April 15th marks one year ago that Boko Haram brutally abducted 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria, as they studied for their spring exams. For days, the only expressions of rage and grief were from the widespread protests of Nigerian women, and the missing girls' grieving parents.
The rest of the world fell silent.
And then, a social media campaign ricocheted throughout the global community to "Bring Back Our Girls." The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls raised awareness of the girls' abduction and received over 2 million retweets. Most notably, First Lady Michelle Obama held up a sign with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and posted it to her official Twitter account.
A year has now passed. The girls are still missing. Some did escape, through their own steely courage and luck, and not because of the assistance of the Nigerian army or any international interventions. Most of the girls -- it is estimated 219 -- have not been brought back home. They have lived every day of the last year tortured, trafficked, raped, and enslaved.
Their parents are living out a nightmare. The mothers and fathers of the disappeared girls have been lied to, disregarded, and left to endure the reality that their daughters are suffering unimaginable forms of physical and sexual violence. On different occasions they were told that negotiations were being held with Boko Haram, that the girls were expected to return home. But not one girl has been returned to her parents.
Perhaps if the Nigerian government, and the international community's outrage at the abduction of 276 school girls was swift and immediate, the girls may have been rescued in the days after they were forced onto trucks and taken away. I remain confused that villagers have seen some of the girls but our military intelligence, and that of other nations, failed to find a single child or her captor. And a year later, after Goodluck Jonathan's defeat in the Nigerian presidential elections, I am unsure if there is reason to be hopeful that a new leader will make a real commitment to the girls' lives.
Yet we cannot forget the girls. Our girls who have not been brought back, who are now simply disappeared, cannot be lost to us. They were targeted because they, and their families, believed in the revolutionary idea that every girl possesses the right to an education. They were targeted because there is nothing more threatening to religious fundamentalism than a girl in school, and a community that supports the right of a girl to be educated.
If we forget them, then we turn our backs on girls everywhere fighting for the right to an education. If we forget them, then we diminish the value of their lives. We must continue to tweet, to write, to demand that we, #BringBackOurGirls. Because African girls' lives matter.