Seattle’s Smartest Global Women: Sahra Farah

A Somali American pioneer challenges her community

Sahra Farah, Director of Somali Community Services of Seattle.




In Sahra Farah’s memories, Mogadishu is a city of wonders with gorgeous beaches and beautiful people. She still doesn’t accept that the place she grew up has been destroyed by years of civil war.

She says that because of the war, a lot of young Somali Americans (like me) don’t have any idea of the way Somalia was. She hopes the city that’s closest to her heart someday gets back to being that “paradise on Earth” that she remembers.

Farah is a leader in the Somali community in the Seattle area. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen. She counts running Somali Community Services of Seattle for twenty plus years without ever giving up as her biggest accomplishment.

A musician, cultural Somali dancer, volleyball player, and basketball player, she has a lot to offer — though she admits she still likes to sleep every once in awhile.

Yes, I know. She’s pretty awesome.

When I interviewed her in her office in Rainier Beach she responded to some of my questions in Somali. Lucky for me, I can understand it pretty well – I could tell she was trying to put me to the test!

Here’s what she said (with the Somali sections translated):

How did you adapt to living in a new country?

It was a tough time. I was in a small town [in Pennsylvania]. There weren’t any black people there. I really missed my language and my people. I was feeling really lonely. I wouldn’t speak Somali. I would only speak English. I knew I was missing something, but I didn’t know what it was.

When you come here knowing Somali, it’s easy for you to learn about a new country and new culture. But when you’re trying to learn two different cultures at the same time, that’s really tough.

What made you want to start working with the Somali Community?

One day I was looking for anyone that could help with doing school paperwork for my children, and I didn’t get any help. I went to the library and did it all myself. After that, I said we needed a center or office that would help other people who were new to this country. That was 1993. We made a strong community center where Somali people can get help.

What is your vision for your organization five years from today?

I hope young people like you can come and take over so I can retire! That’s what I’m hoping. I’m just waiting to train a lot of young people. I want young people to come forward and say, ‘Hey! This is our time!’ and are honest and give their hearts to want to help change their communities.

What’s it like being a woman leader in a community that some outsiders might think of as being male-dominated?

It depends on how you treat other people. Thanks to my community they never let me down, I see a lot of males who support me. In my community, I don’t see anybody pushing me down because I am a female. A lot of times they say, “she’s a leader!”

I remember one lady came to me, an American lady, and said, “Sahra, why does your country not accept female presidents?” And I said, “how about your country? Are they accepting? I don’t think so.”

What do you enjoy doing mostly outside of work?

I’m with my grandkids most of the time, but I like to just rest. Most of the time I go outside with my family. I go and play basketball, or volleyball with my kids…or sleep all day! But if I sleep all day, I would keep going back to the kitchen to eat something, so I avoid that and take a shower then go outside. It’s very healthy!

What are the biggest issues or challenges facing Seattle’s Somali community?

We don’t seek to help one another. The government expects the community is helping you, and the community expects the government is helping you. So the community sometimes comes right in between that. What we need is to believe we can do it ourselves, and that’s what I do. When you say, ‘yes I can do it’, you can change things, but if you’re always waiting for someone else to help you, you can never do it. And our people, when somebody does something, they always try to do it after them. They would never say, ‘can I help you, can I do it with you?’

If I have a meeting where I’m doing some kind of project or grant, you’re not going to see a lot of Somalis there. Instead, you’ll see a lot of non-Somalis there who want to help the Somali people. So sometimes in a meeting, when I see Somalis, I get so happy to see them doing something to help people, to connect with the community.

I know what Farah means — I’ve witnessed situations like this myself, where Somalis won’t take part in helping an organization grow, but instead create a rivaling organization with the same exact mission. Sahra said she wishes that her fellow Somalis would collaborate in making a better Somali community in Seattle.

I was inspired to hear Sahra say she wants the youth to come forward and realize that it’s their time — to put their hearts into helping change their community.

I think we can do it.


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Meet the global feminists changing the world for girls from Kenya to Egypt

Feminists from around the world report on life for girls in their countries


Sri Lanka
Sarah Soysa: ‘Young feminists are considered to be an evil, scary threat’

Feminism is needed for teenage girls in Sri Lanka. Women, young people and transgender people are harassed and disempowered. Opportunities are taken away from them.

