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The value of $50
My distraction level this week is off the charts. Day-to-day life around here has been a little crazy, and I'm co-producing/co-directing a project coming to fruition this weekend after months of meticulous planning. But when I made my — what felt like — 19th Target run this week and spent almost $50 on last-minute odds and ends, I paused.
Fifty dollars. My cart contained a few craft supplies, cough drops and a handful of travel-size toiletries to stash in baskets on the side of a stage. Those little extra things weren't necessities, exactly, just items that might be necessary.
In Africa this week, $50 could have bought me four child brides.
Kidnapping in Nigeria
Two hundred thirty-four girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, a Nigerian town. The girls were abducted from their high school in the middle of the night. Reports are unclear, and some of the girls have escaped, but almost 200 of them are still missing. The kidnapping was orchestrated by Boko Haram, a militant group that has targeted Christian and westernized buildings and groups for almost 15 years.
Minimal coverage until kidnapping escalated to human trafficking
I've been distracted but not blind, and I first saw news of the kidnappings on Facebook — not the news sites I visit each day. I can't remember if the Facebook article was posted directly by a news site or if a friend shared the article in an effort to spread media coverage beyond the few paragraphs that constituted traditional news coverage.
The initial kidnappings happened April 16. Media coverage has been minimal, at least until news began to spread that the girls were being sold as child brides and hurried from Nigeria into Chad and Cameroon. The price for their lives was 2,000 Nigerian dollars, or between $12 and $13 USD.
Outrage over the minimal media coverage has been louder and more prevalent than the coverage of the story itself, and the fervor over their lives may be too late. They are far from home, and their bodies have been purchased, like countless other girls bought and sold each year. More than 200 families watched days and nights pass without news of their loss reaching mainstream media, and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag needs to be a slap that reminds us of why we need to hear about these human rights violations. Reasons bounce around in conversation about why the coverage hasn't been more complete, but they seem like rationalizations for bad behavior.
"Those things have always happened"
Unfortunately, these atrocities are not novel. Does the media feel as though they can't possibly keep up with the militant groups crisscrossing Africa? Arguing that the continuing nature of the violations makes it difficult to keep Africa in the news is a terrible excuse for not paying more attention to the kidnapping of girls simply trying to get an education. Maybe, as Americans, we need to be reminded that religious groups, anti-government groups and angry militants are not a novelty for a country like Nigeria. Only when we pay attention to the global climate can we make informed decisions about political candidates and where to spend our volunteer time and charitable donations.
"Africa is really far away"
Africa is far from the U.S. — almost 6,000 miles from Michigan. Is that why the media feels the coverage should be eclipsed by breaking national news — like Donald Sterling's racist comments? If it's true that Americans aren't interested in global news, why is the British royal family reported on so thoroughly that we know Prince William ate chicken nachos on a Chicago flight layover on the way to a friend's wedding in Memphis? Global news consumption needs to break past celebrity updates to include positive and negative events that affect the way people are treated all around the world.
"It's not happening here"
Pretending human trafficking is only happening on foreign soil doesn't make it true. American children are at risk, in danger and are victims of human trafficking, too. Coverage of the human rights atrocities in other nations opens doors to conversations about the violations happening on our own soil. How someone is treated 6,000 miles away might not seem like it has much bearing on what happens in day-to-day American life, but attitudes about freedom of religion, women's rights and children's safety do have a ripple effect that crosses oceans, language barriers and time zones. Compassion and caring about the world's children help build empathy for the people with whom one interacts each day.
Don't stop the conversation
Keep talking about the victims. Keep talking about the way media outlets cover global news. Think about how human rights violations can have a trickle-down effect on your own life, and keep your voice loud so maybe, eventually, there will be enough noise that victims will not feel like they are suffering in silence.