about what help means for his or her trigger. Producing consciousness a few social drawback shouldn’t be essentially the identical as particular, tangible and empirically verifiable motion to unravel an issue.

Activists ought to suppose native and act native in human rights advocacy. There was little sensible and visual help to rescue the Chibok women, regardless of the internationalized framing and international public show of help by heads of states and celebrities.

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