Sri Lanka has a particularly high teenage pregnancy rate. A Unicef study found that 6% of 14- to 19-year-olds in school and 22% of out-of-school adolescents have had sexual experiences. In response to this, and despite the fact that abortion is highly restricted in Sri Lanka, we launched the first ever safe medical abortion hotline, Ask Us. We share information on abortion-related issues through print materials, photo and postcard campaigns, research and blogging. We advocate for sexual rights at all levels, including within the school system.

I am a feminist because I believe all people have a right to make decisions and become leaders, and yet society is still controlled by patriarchal values.

Sarah Soysa
Sarah Soysa
This problem was obvious at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. States decided upon policies affecting women, young people, and the queer community without consulting them.

Young feminists are considered to be an evil, scary threat; as a result we are completely excluded from decision making. Feminists are necessary to improve conditions for everyone. We should be respected and taken seriously.

Sarah Soysa is an advocate for safe abortion and a Frida adviser.

Mihaela Dragan: ‘Some Roma girls have to marry as young as 14’

Roma women and girls have to deal with the double discrimination of racism and sexism.

Mihaela Dragan
Mihaela Dragan
Some Roma girls from traditional communities have to marry as young as 14 or even earlier. Their virginity represents the honour of the whole family, and after marriage they are forced to abandon school and get pregnant.

If Roma feminists attempt to promote the idea of choice to teenage girls, leaders argue that early marriage is traditional, authentic and specific to Roma culture. They promote early marriage as a protective reaction against an anti-Roma discourse from outside. Some girls are leaving their communities and have to face a racist society that rejects them for being Roma.

For me as a Roma woman it was difficult to have a voice both in society and in the Roma community that I am part of. We need feminism because Roma women and girls are suffering abuse, and we need a larger movement to offer them solidarity and support.

Mihaela Drăgan is an actor and activist who is based in Bucharest.

Catherine Tito: ‘Patriarchal culture is deeply-rooted’

Catherine Tito thumbnail
Catherine Tito
As a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM), my personal experience has shaped my commitment to fight for the rights of girls. I have been labelled as an outcast because I have decided to reject patriarchal culture, but I have no regrets.

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Young girls from the Maasai community still face the risk of undergoing the female genital mutilation ritual. This barbaric act has denied the young Maasai girls their bodily rights; their autonomy and integrity. Patriarchal culture is deeply-rooted and it is a huge struggle to change it.

Girls Re-defined, is a girls-led, girls-driven organisation that works in Narok County of Kenya. Our mission is to empower girls aged between 12 and 18 who are at risk or have survived FGM to rediscover and celebrate their wholeness, develop their self-confidence, and become agents of change within their own communities. We have slowly recorded a change in attitudes among traditional leaders in our community with regard to the abandonment of FGM practices.

My goal is to see more and more girls going to school and achieving their dreams. If the girls in my community can translate their dreams into a fulfilling life, then that is my joy. As a feminist, I believe that both boys and girls need to be given equal opportunities in society.

Catherine Tito works with Girls Re-defined, an organisation which supports teen survivors of FGM.

Monyvann Nhean: ‘Families depend on young women for their income’

Monyvann Nhean Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Monyvann Nhean
Cambodian teenage girls suffer from a lack of confidence when it comes to making life plans and choosing careers. Society does not empower them to pursue their goals. Girls need role models to encourage them, and access to information that can help them make the right decisions for their futures. This is why I started organising feminist talks and career mentoring sessions for teenage girls in high schools – I want girls to embrace their full potential and build leadership skills.


I want to ensure that girls in Cambodia are not valued just for their virginity but as independent human beings. I want them to have the strength to make their own decisions and to shape their own destinies.

I invest a lot of my energy on teenage girls, especially with regards to their careers and safe migration. These are important issues for young women in Cambodia: families depend on them for the lion’s share of their income. When we can’t find jobs in our own country, we migrate in our hundreds of thousands to neighbouring countries. This has put many young women in unsafe working and travel conditions. Traffickers target us specifically.

I want to see the better implementation of policies protecting women’s rights to ensure we have the right to say yes or no to sex; have reproductive rights; freedom of choice; the right to political participation; and equal pay.

