23 July 2014: I am just as shocked and saddened by the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria today as I was 100 days ago. And I have no doubt you feel the same, but the question is how does the world keep the momentum and energy up to help get the girls safely released?
At Plan we have worked with many of our partners to campaign for their release, along with millions of other people around the world but they have not been released. As such we all need to reflect on the last 100 days of campaigning and what we can do better to make sure the girls are returned home safely.
Here are my top 5 reflections on the campaigning work we have seen around the world over the last 100 days.
1. Yes, assess risk - but do it quickly
Wow - there was a lot of unnecessary delays in responding to the kidnapping. Yes there is a risk in speaking out strongly on such a sensitive situation. But this is the time the world needs leadership. Assess risk smartly but do it quickly, there are hundreds of lives at stake. I know of many institutions and organisations which took over 2 weeks to speak out against the kidnapping. That is too long.
2. Don't change the story
This is mostly a point to the media who within days were looking for a different angle to report the kidnapping. It became an opportunity to criticise the Nigerian government and president - who instantly worked up a new safe school initiative with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education - for pretty much anything.
Innocent girls were kidnapped while trying to go to school and their lives are at risk - that is the point and as soon as the coverage moves away from this people disengage from what is really at stake and the momentum is lost.
3.Target the right people
You see time and time again in the campaigning world people developing actions and calls which are directed at the wrong people. The current and future safety of the girls lies predominantly in the hands of people who live in Nigeria.
Yes we live in a global world and global leaders can have an impact, but only by working with people in power in Nigeria. Don’t target campaigning work at people who do not have the ability to bring about the change we want to see.
4. Support other campaigners
Over the second half of the 100 days we have seen a lot of criticism about #BringBackOurGirls. Let’s be clear this hashtag raised awareness of the situation to millions of people around the world. Nobody ever claimed a hashtag would set the girls free but it is an important part of the solution.
It has done more to maintain the continued support for the girls than anything else I have seen – including being an engagement tool which brought Michelle Obama into the discussions. We all want the same result so let’s get behind all the campaigning actions people are doing.
5. Don't give up
Change can take time and it can also happen when you least expect it. There are always things going on behind closed doors and it is our job as campaigners to keep up the external support and pressure so negotiators feel empowered by the backing of the global community.
It is great to see the amazing work taking place around the world today to re-engage people 100 days on, such as the vigils being organised around the world by A World At School* and through our Because I am a Girl campaign, which will continue to raise awareness and put pressure on the right people to see the girls returned home safely.
I urge you to join us; don’t give up. If you want some ideas check out our campaigning toolkit.
These are just my reflections, but what do you think of the campaigning so far? And what are you going to do next? Let us know using #BringBackOurGirls so we can all keep the momentum going together.
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