SA marchers demand freedom for girls

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Copy of ST main Abductedgirls (41802398) Independent Newspapers A group of about 200 activists and celebrities marched to the Nigerian Consulate in Illovo to demand that the Nigerian government find the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Wearing bright-red lipstick and colourful clothing, the crowd of women pushed against the iron gates of the Nigerian Consulate on Thursday.

“Bring back our girls. They are ours. They are our future,” they yelled, as security guards looked on from behind the walls.

The crowd of more than 200 Joburg residents marched down Rivonia Road from Sandton City to the Nigerian Consulate, demanding that the Nigerian government rescue the kidnapped girls, bring them home, and provide for therapy to help them cope with the trauma.

The protesters joined the global #BringBackOurGirls movement, which aims to put pressure on the Nigerian government to find the missing schoolgirls.

Most of the girls, about 270 of them, were kidnapped by Boko Haram, an Islamist rebel group, from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, on April 14.

Boko Haram recently released a video saying they would sell the girls into slavery.

Led by organisers from the Joburg’s Young Women’s Christian Association, the South African National Aids Council and the Positive Women’s Networks (PWN), the crowd took up one lane of the two-lane road, singing and cheering, “Viva the spirit of the girls”.

While elections were an important moment for South Africa, the country had to shift its focus onto the missing girls now, said Ntsiki Mazwai, a poet and organiser of the march.

“In the AU, Zuma, you have all the presidents in your hand,” said Prudence Mabele, executive director of PWN, which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping women living with HIV and Aids.

Mabele and two other organisers went to the consulate to hand over a memorandum urging action from the Nigerian government.

“Stop playing politics with the lives of girls that are missing,” Mabele read aloud from the pages.

Marchers heard reports that another group of protesters had gathered in front of Parliament, only to be dispersed by police after about 15 minutes.

For many marchers, the silence around the girls has signalled deep social issues about gender inequality.

“We as black women have been wronged. (The governments) fight so hard for rhinos. Why can’t they fight for 300 girls?” demanded Mazwai. “As a black woman, it means I am subhuman.”

When the group reached the gates of the consulate and men came out to greet them, they said: “We don’t want to hear men’s voices. We want to hear the women’s voices.

“We must act now,” one protester said, after Mazwai questioned whether the march would bring any action.

The girls have been missing for more than three weeks.

“We’re hoping they are alive,” said actress Rosie Motene, an organiser.

Meanwhile, the organisation Islamic Relief and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation issued statements saying they were alarmed by the worsening situation in Nigeria.

The Star

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