WORLD VOICE: The Story of a Girl Who Dared To Dream for #DayofTheGirl

WORLD VOICE: The Story of a Girl Who Dared To Dream for #DayofTheGirl

This past Sunday, we celebrated International Day of The Girl on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by sharing photos of our contributors’  daughters and what they dream of being when they grow up. (See their pictures at the end of this post!) So for our World Voice column today, we found it fitting to share a story of an amazing girl who defied the odds and later became one of our World Moms Blog contributors…read on! 

There was once a little girl who grew up in a slum. This little girl would go to school in the morning without breakfast and would come back from school not expecting lunch. By the age of 11 she had no friends because they had all been married off. This little girl grew up in an area where education was not seen as important. At 14 she was mocked for being old maid not married.

This little girl wanted one thing in life, TO BE EDUCATED!

WMB 2015 Day of the Girl

She had seen that those with education rode cars and lived in big houses. This little girl used to read so much and wanted the life she read of in books. She wanted to travel the world. She wanted to do many things. She did not allow her present circumstances determine her life. In other words she dared to dream.

Her parents couldn’t understand her big dreams. She was told she wouldn’t succeed much in life because she was not hardworking. She wasn’t much good at cooking, washing, sweeping and she always questioned everything. Who would marry you? No man would marry you if you cannot do domestic chores. She was always told, and she would always reply there are machines to do all that. This little girl read and read, and read.

Today she is living her dream because she dared to dream. You, too, can dare to dream. Do not allow someone’s else’s opinion of you become your reality. Allow yourself the opportunity to be the best that you can be. Give yourself a chance to excel, and the question I ask is WHY NOT YOU?

That little girl is all grown up and writing this article. I AM THE LITTLE GIRL THAT DARED TO DREAM.

If I could dream those dreams so many years ago why can’t you? I never thought of being a girl as a burden, and I still don’t.  And no matter what anyone said, I knew I was born to shine in this world, and it was my duty to fulfil that destiny.

As a young girl you have all that it takes to be the greatest, and I wished someone had told me that years ago. I would have wished for so much, and dared for so much.

The greatest disservice you can do to yourself is selling yourself short of your potentials. Never, ever do that. Go for what you desire, and anyone that says you can’t, take great pleasure in proving them wrong. You are strong, bold, and the best. Accept yourself for who you are and never give anyone the power to hurt you.

No one can hurt you without your permission, and no one can make you feel less without your permission.

Be a voice for the voiceless girl. Be a name for the nameless girl, and be the face of the faceless girl. At the end of the day we have to stand for each other and by each other. It’s #GirlPower, and we dare to dream.

This is an original post written by Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria for World Moms Blog.

Photo credit to Jennifer Burden.

Here are some of the daughters of our #WorldMoms who shared their dreams for #DayofTheGirl

NIGERIA: Get up, World Moms, Aisha’s Talking to YOU!

NIGERIA: Get up, World Moms, Aisha’s Talking to YOU!

World Mom, Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria, has an incredible amount of drive. From humble beginnings, she worked hard at her education and it became her family’s ticket to a better life. We’ve had the chance to join her virtually on World Moms Blog’s panel at the World Bank on the right to a universal education in April, and she is truly, an inspiration.

Just in time for International Day of the Girl on Sunday, get ready, women and girls everywhere, to reach your goals and make things happen!…

If you want to reach your goals, start a business, or start doing anything else for that matter, it has to start in your mind. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you can do it, and this is where most times we have a problem. We start something without actually believing that we can do it. Sometimes we just start certain things without truly believing in ourselves.

We are either pressured into doing it, or doing it because others are doing it; and its expected of us. We start never truly believing in ourselves. You just go ahead to start something, and even you, yourself, are not sure you can do it. You don’t believe you can do it and along the way things begin to fall apart and you begin to blame external forces.

There are no external forces affecting us. The problem is our mindset. What is your mindset when you are about to start? That is something that we can change.

Other times we never start something because in our minds we do not think we are worthy of it or capable of it.

