Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls

The plan was simple-- Our global concerns group that has been meeting all year to make connections with The Daraja Academy and raise awareness at our school about gender equality and girl's rights was going to kidnap all the grade 7 and 8 girls!

We wanted to raise awareness about the 200 girls who were abducted in Nigeria and shed some light on the #bringourgirlsback campaign. We also wanted to remind all the teachers and students in our school just how valuable our girls are!

Here's what happend after two weeks of planning:

First step was that we didn't tell anybody. We felt that the demonstration would be more convincing and effective if no one knew what was going. We wanted to catch everyone off guard. The girls were a bit nervous about not asking the teachers, as was I if I am to be perfectly honest, but we took a risk. There were a few teachers who were confused, frustated and annoyed, but for the most part most played along.

After reflecting on this event, I did realize that perhaps this was not the right precedent to set. There are so many passionate people at UWCSEA and so many amazing projects, that if every group pulled surprise stunts like this every week, our school would fall into ineffective chaos. I am glad, however, that we were able to do it this time.

Our intention behind the secrecy and the slight element of danger, was that I wanted the girls, both participants and organizers to realize that sometimes political activism involves taking risks and being unsure of the final outcome.

Sometimes to truly empower yourself, you need to demand a bit of power. And if you are not willing to sacrifice something, then perhaps you are not truly committed to your cause.

Most change occurs when people are courageous enough to shake up the status quo now and again, and put people in situation that feel uncomfortable in order to make them think differently. But back to our event...

At 8:15am eleven girls from our GC, went to every mentor group, eighteen total and asked if they could quickly talk to the girls in the class. That's roughly 180 girls! Once they were out of the classroom, they directed them all down to the tent plaza. I was so impressed both with the organizers and the participants for acting so maturely.

Before going down, they were told about the events in Nigeria and the work our GC does for girl's rights in Africa and at our own school.

 As the girls were on their way downstairs, a member of our GC left this note for the teacher

 And cards in the place of the missing girls that said, "We have been kidnapped. Find us in the plaza."

image by Plu_Plu

While the boys and the teachers were trying to figure out what was going on, the girls made their way to the plaza.

Once all the girls were downstairs and the boys and teachers came down, I read a message over the school PA system, stating that these girls had been kidnapped and would be sold into marriage at $12 a piece.

At which time the girls, who were holding signs that said, "How Much Are We Worth?" Began a call and response chant. With all 180 girls present.

All in all, it was a beautifully planned and well executed demonstration. I am so proud of all the people involved. The organizers, the participants both boys and girls, and yes the grumpy teachers.

After the demo, we sent the following email to all the students in the middle school. so our intention would be clear.

You will probably, be wondering why all the girls in your class randomly left during mentor time.

This is because we, the Daraja GC have a mission to raise awareness about what happened in Nigeria, where nearly 300 girls were abducted from their boarding school at night by an Islamic militant group who believe western education is a sin. The coverage for this news has been hidden due to other major stories such as the South Korean Ferry accident and MH370’s disappearance. It is has come to our notice that not many people in our school are aware of our GC and this incident and so we decided to create a simulation to show the thoughts of the people at the time. Our GC, Daraja promotes gender equality and try to spread awareness of the discrimination based on gender specifically in Africa. As you know this incident took place in Nigeria and we came to realize that if this same incident took place in Europe or other such places it would be the biggest headline but due to this taking place in Nigeria it has been ignored to an extent.

We would like to take this opportunity to educated you on gender equality and incidents taking place around the world which a lot of people are unaware of. Our GC aimed to make the girls whom we “kidnapped” to be unaware to show them how when such incidents happen, they can be rather sudden and shocking but also at the same time we wanted to capture the students thoughts on the girls disappearing suddenly through this simulation. Our GC wanted to see what the reaction of the student body was and compare with the reaction to this real life incident. The group which kidnapped these girls claims to sell them for $12 which we found to be interesting and so we decided to ask what the girls are worth which leads us to the chants we did. We decided to answer the question for the girls in our school and show the student body what we believe girls are worth.
For further information on the #bringourgirlsback project:

Our GC also welcomes you to join next year if you are interested in our work against gender inequality. For more information on our GC, contact Mr. Raisdana.

Thank you for being part of this simulation and we hope we have been able to convey our message to you


Daraja GC UWCSEA East
So now, we would love to hear from you. What did you think? How did you feel? What will you take away? Was it worth it? Was it effective? Why? How? 

Whether you were an organizer, a participant, a boy or a girl, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Or if you prefer to share your thoughts more privately, send me an email.


  1. I enjoyed the simulation. I thought it was powerful and it definitely felt strange having all our girls stolen! It was very unexpected and it definitely rose awareness. We were all talking about it. If you want criticism, I think it could have been a little more organised, but it got the message across. (oh, and those little cards were really well designed)

    1. Thanks Solal for your feedback. As for the organization, I was pretty impressed by how we moved 180 people downstairs and got them chanting. Things can always be more organized, but we were all a bit scared and nervous to tell you the truth. Can we pull this off?!

      As for the cards that was all Denevi and Chila

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It makes me a little sad that without your post, I would not have known about this powerful call to action and provocation of awareness. Any reason (other than the obvious - too young) that Gr. 6s were not included? I think they would have handled it maturely and learned a lot, as well as felt like a part of something important (i.e. the entire middle school as a community). There is no criticism tied into my question, just curiosity and my opinion.

    I especially identified with the lines of this post, "Sometimes to truly empower yourself, you need to demand a bit of power. And if you are not willing to sacrifice something, then perhaps you are not truly committed to your cause." I think this is so important for middle school kids to think about. Especially our kids, who live by a UWC status quo that models service and concern for others as a integral, year-round, continued investment and requirement. Mandatory commitments sometimes override passion and we should encourage them to stop and think about that. We need to help them find what they feel is worth standing up, or even fighting for and nourish that connection.

    And ruffling some feathers means you've made an even bigger impact. You are a risk taker and I admire that greatly. So do your students. Well done.

    1. Great point Ms. Cahusac about the grade sixes, I too feel that sometimes they are under estimated and not included, but honestly we didn't have enough bodies to gather any more mentor classes. As it was it was a stretch. We were a bit nervous about even including the grade 7's on account of maturity, but we were all so impressed by how seriously they took. Next time, we will know that we can count the grade sixes too.

  3. Jabiz, thanks for sharing this post. It sounds like a truly moving event for the middle school and an empowering experience for the girls involved. The world needs more activists; important causes need more advocates; girls around the world need a louder voice. I hope this simulation can help with all of those things!

    Clint Hamada
    Yokohama International School

  4. Thank you indeed for sharing this post.
    I have shared it with my formclass and Year 12 History students (currently approaching the end of their first year of IBDP) and we will be discussing it in depth soon. You have already set some young minds alight over here in Vietnam...
    Wishing you all the best,
    Sanjay Perera
    BIS Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)