Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Bring back our girls: Utahns rally in support of abducted Nigerians

By Emiley Morgan, Deseret News

Published: Sun, May 11 11:13 a.m. MDT

 People rally at the Utah State Capitol to raise awareness about the mass abduction of nearly 300 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria, on Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

People rally at the Utah State Capitol to raise awareness about the mass abduction of nearly 300 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria, on Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't that hard for Erin Page to imagine that one of the 300-plus Nigerian girls who were abducted from their school by Islamic extremists was her own niece.

"These are someone's nieces, someone's daughters," she said. "If something like this happened here in Utah, it would be an outrage, it would be insane. So the fact that it took 20 days for most of the world to hear about this is just not right."

So Page and friend Brittany Plothow, who heard about the mass kidnapping via social media, decided to act, organizing a rally in front of the Utah State Capitol Saturday to raise awareness of the girls' plight. Around 30 Utahns, including many originally from Nigeria, gathered to sing and chant: "Bring back our girls!"

"These girls are my sisters," Plothow said. "Yeah, I'm here in Utah and they're in Africa, but I'm a global citizen. These girls are my sisters, they're my daughters, they're my friends and I can't live in a world where stuff like this happens and we don't do anything about it."

The girls were kidnapped by extremist group Boko Haram. The group's leaders have threatened to sell the girls and it is believed some have been forced into marriages.

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, only accepted help from nations hoping to aid in the search this week, although the Associated Press said help was offered as early as April 16.

"We want enough pressure put on the Nigerian government to see these girls are safely returned … to make sure these girls are brought home to their loved ones," said Murtala Atta, who moved to Utah from his native Nigeria in 1999.

He and Andy Iheanacho are both active in the Nigerian Association of Utah and wanted to attend Saturday's rally in support of those missing in their native country.

"As a father it makes me angry," Iheanacho said. "Words cannot describe. … It's a terror against humanity (and) we need to speak up and stand."

But the Nigerians in attendance also wanted to show their support for their fellow Utahns who cared enough to organize the demonstration.

"It's worth it for me to come here to come support my people," Florence Ojo said. "If people here are coming out to support us, then why not join them?"

Page said she watched a Google Hangout featuring women from Nigeria. The more she learned about what was happening, the more she felt she had to do something.

"I remember sitting in my bed crying, going, 'This should not happen,'" she said. "It's not something that should be an issue. We should be able to go to school and not fear."

Plothow said Utah's culture lends itself to caring, to the idea of a greater human family. She said their goal was to raise awareness and to do what can be done here to help those there.

"Sex trafficking happens everywhere and we need to talk about it more," she said. "It shouldn't be 300 girls that go missing before we start talking about it and it shouldn't be (ignored because) they're in Africa, so we can't do anything about it."

Bobbie Lewin, of Salt Lake City, attended the rally because she said she is passionate about ending violence against women and because she recently traveled to Uganda to help girls there attend school.

"When I saw this I started to think about those girls, the girls I know personally, and could this happen to them. And of course it could," Lewin said. "This isn't just about bringing back the girls from Nigeria. Yes, we want them rescued, but we need to end violence against women from all over the world."

What is happening with these girls and to their families is "devastating," Atta said. Ojo described it as "extremely painful."

Iheanacho said it is disheartening to have the Boko Haram wreak such havoc in the country. But there was some happiness and some beauty in the way those in Utah banded together.

"It brings me joy to see a lot of people come out in support," Iheanacho said. "It gives me not only joy, but faith in humanity — that people care all over."

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. tennerifa
Orem, UT,
May 11, 2014

No doubt that once the kidnappers see a picture of some people holding signs outside the Utah Capitol, they will immediately free the kidnapping victims, and send them home with heartfelt apologies.

2. BlueEyesBrittany
Paris, 00,
May 11, 2014

For once, i agree with a mormon cause. We must put an end to sex trafficking, forced marriage, abuse of women sexually and otherwise. We want a safe place for women to live where noone can damage their health, their safety, their rights and their survival.

The only way however, as i am concerned, is to create association to defend and protect women and allow them to work for a comfortable living that will allow them to be self reliant and plan their retirment so that they no longer at the mercy of men who may damage them in may ways. This until men have learned to treat women properly and not put them at risk for anything.... and since i am not sure how we can achieve that second part, i think that for the time being we must orgainise the first part.

Stop hurting women.

3. Norman Wright
Provo, UT,
May 11, 2014

Why, tennerifa, would you insert your caustic wit into the picture. Yes, it is only 30 people and no, it will not change the hearts of the monsters who have kidnapped these girls. But, why would you mock the sincere efforts of those who would promote good in the world? Why have you become so laced in cynicism that the heartfelt efforts of other human beings to right wrongs on this planet bring out of you only an insult rather than a desire to do some good in the world yourself? Is it just possible that opening one's heart to good in the world might lead to local action where we do, indeed, have influence?

Thanks Ms. Plothow and others for caring enough to campaign for a better world. I am joining a FB group in fasting and prayer for these girls and their families. Spurred on by your example, I will also try to act within my sphere of influence today to make this world a little bit better.

4. ECR
Burke, VA,
May 11, 2014

Tennerifa (and Town Crier) - What have you done to let your voice be heard. Great credit to the few that turned out for this event. Condolences to rest of you who have nothing better to do that ridicule the effort.

5. Gregg Weber
SEATTLE, WA,
May 11, 2014

Some actions produce results, while others just good feelings in the action makers and viewers.
Some actions are for the sake of righting a wrong, while others are just so that you and others can see that you did "good".
What are the results you want?
Are they good?
What do you propose to do that will gain the results you want?
Is it right to point to others efforts that you think may not achieve those results?