Promoting quality education for all.

“They are our daughters and sisters, too”

by Jan Erickson-Pearson, 

by Jan Erickson-Pearson

Finally. The world is watching. The horror of what is unfolding at this very moment for 276 schoolgirls still in captivity in northeast Nigeria led the nightly news for the first time. It was a big story on every channel on Monday and hundreds of thousands of tweets made it a trending topic. The U.S. government has now offered assistance to the Nigerian government, Secretary Kerry has assured that we will do all in our power to help secure the girls’ safe release. The UK talks of “boots on the ground.”  UN Envoy Gordon Brown is assisting the Nigerian leaders. The tipping point has come. Do we have your attention?  The girls and their families rely on our advocacy and action!

Stunning news was reported on Monday night by Jonathan Miller of the UK’s Channel 4, ITN. Could a negotiated release of many of the Nigerian schoolgirls be close? A Nigerian government-appointed intermediary to the terrorists says it may be so. The Boko Haram terrorists, who claimed in a dramatic video released Monday to have carried out the abductions and hold the girls, say they are ‘willing to consider’ the release of all the girls who have not already been sold as brides. (We will have to find and save them, too!) 

Do we dare to believe it could be true?  I hope so with all my heart. I have been begging the gods, God, the universe, the UN, the leaders of nations now for days upon days upon weeks.  “Free these schoolgirls!”  For some reason, I felt a strong call (among all the other matters I care deeply about) to “Be all Nigeria, all the time”   I will confess to my own two daughters that I did not think of them in fear, and feel the panic, “what if these were my Kaia and Annika?” I was compelled by something else. A universal sense of connection. These stolen girls are not flesh of my flesh, but they are my daughters too. I share a common humanity that unites us.

They belong to other mothers and fathers. And, they belong to themselves. These are simple, poor girls with dreams, futures, talents, skills, education. The future of their nation. Girls deserve to be in school; girls MUST be in school. It is their best hope for their own futures. Followers of this page know that all too well. I was outraged. The nerve! Terrorists stealing these girls was more than I could tolerate. I had to do something. I had to do everything I could think of:  leverage friendships, contacts, bug anyone who had a twitter account.

 It was a lonely vigil at first, pounding the drum on Facebook and Twitter, begging officials to pay attention, to do something! The first news had slipped past as a blip. Short. Not sweet. Horrifying, in fact. But so far away. And our minds were on other things. All still important: Syria, the Middle East peace talks falling apart, Ukraine. No one had time for these girls stolen from their school. I kept at it. And so did thousands of others like me. Thank God.     

I bothered Oprah so often that she finally followed me on Twitter. My Facebook friends will attest to my persistence. I begged them, and I beg you right now to write and pressure the Nigerian government to move as quickly and as vigorously as humanly possible, to take every measure, to gain the girls’ release. Remind them: the world is watching. Their Economic Summit later this week will mean nothing if they fail in this humanitarian responsibility. As my friend, Ann, put it, “they have to gin up the will to act responsibly.” So beg them, persist!


  • Contact the Nigerian government directly through their embassy 
  • Call the White House at 202-456-1111 to reiterate your concern and leave your message on the comment line.
  • Call Secretary Kerry at the U.S. State Department at 202-647-4000, pick option 4 to leave a message for the Secretary of State staff

Do it all now, before you forget.

What else can we do?  Check with GCE-US coalition member, Girl Rising, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Initiative, to utilize the action plans and “Action Pack” of tools,  so all of us can raise visibility and build momentum to get these girls home.  Use the hashtag: #BringBackOurGirls: A Call to Action for more information, or go to  or to learn about the Action Pack.    

Use Facebook and Twitter a lot. The primary site is #BringBackOurGirls. You can change your Facebook avatar to the one used by the movement. And now that there are plenty of news stories, pick one, or several and share them. Don’t forget to include the contact info above! And urge your friends to act!  These are our daughters, our sisters. They need us now!  Be a pest; there are worse things--like doing nothing.

Finally, that hopeful note I mentioned at the top: Google Jonathan Miller, Channel 4 News, or find him at @millerC4 to watch the link to his story. And pray like crazy. 

What can you do?

  • Contact the Nigerian government directly at:    
  • Call the White House at 202-456-1111 to reiterate your concern and leave your message on the comment line.
  • Call Secretary Kerry at the U.S. State Department at 202-647-4000, pick option 4 to leave a message for the Secretary of State staff

Jan Erickson-Pearson lives near Denver, Colorado and is a mother to two grown daughters. She had the time and energy, and felt compelled after this story broke to "be all Nigeria, all the time."  She writes stories, has serious conversations with her husband, and enjoys the mountains. 

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