By Sabrina Willard
While scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, a headline caught my eye:
In Nigeria, the mass abduction of schoolgirls isn't shocking
It incited my interest not only because I blog for Delta Women, an organization that spreads awareness and provides inspiration to women throughout Nigeria, but also because the headline almost reeked of boredom.
You’d think that, stacked up against life’s most yawn-inducing events, a mass kidnapping would be the furthest from unsurprising. Yet, the article’s authors somehow managed to make the abduction of 230 school girls sound falsely commonplace. My initial thought was, “That’s a little messed up.”
Reading along, the article further explained that a midnight raid, during which armed militants stormed the Government Girls Secondary School dormitory, “herding more than 200 students on to vehicles and burning down nearby buildings as they made their escape,” nearly a week and a half ago wasn’t that shocking to the people who live in this poor section of Nigeria (CNN.com, 4/21/14).
Borno, a province bordering Cameroon, is characterized as being lawless and violent. Travel is discouraged, phone service is non-existent, and the area has been under a state of emergency for the last 11 months. Stirring up trouble is an Islamist militant group called Boko Haram that regularly storms residences to kidnap, rape and murder.
“The group has gone about its misguided mission with such depressing regularity that residents have become somewhat numb.”
The most recent surge of abductions began in 2013 following a video released by the group where they announced their intention to start mass kidnappings in retaliation for previous actions by the Nigerian military during which they apprehended some of the group members’ wives and children.
This headline speaks plainly about dangers that people living in the Borno province of Nigeria have come to accept as a fact of life. The whereabouts of 190 out of 230 girls from this secondary school are still unknown, and community members are so desensitized that they find it unsurprising? No wonder I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
It goes without saying that what is considered shocking in one part of the world may be considered ordinary in another. It’s just unfortunate (note: understatement) that what the residents of this Nigerian province have come to view as “run-of-the-mill” involves families being torn apart, death and the disempowerment of women.