You have to realise your mind does not know the difference between reality and what is not real. Let me give an example. You are just sitting down having a nice time and all of a sudden you hear bad news. You know what happens when we hear  bad news? Everything changes, and we begin to cry or scream or feel sad. Your whole body, your whole mind, everything changes. What happened? It’s only that the news got to you!

2015 WMB Quote Aisha Yesufu

You don’t even know if what you just learned is true or not. Have you confirmed the bad news? Fact checked it yet? No! You just heard the news and that’s it. That’s the mind. It does not ask for confirmation whether the news is true or not, it goes into the mode it’s fed. That means your mind does not know the difference between truth and a lie. It is reactionary.

If you have continously been told you would amount to nothing all your life and you feed your mind that same notion, well, then, guess what? You may think this is true about yourself! You have to free yourself from the shackles of mental bondage.

You can always trick your mind. For example, you can tell your mind you are the greatest business person in the world. In fact you are at par with Dangote, a billionaire and businessman in my home country of Nigeria. Your mind doesn’t know whether it’s the truth, or not. It’s going to accept it, but the thing you need to do now is to begin to do what smart business people do. I listened to Dangote once on a live interview on TV sometime in 2001 or 2002, and he said he goes to work around 9am and doesn’t close before 9pm.

For me that was a wake up call. I had one of my “Aha!” moments then. When I first saw him I thought, “If only God will bless me the way he has blessed this man.” And when I heard he works 12 hours a day, for me, that was a wake up call.

If you trick your mind into thinking that you are among the ranks of the leaders, and you begin to work as they do, you may begin to set bigger goals for yourself. You can run with the best of them, but you have to BELIEVE it.

When you are trying something new with the mindset of negativity, it could impede your progress.  At that point, you may not want to even bother starting. It failed before it took off because it failed in your mind, if you did not have the right mindset. But I believe this thinking can be changed.

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World Mom, Aisha Yesufu, speaks out in Abuja on August 17, 2015 against anti-corruption in Nigeria.

Business and goal setting starts in your mind and you need a lot of patience. Business needs patience, patience and more patience. There is nothing like overnight success.

It’s a whole lot of hard work starting something new and having the right mindset. Persevering, focusing on what you are doing. Setting goals and moving on. This does not come easy, but I believe if you keep going that is what leads to that “overnight ” success that a lot of people see. Our mindset is very important and often times when you talk to people the mindset is just not positive. We are looking at our past and looking at who we were and not who we could be.

Where I grew up, we didn’t have anybody. We were born into less privileged homes. It didn’t matter. Whether you are a billionaire; the child of a billionaire; the child of struggling parents making ends meet or from a rich neighbourhood or the slums; it doesn’t really matter. It’s your mindset that matters and determines who you are at the end of the day.

If you don’t believe you are a star you can never be a star. If you don’t believe you are a success you can never be a success.
You can never be greater than your mind.

You have to set your mind higher. Give it goals. Give it targets. Give your mind something to work on. Trick yourself into thinking positively. It doesn’t know the difference between truth and a lie. Tell your mind a good lie.  “You are a big time business person.” “You are a billionaire.” “You are on Forbes list.”  Let your unconscious mind even when you are sleeping work on that.

WMB 2015 Achieve Your Goals

Our mindset is of such utmost importance and most often we neglect it. We don’t work on it. There is a need for us to work on our mindset to project ourself mentally where we want to be before we begin to work on that.
Some use Affirmation like repeating to yourself…

I AM THE GREATEST BUSINESS PERSON. I AM THE GREATEST TEACHER. I AM THE GREATEST ASTRONAUT. I AM THE GREATEST CHEF. I AM THE GREATEST POLITICAL LEADER. I AM THE GREATEST MUSICIAN. I AM THE GREATEST FRIEND. I AM THE GREATEST PEACEKEEPER. I AM THE GREATEST HUMANITARIAN.

You can keep saying that repeatedly so it becomes engraved in your mind. Whatever you want to be, you need to let your mind know.

Once you have a positive mindset and believe you CAN, you can start thinking about setting goals to achieve something in your heart. Something that you would ordinarily look at as impossible, but because of your mindset you don’t see the impossibility. You see the POSSIBILITY. You just strike out the ‘im’ and you move on.

