#bringbackourgirls 1 year after – New York City lights up the Empire State Building and vows to never forget!

by Austin Schiano – World We Want 2015 Coordination Associate 

It was a deeply emotional moment when on Monday April 13th at 11:00am in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across for the United Nations in New York City, U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), joined in solidarity alongside political representatives, members of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, and UN leaders to support #BringBackOurGirls after the tragic 1-year anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 270 Nigerian schoolgirls from school in their town of Chibok. In a gesture of resilience, the conference was attended by: fellow survivors of violence, local high school students, members of civil society, leaders of faith, international human rights advocates, the public, along with many members of the World We Want 2015 Policy and Strategy Group (PSG).

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Rep. Maloney’s firm stance against this injustice, along with powerful words, also drew significant media attention. The Guardian published an article the following day on April 14th, which draws our attention to the global protests of those also outraged by this mass abduction. Congresswoman Maloney proudly announced that on the night of April 14th, the Empire State Building would be lit purple and red in recognition of our solidarity with these young women and their families. Red for #BringBackOurGirls and Purple for Ending Violence Against Women. Rep. Maloney made special note to extend her sincere thanks on this matter, recognizing that this lighted display will be a great awareness tool for all those who can view the tower.

#Bringbackourgirls (source: http://www.360nobs.com/)

Others followed the Congresswoman’s passionate call to “Bring Back our Girls”!! with Dr. Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome from #BringBackOurGirls. Margo LaZaro, Co-Chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development (NGOCSD) and PSG member thanked the Congresswoman for her voracity, re-iterating the importance of this message. Indeed it was at a meeting of the NGOCSD, that Congresswoman Maloney was inspired to facilitate this public discussion. Mr. Lawal Mohammed Hamidu, the Minister of Counter Terrorism of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN spoke to those assembled, providing an update on the work being done by his country to search for these young women. Many others also made impassioned calls for justice. These included Consolee Nishimwe, Survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda; along with Vivian Adhiambo Onano, Youth Representative & Advisor to UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group & African Leadership Academy; Ayana Gay Student & President of St. Joseph’s High School’s “Girls vs. Trafficking Club” and Ravi Karkara Co-Chair of the World We Want 2015 PSG who reminded us of the importance to engage men and boys in enduring this struggle. The image of the United Nations Headquarters in the background of this speech, pushed the crowd on toward substantive action.

In solemn reflection, the High School students in attendance have tied 223 ribbons around the trees and railings that surround Dag Hammerskjold Plaza. This gesture is meant to represent one ribbon for each girl still missing of the original 270 girls taken captive, some of which have been able to escape.

This act of abduction is just a particular instance of violence against women, one that illustrates a trend, which has become all too common in our world. We are severely inhibited in our attempts at development, if we cannot guarantee the safety and right to education, of all our women and girls. This claim is further strengthened by research and reflective data conducted around the topic. Several innovative data visualizations, which display this crucial connection, can be viewed at www.worldwewant215.org/trends.

For those of us that traverse these grounds regularly, and will pass these ribbons as they shall fade in the rain and sun, let us not forget the hopes they represent.

More information can be found at:

Congresswoman Maloney: @RepMaloney

#BringBackOurGirls:http://bringbackourgirls.us/ @BBOG_Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls

World We Want 2015: www.worldwewant2015.org @WorldWeWant2015

NGO Committee on Sustainable Development: http://www.trunity.net/CoNGOSD/ @MargoLaZaro

Consolee Nishimwe: @nconsolee

Vivian Onano: @vivianonano

Ravi Karkara: @ravikarkara

FEMNET: http://femnet.co/index.php/en/ @FemnetProg