Two weeks ago, a Nigerian high school was raided by armed militants from the terrifying Islamist group Boko Haram. These terrorists kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian girls—allegedly to sell them as brides for about $12 USD each. It’s a devastating case of human trafficking, but the girls’ distraught families say their pleas for governmental assistance in recovering their stolen daughters have fallen on deaf ears.
After a failed attempt to rescue their daughters themselves, the families went public with their story. Disturbingly, the story did not gain the instant traction with the news media that it should have—another reminder of the fact that the media tends to overlook cases of abducted girls of color. Studies have found that white girls who are stolen in “stereotypical” abduction scenarios (such as that endured by Elizabeth Smart) receive disproportionate media attention: Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing every year in the U.S. alone, of which only about 115 are stereotypical. Yet black girls’ stories—and those of other girls of color—are rarely reported on.
But now, finally, in the case of Nigeria, the world is listening. The girls’ dead-of-night kidnapping has made mainstream international news, and public outcry is visible across social media channels. For example, a Change.org petition has gathered nearly 150,000 signatures calling upon the Nigerian government to stop their political posturing and bring these girls home.
Simultaneously, I can’t help but think of their case in the context of another situation, which I learned about this week at the White House Research Conference on Girls, held by the White House Council on Women and Girls. At a discussion during the conference, several attendees spoke to the need for increased national attention to the plight of black girls in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, where reports indicate that about 200 girls go missing every month—victims of human trafficking who are essentially sold, like the Nigerian high school girls, into sexual slavery. Yet this crisis in Atlanta is also flying below the national radar.
We have a moral obligation to defend all people’s basic human rights of life, liberty, and security. For any child to be trafficked, for anyone to be sold into slavery, is unfathomable—and yet it happens every day, all around the world, and yes, even at home in the U.S.
200 black girls disappeared from their high school in Nigeria two weeks ago; 200 black girls in Atlanta, Georgia, go missing every month. How many others are out there, victims of child trafficking, out of sight and out of mind? According to Unicef, the answer is devastatingly large: 5.5 million.
This is a staggering problem, making it one we must tackle it together. Here are a few things you can do:
- Attend or plan a local rally on behalf of the Nigerian girls.
- Learn the signs of child trafficking, in case you can save a child near you.
- Download and read the End Trafficking Toolkit from Unicef, and share it with others.
Do you have other suggestions or resources to recommend? Please share them in the comments below. Thank you.
Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Her book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.