Nearly three weeks ago, 300 school girls were abducted at gun point from a boarding school dorm in Nigeria. Amazingly, it has taken the media weeks to make this a lead story and for the world to get interested enough to make something happen.
The Nigerian community knows what this kind of abduction can cost them. They know that if you take a group of educated girls, the size of a village, and force them to disappear, the consequences go on forever. This crime isn't just about those 250 girls still missing. It's about the chain of events down the line, and the culture of fear it will breed. It's about sending a message to young Nigerian women that getting an education is a "crime" worthy of abduction at gun-point, being sold into marriage, and possibly never being returned to your family and home again.
We still live in a world where there are people who think educating women is dangerous enough to warrant this kind of punishment.
Today we gathered with the Winnipeg Nigerian community to stand with them and show our support and commitment to bringing "our" girls home. They really are our girls, aren't they? Unless we believe that, it won't matter enough for us to do something.
There was so much color and vibrancy at the Legislature this afternoon. We gathered and sang and were rallied on the steps...
... then began a walk around the grounds to mark the start of the call for action.
There was a sea of red. You almost felt as though you were crashing a family gathering of a family that wasn't yours - only this family invited you in and gave you a seat at the table.
Our girls were recruited to carry some letter signs and stand together with a host of other kids to spell out #Bring Back Our Girls.
The rally began with two prayers - one from the Nigerian Christian community and one from the Nigerian Muslin community. Two men stood side by side and prayed to God and Allah for the country they love and the safe return of the girls. They want the same things.
Side by side is a powerful place to be.
There were impassioned words from leaders of the Winnipeg Nigerian community. Most powerful were the words spoken by the women. Women who know first-hand what education means to a young woman in Nigeria. And when the passion took over, the resounding cry from those who were gathered echoed through the crowd.
There were the most beautiful sights and colors.
Profound images that demonstrated strength and resilience.
...that's what I want my three girls to remember and take with them.
My three girls who have the right to be educated with no fear.
My three girls who truly can choose to become as smart and informed as they want to be.
My three girls who know that the sky is the limit to see through their passions and dreams.
They are not "their" girls.
They are our girls.
Bring them back.