As reported for the Florida Odyssey, which can be found here:
“The important thing to take away from this is that Boko Haram is not a Nigerian ideal and it is in no way a view of Islam, it goes against what Islam is. It is purely the ideas of an extremist terrorist group,” said Diana Nwokoye, a recent University of Florida graduate whose parents were born and raised in Nigeria.
On day 37 of the #BringBackOurGirls international social media campaign, students at UF held a discussion and drive on campus. The event was put on by Iota Phi Theta fraternity, the African Student Union and Love, Period Inc. It featured speakers from the University of Florida, Santa Fe College and even a special guest from Ghana.
On April 14th, a group of Islamic Radicals called Boko Haram abducted over 200 girls, who were then reportedly sold as brides. They invaded a school in Chibok, hauling 276 girls away in trucks and killing many teachers in the process. Although more than 50 of the captives were able to escape, a large amount of girls have yet to return home.
The name Boko Haram translates to “Western Education is sinful,” according to Micheal Alogba Olukoya, president of the National Union of Teachers. The aim of the group is to create a breakaway Islamic state in Africa’s most populous nation. The country consists of 170 million people, split between a Muslim north and Christian south. The actions of the group have led to the deaths of hundreds of teachers and students.
The #BringBackOurGirls Twitter and social media campaign is drawing attention to the kidnappings, deaths and other crimes in Nigeria. It has been endorsed by celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Angelina Jolie.
“Boko Haram operates on fear,” said Nwokoye during her speech at the UF seminar. “I want to give a message to girls around the world that they shouldn’t be afraid. This isn’t an isolated issue in Nigeria, but this is a womens rights issue around the world.”
Nwokoye graduated with a Magna Cum Laude in Psychology. She hopes to be part of the global health initiative in developing countries.
She was born in Orlando, Fla. because her parents wanted to raise their family in the United States. When she turned six, her parents decided to return to their roots.
Nwokoye mentioned that in the duration of her stay in Nigeria, she learned how important education was. It was an ideal that her parents instilled in her from the moment she was born. She said that the entire community would make sure that the young children would go to school.
“There is no reason that anyone, male or female, should be barred from getting an education,” Nwokoye said.
Also during the event, brothers of Iota Phi Theta recognized a member of their fraternity who had been living in Ghana since 2012.
Emmanuel Gamor served as a preview staffer, member of Florida Blue Key and was involved in many other notable organizations. His blog was previously nominated for best of photoblog of the year, and he recently earned the recognition of the 2014 best male blogger in Ghana.
“I think my personal viewpoint,” he wrote, “is that it is always good to create awareness on humanitarian issues and yes, we should all advocate against terrorism and the safe return of the girls from Chibok. But, after you have created your tweets or Instagram posts, then what? Maybe people should learn more about the atrocities going on and encourage something similar to an Amber Alert that are in the States, for African countries. People such as coders, computer scientists, and people with social media following on standby to share missing persons information every time someone’s son or daughter is misplaced and not when it is a global trend that states we should #BringBackOurGirls.”
“He thinks that people should learn more about the atrocities going on,” said Kyria Louis-Charles, secretary of Love, Period Inc. “We should find ways to not just bring back these girls but create pathways to help others in this situation.”
The event also featured speakers such as Radha Sylvester, who are making efforts to encourage education among young girls in other nations within Africa.
Sylvester is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 733. After a refugee from Sudan came to visit the troop, her troop members came up with an idea for a service project.The troop makes comfort kits for girls in south Sudan so they can continue to attend school even after puberty. The kits are based on the “Days for Girls” model, and include: menstrual shields and liners, panties, soap, washcloths and instructions.
When a girl hits puberty in Sudan, they do not have adequate supplies available to them. They are not able to attend school one week out of the month, for every month.
This causes them to get behind and drop out, according to the group’s Facebook page.
“The purpose [of the project] is to keep girls in school in south Sudan,” said Sylvester. “When they miss one day, they tend to miss more. That makes them more likely to drop out and then their parents tell them to get married and have kids. Sudan has one of the highest rates of maternal death during childbirth.”
According to the troop, this is largely because the girls end up pregnant before their bodies are ready. They believe that keeping a girl in school helps keep a girl alive.
When the troop first established the idea for their service project, only three of the 20 members were able to sow. The American Sewing Guild came in to help teach the rest.
The troop has given over a dozen presentations, in which the girls have gained public speaking skills and learned to speak to a multi-generational audience. They have even spoken for a few groups at UF.
“One girl in a UF group ordered $100 worth of flannel after the event and shipped it to my home,” Sylvester said.
All of the supplies to make these 200 comfort kits possible comes through donations.
“Before, about 400 girls would graduate from high school,” said Sylvester, “200 kits make an important impact on mortality rate.”
Each kit also includes a personal letter from one of the troop members. They include positive sayings like “I hope these kits help you stay in school.”
Iota Phi Theta plans to help bring this vision to campus. During summer B semester, there will be collection boxes available in residence halls to collect womens sanitary items.
“Education is the key to success,” said James Worthy, secretary of Iota Phi Theta. “Some women are being denied that.”
At the end of the forum, leaders invited guests to stay and brainstorm ideas to assist in developing ways to combat this issue through campus.
“The UF campus is a campus full of bright and community driven students,” said Roldyne Dolcé, founder of Love, Period Inc. “We know as a campus, education is key to freedom and advancement for girls and women. So the forum was a way to put our minds together to do more!”
For more information on Troop 733 and “Mission Possible, Keep Girls in School. Period.”, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/MissionPossibleKGISP