#BringBackOurGirls

Do you remember back when we all used the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on social media in 2014 after 276 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram?

Do you know that 112 of those young women are still held by Boko Haram?

Today’s blog post is longer than usual, but please take a few minutes out of your busy day to sit quietly and read it.

Beneath the Tamarind Tree:  A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Girls of Boko Haram, by Isha Sesay

The story of the 276 Nigerian school girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.
The Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and The Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram, by Isha Sesay

Beneath the Tamarind Tree:  A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Girls of Boko Haram is not a pleasant or easy book to read, but I feel compelled to read books like that in order to better understand the world around me. You will, no doubt, recognize the name of the author, Isha Sesay, as a veteran journalist on CNN.

To refresh your memory, on April 14, 2014, 276 teenage school girls were kidnapped from their Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a militant Islamic group based in Nigeria. The group’s goal is to institute Sharia or Islamic law. Translated from the local Hausa dialect, Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden.” Boko Haram adherents mainly live in the northern states in Nigeria.

In this book, Isha Sesay reconstructs the events surrounding that 2014 mass abduction, but also offers some brief historical backdrop which must be known in order to understand how and why such a thing happened.

Ms. Sesay explained the history as follows:  “Nigeria’s largely Muslim north and its predominantly Yoruba and Igbo Christian south” were combined to form the country of Nigeria by Great Britain in 1914. After numerous coups, it was decided after every two terms the presidency would alternate between the north and the south. However, political problems continued and Boko Haram was founded by Mohamed Yusuf in the early years of the 21st century. Unrest grew in 2014 when the two-term Christian president from the southern part of the country, Goodluck Jonathan, hinted that he was going to run for a third term.

With that political state of affairs in mind, let’s delve into the story of the abduction of 276 school girls on April 14, 2014. I don’t want to give too much away, in case you want to read Beneath the Tamarind Tree, so I’ll just hit some highlights from the book.

  • 57 of the 276 girls escaped early on and managed to get back home
  • When Ms. Sesay arrived in Nigeria three weeks after the kidnappings, she was shocked to learn that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was spreading the word that the event was a hoax
  • When Jonathan’s successor, Muhammadu Buhari, was elected in 2015, Buhari said it was not a hoax. This gave everyone hope, but then when he was to meet with parents of the kidnapped girls and representatives from Bring Back Our Girls, he refused to meet with them. Eventually forced to meet with them, he took the opportunity to try to distract them with other issues and cast Bring Back Our Girls as the enemy of the government.
  • In October of 2016 – 2.5 years into the girls’ captivity – 21 of the girls were released to the Red Cross and lawyer Zannah Mustapha. Mustapha had taken it upon himself to broker a deal between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. It is not known what concessions the government made that made the release of 20 girls (plus one as a “bonus) possible, but all along Boko Haram had demanded the release of some of their own who were imprisoned.
  • At the time of the release of the 21 girls, some 50 of the original 276 girls had succumbed to Boko Haram pressure and married Boko Haram men.
  • The 21 released girls were emaciated from more than 900 days of hunger and abuse. They had been uprooted numerous times by Boko Haram as the militants tried to hide them from anyone who was looking for them. One of the buildings they were housed in at one point was bombed by the Nigerian military.
  • On May 7, 2017, 82 more Chibok girls were released.
  • By January 4, 2018, 107 of the Chibok girls had escaped or been released
  • Boko Haram kidnapped 112 school girls and 1 boy from a school in Dapchi on February 19, 2018. All but one of those girls, a Christian who refused to convert to Islam, were released after a couple of week; however, that one girl was still being held by Boko Haram as of the writing of Beneath the Tamarind Tree, which was published July 9, 2019.
  • As of the writing of this book, more than 100 of the Chibok girls are still missing and assumed to still be held by Boko Haram.

I think the overriding thing I learned from reading this book – the thing I will most remember from this book – is the tremendous and abiding faith in God and Jesus Christ held by the vast majority of the Chibok school girls. It was their faith that sustained those who have escaped or been released.

In interviewing the 21 girls released in 2016, Ms. Sesay, a Muslim, was gobsmacked by the fact that the girls had forgiven their captors and even prayed for their captors. It was a reminder for me that Christianity, at its very core, is a religion of forgiveness. Forgiveness is, apparently, an idea that is foreign to other religions or at least some of them.

Update from Reuters new agency, since reading the book:  On June 12, 2019, 300 Boko Haram killed 24 people in an attack on an island in Lake Chad in Cameroon.

The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer

This is the first novel I’ve read by Kelly Rimmer, an Australian author. This book is a combination of today in the life of a woman whose son is on the autism spectrum and years ago when her grandmother was young and in love in Poland in the years just before World War II.

The grandmother is now confined to a nursing home and cannot verbalize her thoughts and desires. One of the interesting aspects of the story early on was how the grandmother was able to learn how to use the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) app on her great-grandson’s i-Pad to communicate her feelings, requests, and answers.

The grandmother’s early history is pretty much a mystery to her granddaughter, but there is something the grandmother persists in trying to communicate. It involves a man named Tomasz and what was so important about him. Will the granddaughter travel to Poland to look for this man in the country of her grandmother’s birth? I don’t want to give the rest of the story away, in case this sounds like a novel you’d like to read. Suffice it to say there are numerous twists, turns, and surprises in this novel.