Have a positive mindset. Believe you can do it. Why not you? Why can’t you achieve it? If people are achieving it why not you? The difference between the achiever and the non achiever is the MINDSET. Go get ’em, World Moms!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria.

Photo credit of Aisha to the author. Images to World Moms Blog. 

NIGERIA: A Personal Tribute to One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People: Auntie Oby Obiageli (Oby) Kathryn Ezekwesili

NIGERIA: A Personal Tribute to One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People: Auntie Oby Obiageli (Oby) Kathryn Ezekwesili

Auntie ObyThe first thing I noticed was her walk.  In 2010, at Lagos International Airport, she walked purposefully, like one who has limited time to solve the world’s problems. It was nice seeing a woman walking with such force, even if it was just through the airport. I have been accused of walking like a man, and it was refreshing seeing another woman with that stride. Then, I realised it was the former Minister of Education–the one with the signature short haircut.

I didn’t know her name. I couldn’t be bothered about politics; my focus was surviving in a nation where one has to fight extra hard for the basics of life. As far as I was concerned, politicians were all the same: enemies of the common person struggling to make a living.

Even so, I heard of her once in a while. She was said to be tough on government corruption, especially those who used government funds as their own.

On April 30, 2014, I saw her again at the first march for #ChibokGirls. At the time, they has been missing for just 15 days. (They have now been missing for 379 days.) She was something else! She spoke with such passion. I knew I would never forget her name: Obiageli (Oby) Kathryn Ezekwesili. Everyone called her Auntie Oby.

The sky threatened rain, and as the clouds grew darker and more threatening, even I thought it would be the end of the march. Little did I know!  Auntie Oby rallied the crowd:

“Are we salt? Would we melt if beaten by the rains? Do we know the condition our #ChibokGirls are in?”

And that was it. We went. The sky did open its floodgates, and we got drenched. I have never been so soaked, but we kept marching and chanting, “All we are saying is #bringbackourgirls.” Women forgot about their hair, and their appearance, and marched. I bet you that if Aunty Oby had asked us to, we would have marched to Sambisa Forest on that day and brought our #ChibokGirls back. At the end of that day, I told her I wanted to hug her. She opened her arms, and I held her tight. “Thank you for making me believe in Nigeria,” I said.

For me, Auntie Oby represents sacrifice and giving. She is the heart of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and considers the #ChibokGirls her daughters, refusing to let the world forget them.

She gives so much of herself that I am afraid that she will break. I sometimes wonder where she gets her strength from.

Auntie Oby has been a mother, mentor, teacher, and a beacon of hope to so many young people in Nigeria, a nation that desperately needs such role models. Her lessons keep us on task: to always deal with empirical evidence, to focus on the issue at hand and to not allow other issues drown the cries our #ChibokGirls. She insisted we develop core values to guide Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG): hope, unity, motivation, affability, nationalism, integrity, transparency, empathy, equity, discipline and sacrifice (HUMANITEEDS). These core values have been instrumental in making us a disciplined movement.

Aunty Oby, I am so grateful to God for bringing us together, despite the tragic reason for our meeting. You have shown me that the traits people have tried to shame me for are the very tools I can use to help others. I realized that the loud mouth that people tried to quiet could be used to unapologetically fight for others. I never had a big sister or aunty who encouraged me to do more. As the first born, I had to fill that role for my siblings. In the one year that I have known you, you’ve been that big sister. When I feel I can’t do something, you give entertain no such nonsense. “Aisha,” you say, in that voice that brokers no argument, “You have to do it.”

Everybody need such a voice in their lives to excel. Under your tutelage, I have done so many things I never dreamed I was capable of doing. Everyone has the capacity to contribute, but they need the right person who believes they can and gives no room for mediocrity.

Aunty Oby, it’s your birthday. May God give you all the best in this world and in the hereafter. Happy Birthday, to my amazing mentor.  I cannot find the words to do you justice, but they are in my heart. I am sending a bear hug to you, and lifting you off the ground to dangle and twirl you all around so you can let go of the world’s problems for a few seconds. You made TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, but you are my person of the decade!  I love you!

