How social media is creating a movement to bring 300 girls back home

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The United States and Nigerian forces are now being joined by British Security Experts in the search for nearly 300 kidnapped school girls.

The girls were abducted on April 14, 2014 while taking their final exams by the Islamic terror group known as Boko Haram, which translates as "Western Education is Sinful."

The Vice President of the World Bank for Africa created #BringBackOurGirls campaign to drive the government to find and bring the girls back home.

Wesley Ker-Fox, the director of digital for Naartjie Multimedia Advertising agency, said millions of people around the world are using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

"Hashtag has changed," Ker-Fox said. "Hashtag is usually just a word that encapsulates the idea you are trying to get across. Sometimes it's a punch line, sometimes you use it because you want people to understand the reference you are making. It's just a way to communicate the message in a clearer, shorter way. However, #BringBackOurGirls is powerful and huge. It's gone viral."

Ker-Fox said social media plays a huge role in promoting ideas and campaigns.

"It's amazing that a movement can start from a single hashtag," Ker-Fox said. "A social media platform started by one person…one person can really create a movement. I think hashtag can help promote ideas in a passive way. People start tweeting the same thing, and we all get on the board with the same movement."

Dr. Florence Wakoko, a sociology professor at Columbus State University studies and travels to Africa often. She's from Uganda, and Dr. Wakoko hopes this movement doesn't lose its power like the "Kony2012" movement about child soldiers in Africa.

"I think social media plays an important role," Dr. Wakoko said. "I mean, when the Kony 2012 movement was going on, Twitter was not widely used. Facebook was still young. However, mass media is now spreading like wild fire. Nearly 300 school girls were abducted and there are rumors that they are being sold as sex slaves. Media communication forums are sparking interest and concerns among young people as well."

Dr. Wakoko explained Boko Haram is a difficult group to understand.

"I've only heard people discuss and talk about Boko Haram in scholars' conferences whenever topics on peace and security of Africa came up. However, it's hard to know who they really are. We do not know who their leader is. We do not know how many people are in this group. We know these people have caused violence, like massacres, abductions in the northern parts of Nigeria and more. We know they are against women and men getting education. But not much has been widely revealed about the group."

First lady Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and other renowned people started retweeting hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. This brings large number of Twitter followers and fans to look into what the hashtag is about.

"It reaches a much larger audience," Ker-Fox said. "I think they had half a million retweets from Michelle Obama alone on Thursday."

Ker-Fox and Dr. Wakoko believe that social media is useful, and both say social media platforms cannot change everything. It alone cannot stop the terror group or bring 276 girls back home. However, it brings awareness and light onto the issue and creates movement. More people start educating them on the issue and they start urging the government and others to fight for these girls.

"In the past, most issues were pushed back and no one really knew about them." Ker-Fox said. "Not many of us were able to voice our opinion freely and easily. Thanks to social media, people are seeing issues that are really important for various communities. People start asking and persuading the government and others to do something. I think social media can help bring awareness to various issues."

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