#BringBackOurGirls, 1 year later: What’s changed?

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On April 14, 2014, more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria were abducted from their dormitories in the middle of the night. These girls, aged 16 to 19, were preparing for their final exams – working towards a bright future – and in one night, everything changed.

Their attackers, members of the extremist militant group, Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is forbidden”, have been terrorizing communities across north-eastern Nigeria for years, targeting girls, boys, men and women who defied their beliefs. 

An empty classroom with the words, Bring Back Our Girls, overlaid.

The large-scale abduction of the Chibok girls shocked and outraged the world, igniting the social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. International organizations, global and political leaders, activists like Malala Yousafzai, and compassionate individuals like you, rallied behind the movement to show support for the families affected, and to call for the girls’ safe return.

With passing months, some of the girls managed to escape, but to date, hundreds remain missing. As we mark the one-year anniversary of this appalling attack, we look at what’s happened since.

[SEE ALSO: 7 reasons why the fight for girls’ rights still matters]

Returning to school

Early in 2015, many of the escapees from Chibok bravely returned to school. On scholarships to the American University of Nigeria, 21 of these young women are boldly pursuing an education to achieve their dreams, in the hopes of one day, giving back to their community.

“My people need my support. And me going to school will make that change.”

In a recent interview, one of the girls shared, “My people need my support. And me going to school will make that change.”

While the girls look forward to the future ahead of them, the trauma from their past remains. Sadly, hundreds of their friends and former classmates are still missing. In fact, Human Rights Watch estimates more than 500 girls and women, including the Chibok schoolgirls, have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2009.

[SEE ALSO: 3 social injustices that girls face around the world]

Millions flee violence

A line-up of women at a water point in a refugee camp.

Displaced families from Nigeria line up at one of the few water points in a camp in Cameroon.

In the past year, conditions in northern Nigeria have worsened as a result of the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram. According to UNICEF, more than 1 million people have been displaced – 800,000 of whom are children. Unfortunately, the devastation has spread beyond Nigeria and into Cameroon, where thousands of people living along the border have fled from encroaching violence.

For the families forced to flee their homes and live in temporary camps, Plan International is providing vital support, prioritizing the immediate needs like water, sanitation, education, and the safety and protection of children.

Girls’ education remains a global priority

Although a year has passed since the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction, people around the world continue to stand in solidarity – vowing never to forget the more than 200 missing girls.

The attack on these girls is a reminder that globally, girls’ education and their right to learn without fear can often be threatened. The risk of discrimination and violence that girls in countries around the world face in their pursuit of an education continues to be very real.

Globally, 62 million girls are not in school, and violence (or fear of violence) is one the factors keeping them from obtaining an education. Schools must be safe spaces for children, and should never be targeted.

*Featured image: Tim Green via Flickr / CC by 2.0

Demand a #BrighterFuture for girls

If you believe, like we do, that girls’ rights are human rights, join us in speaking out for girls around the world. Millions of girls across the globe are denied an education, life-saving health services, and opportunities for a brighter future. Together, we can raise awareness and change this.

Share a photo or message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, telling the world what a #BrighterFuture for girls means to you.