World Voice: #365DaysOn #CHIBOKGIRLS #NeverToBeForgotten

World Voice: #365DaysOn #CHIBOKGIRLS #NeverToBeForgotten

365DaysOn the Chibok Girls are never to be forgotten.

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It is 365 days today that the Chibok Girls were abducted. Exactly one year ago on 14th April 2014 276 Chibok School Girls were abducted from their school. I just cannot believe the fact that we actually allowed it to get to one year without the rescue of our #chibokGirls. How could we allow innocent children be taken away by terrorist group and do nothing. The #ChibokGirls ought not to have been taken in the first place. They were supposed to be protected to enjoy their Childhood and their innocence. We failed to protect them and also failed in the next best thing which would have been their immediate rescue. How can we live with ourselves? How do we live with our consciences? How do we face ourselves in the mirror knowing fully well that we abandoned 219 #ChibokGirls and left them with the terrorists.

What is the crime of #ChibokGirls? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor? Or is it because she dared to be educated? #ChibokGirls against all odds dared to be educated and on April 14th 2014 they paid for daring. A group of armed terrorists entered their school and abducted 276 of them from their school in Chibok. 57 of them escaped on their own and there are still 219 of them still with the abductors for a year today, and not a single one has been rescued. The armed terrorists group known as Boko Haram, literarily meaning that western education is forbidden, have vowed to get schools closed down and seem to be succeeding. For some children in the North Eastern States of Nigeria education has become truly forbidden as schools in some parts have been closed for over a year.

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The #ChibokGirls were writing their Final year examination after which those who passed would be able to secure admission into University. A beacon of hope for their families. Schools had been closed down in neighbouring towns and a lot of parents sent their children to be able to complete their secondary school education in Chibok.

There had been series of attacks within some neighbouring villages and yet the #ChibokGirls went to school. Even those who were not boarders went to stay in school because there was electricity there and they wanted to have a place to read for their exams. Sheer determination to get an education which they knew would be their key to breaking the shackles of poverty. For the #ChibokGirl education meant everything. It was the path that could lead to an end to the vicious cycle of poverty. Like one of the #ChibokMothers said to us when we invited them to one of the Sit Outs we had, said her daughter had promised to go to school to get an education and wipe away her tears. The mother asked us; “If my daughter is in the hands of terrorist how she will wipe away my tears?

For most of these parents their children are everything, including a future source of livelihood. What makes the #ChibokGirls issue so saddening is that a lot of children, especially the Girl-Child from the region of Nigeria they come from, hardly ever go to school. They are the most educationally disadvantaged and it takes a lot to get them to school, especially the girls.

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One of the #ChibokFathers put it this way: ‘The government fines us if we do not send our children to school. Now that our children have been abducted while in school who will fine the government?’ A #ChibokFather wept at the Unity Fountain in Abuja where we have the daily Sit Out to demand for the rescue of  our #ChibokGirls when he told us the story of how his daughter was driven home because she had not paid 300 Naira (Less than 2 Dollars) for testimonial. He struggled for days to get the 300 Naira and when he was able to, he took her back to the school only for her to be abducted the very next day. I ask again! What is the crime of the #ChibokGirl? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor or is it because she dared to be educated?

If these are crimes many of us would be guilty. I grew up poor in an environment where education was not seen as important.

I went to school in the morning without breakfast and came back home without expecting lunch.By the time I was aged 11, I had no friends to play with because they were all married off. I was taunted and ridiculed and what kept me going was the thought that if I am able to get an education I would one day be able to ride a car and escape the life of poverty I was born into. At the age of 24 when I got married my friends were grandparents, and by the time I turned 40 they had become great grand parents.

Anytime I think of the fact that if I was taken when I was writing my exams my parents would have been unable to speak out for me because poverty had rendered them voiceless, and if nobody else stood for me where would I be today? Probably dead! With that in mind I can never give up on the #ChibokGirls because to give up on them is to give up on the who I was 24 years ago.