Although it’s a book of fiction, the plot was inspired by the author’s grandmother’s story. She weaves a story of challenges, desperation, true friendship and devotion, and undying love. I highly recommend this book.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been reading!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­One Good Deed, by David Baldacci and listening to Before I Let You Go, by Kelly Rimmer.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

I might take a break from blogging next week. If you don’t see a blog post from me on September 16, rest assured I’ll be back online on September 23.

Let’s continue the conversation

Were you aware that more than 100 of the Chibok school girls are still being held by Boko Haram a numbing almost five and one-half years after the April 14, 2014 mass abduction? If my rough calculations are correct, today is Day 1,974 of their captivity.

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, a Nigerian film, “Daughters of Chibok” debuted at the Venice Film Festival and was named Best Virtual Reality Story. The intent of the film is to show how the Chibok community has been affected by the 2014 kidnappings and to remind the world that 112 of the 276 school girls are still held by Boko Haram.

Please share #DaughtersOfChibok, #BringBackOurGirls, #ChibokGirls, and other appropriate social media hashtags to remind the world that this story is ongoing and 112 of the girls are still held by Boko Haram.

For more on that film and the stories it tells, go to http://saharareporters.com/2019/09/08/nigerian-film-chibok-girls-wins-us-award and https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/08/africa/vr-daughters-of-chibok-intl/index.html.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Women’s Equality Day

“I don’t think a woman can handle this job.” That’s a direct quote from a job interview I had in a large city. It was an interview for a position in city government. At the time, I had a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration.

My father had just died, I was 24 years old, single, and desperate for a job. It was 1977.

If that happened today

If that happened today, I would come back at the older white male interviewer with a hundred reasons why not only could a woman handle the job but that I was the best-qualified person of any gender for the job.

If it happened today, I’d not only file a lawsuit, I would tell the interviewer it was beneath me to work for a city government that had such low regard for women.

But that was 1977. It was against the law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of sex, but it was just the way things were and I was too young and desperate for a job to make a fuss about it. I didn’t want to get labeled as a trouble maker before I even started my career in government.

Today is Women’s Equality Day

The 19th Amendment to United States Constitution was passed by Congress on August 26, 1920. It gave women full and equal voting rights.

Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated in 1971 by a joint resolution of the US Senate and US House of Representatives. The resolution was sponsored by US Representative Bella Abzug, a Democrat from New York.

How you can celebrate Women’s Equality Day

Use #EqualityCantWait, #WomensEqualityDay, or related hashtags on social media networks.

Register to vote, if you haven’t already done so.

If there are American children and young people in your life, take time today to seriously speak with them about Women’s Equality Day. Ninety-nine years sounds like a long time to a young person, but try to help them see that in the big scheme of things it really wasn’t so long ago.

The way I would try to explain it to another person is to tell them that my mother was almost eight years old when women won the right to vote. My two grandmothers were 43 and 44 years old when they were allowed to vote for the first time.

Take time to read about one or more of the suffragists who risked their lives in and prior to 1920 in an effort to get the US Government to allow women to vote. Susan B. Anthony is perhaps the most famous suffragist. Others include Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone.

We’ve come a long way, but…

We’ve come a long way since 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress, and since 1971 when Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated, and since 1977 when a city’s human resource official said that he didn’t think a woman could handle being that city’s assistant community development director; however, women still have so far to go in the workplace.

Melinda Gates has been vocal recently about the pay gap between men and women in the United States. Some of the statistics she has brought to light are staggering and extremely discouraging.

The World Economic Forum projects that, at the current rate of progress, it will take the United States of America 208 years to reach gender equality. Let that sink in. That’s the year 2227. That’s as long into the future as it has been since the year 1811.

#EqualityCantWait

Melinda Gates posted an EqualityCantWait.net video on LinkedIn on August 6, 2019. Here’s a link to her post on LinkedIn. It includes the five-minute video:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heres-why-equality-cant-wait-melinda-gates/. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

What about my great nieces?

I have four intelligent great-nieces. They all excel in school. One of them will graduate from college next spring. Another one is a freshman in college. The other two are just several years younger. Their interests are diverse and I can’t wait to see what career paths they take. They can’t wait until the year 2227 to make the same salary as a man.

I don’t want anyone to dare to say to any one of them, “I don’t think a woman can handle this job.”  And I don’t want them to work their entire lives and not be paid exactly what their male counterparts are paid. My great-nieces cannot wait 208 years for the United States to reach gender pay equity.

Since my last blog post

I’ve continued to edit and tweak my novel manuscript as I use C.S. Lakin’s Scene Outline Template. I’m about halfway through this stage of the process.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Beneath the Tamarind Tree:  A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Girls of Boko Haram, by Isha Sesay.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Do you take your right to vote for granted?

Regardless of the country you live in, regardless of your gender, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of your religion, regardless of your economic status – don’t EVER take your right to vote for granted.

No matter which of those categories you find yourself in, know that people sacrificed and risked their lives to give you the right to right. Many gave their lives in the pursuit of voting rights.

There are thousands of people around the world who still risk their lives to cast their vote. There are millions of people who would be willing to risk their lives just for the opportunity to vote.

Let the children and young people in your life know how important it is for them to register and vote as soon as the law allows them that right and responsibility.

Janet