Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls not forgotten, UN chief declares as worldwide vigils begin

A view from a rally held in May 2014 in Lagos, calling for the return of over two hundred Nigerian secondary school girls abducted in April by the extremist group Boko Haram. UN Photo

23 July 2014 – Marking 100 days since the brazen abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram terrorists, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for their immediate release, while expressing his full support for the worldwide vigils taking place today.

“I stand in solidarity with all those taking part in vigils today to demonstrate that the world has not forgotten the girls who were so cruelly abducted from their school 100 days ago,” said Mr. Ban in a message.

“I repeat my call for their immediate release and for an end to discrimination, intimidation and violence against girls whose only wish is to gain an education. Only by shielding them from harm and enabling them to realize their full potential can we usher in a better future for all,” he added.

Vigils will be held today around the world to demonstrate solidarity with the Nigerian girls and their families. Supporters in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States are organising a series of campaigns, including lighting the candles, under the banner #BringBackOurGirls to maximize the visibility for continued global concern.

A wide coalition of organisations, including A World at School and its network of Global Youth Ambassadors and Girls Not Brides leaders, are spreading the campaign’s message. In the Nigerian capital, Abuja, multiple events are organised by the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ group.

In New York, at 5:30 p.m., supporters will pay tribute to the girls by walking from Nigeria’s UN Mission to the world body’s Headquarters. A World at School is also encouraging people to show their support of the initiative by signing a new online petition which calls for the safe return of the girls.

The UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, is expected to send the petition to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The Chibok girls' families are also expected to sign the petition and offer their full support for the Safe Schools Initiative. The $23 million programme is designed to pilot 500 safe schools in Nigeria, while bringing the country’s Government and business leaders together with the international community to ensure safe education for all children.

"Girls' rights should be taken seriously and they should be at school free of intimidation and violence. We will mark the 100 days by pledging to rebuild their Chibok school, and by calling for international support for safe schools across Nigeria," stressed Mr. Brown.

The UN envoy urged the international community to stand in solidarity with the kidnapped schoolgirls and “never to abandon them”, while “reminding people that we are in the midst of a global civil rights struggle”.

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