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The #ChibokGirls with all the disadvantage they were born with decided that they would dare to take themselves out of the station that they were born into, and for daring to dream have been with abductors for a year. The world seems to have turned its back on the #ChibokGirls. The world seems to move on after the initial flurry of activity with the world saying #BringBackOur Girls. It was glamorous for people to hold the banner and say #BringBackOurGirls in the early days. People have moved on with their lives but for the #ChibokGirls and their families there is no moving on, not for a second for 365 days. Today it is exactly one year. My daughter has volunteered to be a #ChibokGirl Ambassador who would stand for the voiceless #ChibokGirls here in Abuja, and make demands that the government rescues the #ChibokGirls. This is what she had to say:

I see my parents every day and I feel guilty because 219 school girls haven’t seen their parents for one whole year. They live in fear of not knowing what is going to happen next whether they would live to see the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next day. They have lost all hope especially in their country.

I feel sad that I live in a country, where 219 girls would be abducted and kept in captivity for 365 days and yet nothing is done, yet no attempt is made to rescue them, and everyone just moves on as if nothing ever happened. Why? They are kept in the hands of monsters that go around killing people and think they are practicing Islam, but Islam is a religion of peace not violence.

What if it were I that was abducted will everyone just move on and forget about me.

Bring Back Our Girls Now And Alive.

As long as the #ChibokGirls are left with abductors we have failed the children of the world especially the Girl-Child whom we tell is important and that she should dare to dream. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. The Girl-Child knows that it is all a lie because she can see the #ChibokGirls who dared and what happened to them.

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By failing to rescue the #ChibokGirls we have failed children all over the world. We have allowed terror be what they go to school expecting could happen to them, and this is not how it should be.

Due to what has happened to the #ChibokGirls and many others in that region a lot of parents are refusing to send their children to school where they are still open, and some are saying they would not send their children even when schools are opened. No parents should be made to choose between sending a child to school or their safety.

Work needs to be done to ensure that parents do send their children to school, lest the terrorist will have succeeded with their ideology of western education being forbidden. We must remember injustice to one is injustice to all. Terrorist attack to one is terrorist attack to all. Terror attack to anyone anywhere in the world is terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.

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This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria. All images provided by Aisha Yesufu.

 

 

NIGERIA: My Hijab, My Pride

NIGERIA: My Hijab, My Pride

aisha-hijabThis year, World Hijab Day (February 1) coincided with an invitation to a black tie event in my town honoring young leaders in politics.  It was also the 278th day of my town’s daily Sit Out/protest for the rescue of the #ChibokGirls, who, at that time, had been abducted for 293 days.  I was excited about the young leaders event.  It would be something nice to take away the gloom of carrying the guilt of failing 219#ChibokGirls.

I came to the event directly from the Sit Out, so I brought clothes to change into.  I couldn’t imagine having to go back home because my house was a bit far, and I hate not being punctual.  As I was about to enter the venue, a gentleman approached me.  Because I was wearing the Hijab, I had to go through a metal detector and body search. The colleague I was with was angry.  “Why?” he demanded.  “It’s because of what she is wearing,” the man said, “we can’t let her pass.” After passing through extra security, I was admitted.

As a Muslim woman who wears the Hijab, I am used to being treated differently and looked upon differently because of what I wear.  I face this discrimination both within and outside my country, and even amongst some Muslims, although the Hijab is compulsory for Muslim women.  Everything has to be covered by a loose garment except our hands and face. It is not something that I might want or not want to do; it is something that I have to do.

Some look at the Hijab as a form of enslavement.  It is not. Rather, it’s liberating.  It tells those I meet to deal with my intellect, and not to focus on my body.  More than 1400 years ago, Islam gave women this freedom.  As a Muslim woman, I have a right to education.  It is so infuriating when some Muslims deny their daughters this right because of their cultural beliefs or ignorance, and the world looks upon their practice as Islamic.

It is so infuriating when my Hijab is used as a symbol for their ignorance–and worse.

