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Nine months after #BringBackOurGirls, most girls still missing 

Photo: Nadia Drissi El-Bouzaidi

Gatineau-based activist and artist Aminata Farmo is on a hunger strike for the month of February. She is running an information booth on campus to raise awareness of the often-overlooked extremist organization Boko Haram.

In May 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok. The world demanded the release of the girls, rallying under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Almost a year later the social media frenzy has died down, but 219 of the girls are still missing.

“Just thinking is not enough,” said Farmo, who has been active in spreading awareness since the mass-kidnapping. “If we forget about them it’s finished for them. We’re speaking (for) them because they don’t have a voice.”

After a year of activism that included a 200-km walk from Gatineau to Montreal that spanned six days, she was invited to the U of O by the Western African Youth Association to spread knowledge about the girls. Farmo said she’s seen a positive response from students.

Farmo was born in Niger and lived there until she was eight years old, when she moved to Canada with her family.

“It could be me,” said Farmo. “I could be one of (those) girls.”

Farmo will end her hunger strike on the last day of February, but will continue to advocate for the safe return of the Nigerian schoolgirls.

Despite being one of the most brutal extremist organizations in the world, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” has failed to garner the same attention as other organizations in Europe and the Middle East.

Boko Haram used a 10-year-old girl as a suicide bomber, killing 19 people, the day after more than a million people, including 40 world leaders, gathered in Paris to stand in solidarity following the Charlie Hebdo shootings that claimed 17 lives.

“Western political figures were part of this Twitter campaign, which was nice, but after a few days of buzz and hype it just disappeared,” said Cédric Jourde, a political science professor at the U of O of the initial support for the return of the Nigerian schoolgirls.

According to Jourde, attacks in Nigeria don’t get as much attention as ones in Paris, partly because “facts are very difficult to gather.”

It’s very difficult for foreign groups to conduct research or to send journalists, and the Nigerian government has not been forthcoming about what they know about Boko Haram, he explained.

“The Nigerian government of course on its part (has been) reluctant … to reveal too much of what’s going on,” he said, which displays “their own incapacity to deal with that situation.”

However, foreign intervention isn’t enough to bring back the girls, according to Jourde.

“The story of Boko Haram really is a Nigerian story, which means that it’s not going to be resolved, there’s not going to be a solution, outside of Nigeria.”