Sometimes, I do not blame those who treat me differently.  A lot of people have acted savagely and said they did so in the name of Islam.  I recently had an experience that touched my very soul.  It was time for prayers, and I was close to a mosque.  Opposite the mosque, some months ago, there had been a bomb blast that killed scores of people, including worshippers.  I walked over to the mosque to pray.  The man at the gate glanced my way, saw me, and he flinched.  There was stark fear in his eyes. I gently asked him, “Would you want me searched?”  He shook his head–probably with a pounding heart.  As I walked away, I realized this is what a band of evil people that have hijacked Islam have done: made a fellow Muslim fear seeing me walk to the mosque during prayer time.

All the tragedies committed in the name of Islam upset me, but I will not let the acts of cowards and criminals change how I practice my faith.  Before I am Aisha, I am a Muslim woman.  I will not allow any human being to make me uncomfortable in a world God created for us all.

Do any of your friends wear the Hijab?  Have any of you been judged for the actions of others based on your faith?

WORLD VOICE: When I Truly Know I Do Not Matter

WORLD VOICE: When I Truly Know I Do Not Matter

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On the 7th of January I put on the television to hear more devastating news of an attack in France. Not again I groaned. Can’t one just have a terror free day? What kind of world do we live in? My 13 year daughter was with me and she was very angry. What kind of people are these? They better go and have their religion and stop using Islam for their bad deeds. This is not Islam. I couldn’t agree with her more.  I felt the pain keenly. One of my problems is emphasising too much and internalizing, and personalizing any pain.  With my vivid imagination I could feel it’s my husband killed and someone calling to inform me or coming over to tell me. I could also imagine being the one in my office and looking up to see an armed mad man and realizing this is itThe end, because that man has just come for me. I was so angry at the atrocities being committed in the name of a religion I practice which is all about PEACE.

The pain of people just mowed down by some sadistic killers had not begin to ebb away when on the 9th of January the news of the death of about 2000 was reported by Amnesty International (We usually get news late and most times from the foreign media) in an attack on a town called Baga in North east Nigeria by the deadly group known as Boko Haram who have unleashed a reign of terror in Nigeria.  2000 killed in a single day just like that? How can this be allowed to happen?

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The terrorists not only killed people they razed down the town. Reports say they went after fleeing people into the bush and killed indiscriminately. A woman in labour was reportedly killed with her unborn baby halfway out of her. Men, women and children were all game. They did not spare women this time as they sometimes have. After the personal cry and grief. The crying comes with no tears for it has long dried up. I waited for some kind of explanation, some kind of consoling words and there was an overwhelming silence. Silence from my government whose 2000 citizens have just been massacred even if to give the usual. We condemn it and are on top of the situation. Nothing!!

To make matters worse that same government that said nothing of its 2000 citizens massacred had condole with the government of France over the killing of 17 of its citizens. Even to my government the citizens of another country meant more to it than its own citizens.

Top government officials of my country  condoled and used #JeSuisCharlie and none of them used #IamBaga where 2000 were killed in a single day. I empathise with the people of France. I am part of those who did the virtual march by signing up, but when you are attacked, and your government shows its contempt by not acknowledging it, and shows so much solidarity to other citizens of another country, then the pain is doubly felt.

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On 11th of January 2015 the world stood still for France. Over 1.5million marched in France with over 40 head of states. France cried out that it’s own has been touched. Their President gave a rallying call to its citizens that they would not be intimidated by terrorists and they will deal decisively with anyone who touched an inch of its citizens, and the citizens came out.

Over here I am treated with disdain for daring to stand and say citizens must be protected. When about 48 boys were killed  on November 10th 2014 as they attended their morning assembly we were alone the #BringBackOurGirls movement in coming out to the streets and mourning them.

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As I watched the solidarity march in Paris my daughter’s words echoed in my ears. She once said to me “Mummy, if one of those #ChibokGirls was an American they would have been found by now.” and I said to myself if those 2000 who were massacred in Baga were French the world would have stood, and perhaps make sure it never happened again. They are Nigerians, and I am a Nigerian, and I face each day knowing if I go down today I will just become a statistic, and nobody will care.

 This is an original post written by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria for World Moms Blog.

Will you join us in raising our collective voices to demand that the world to Bring Back Our Girls Now?!

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