Monyvann Nhean is a member of Cambodia’s Young Women’s Leadership Network.

Elvira Meliksetyan: ‘We are smeared as immoral women’

Elvira Meliksetyan
Elvira Meliksetyan
It is not easy to be a feminist in Armenia. We are smeared as immoral women who are determined to destroy the nuclear family. The stigmas we have to deal with are not just annoying but dangerous: we constantly fear attack from extremists.

In Armenia, teenage girls are not given the opportunity to explore their desires and interests because our patriarchal society has already decided who they should love and what they should care about. They are expected to be modest and obedient daughters, who will go on to become caring mothers and obedient wives. This means teen girls are only exposed to a small set of ideas regarding what their futures should look like. They suffer from low self-esteem, a lack of self-awareness and are frequently stressed.

After surviving psychological abuse within a relationship, I decided to be part of the effort to stop gender-based violence going unpunished. But when girls try to break free from narrow stereotypes and do something different, we face opposition from both our families and communities. As with all women in Armenian society, exerting your rights comes at a cost.

We will continue our struggle for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls in Armenia, even though it can mean jeopardising our personal lives and well-being.

Elvira Meliksetyan is the communications and PR manager at Women’s Resource Centre Armenia.

Firliana Purwanti: ‘The pressure for girls to remain virgins does not allow open discussions about sex’

Firliana Purwanti
Firliana Purwanti
Sexual repression in Indonesia causes many problems for teenage girls around unplanned pregnancy, sexual violence, unsafe abortion and high maternal mortality rates. The pressure for girls to remain virgins until marriage does not allow open and honest discussions between parents and children about sex; let alone discussions about consent and how to negotiate with partners around using contraception.

According to the Indonesia Health and Demography Survey of 2012, the teen pregnancy rate is 48 per 1,000 pregnancies. Approximately 2 million Indonesian women undergo abortions and 30% of them are teenagers. In 2010, unsafe abortion made up between 5% and 11% of Indonesia’s maternal mortality rate. In Indonesia, safe abortions are highly restricted – permitted only for women in great danger or those who have survived rape, and even then abortion is only allowed when the pregnancy is less than 40 days old.

I question why Indonesian girls have to be virgins before they are married, when nobody cares about male virginity. I am a feminist because I question inequalities.

Firliana Purwanti is the author of The Orgasm Project.

Ghadeer Ahmed: ‘Young girls have no right to make their own decisions’

Ghadeer Ahmed thumbnail
Ghadeer Ahmed
In January 2012, the first anniversary of the 25 January revolution, I founded a feminist page on Facebook called Girls’ Revolution. It started as a Twitter hashtag, which I used to encourage girls to share their experiences of discrimination based on gender. I realised I was not the only girl who has discriminatory experiences.

In Egypt, once a girl reaches puberty she is forced to undergo FGM, forced to be veiled, and she starts to experience social stereotyping. Young girls are treated like dependants who have no right to make their own decisions. This prevents girls from being themselves and forces them to satisfy social expectations instead of pursuing their own dreams.

Until I made that Facebook group I had no idea about feminism. I decided to call myself a feminist because women have no freedom of choice, no authority over their own bodies, and are dominated by patriarchy. Sexual violence – in both public and private spaces, economic inequality between the sexes, social stereotyping and the political oppression of women are still huge problems in Egypt.



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Women’s empowerment key to end sexual violence in combat, UN envoy tells Security Council



As the great moral issue of our time, sexual violence in conflict is used to terrorise, displace and subjugate victims, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue told the Security Council today, urging the body to take action to deal with this growing threat.

“The history of warzone rape has been a history of denial. It is time to bring these crimes, and those who commit them, into the spotlight of international scrutiny” Zainab Hawa Bangura said as she presented to Council members the Secretary-General’s 2015 report on Sexual Violence in Conflict.As the great moral issue of our time, sexual violence in conflict is used to terrorise, displace and subjugate victims, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue told the Security Council today, urging the body to take action to deal with this growing threat.

Stressing that the time has come “to send a clear message that the world will not tolerate the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror,” she told Council members that the text before them today served not only as an annual report of record, “but as a global advocacy instrument and vehicle for refining our common understanding of critical themes, to enhance coordination and build global consensus.”

“For the first time, (the report) articulates how sexual violence is integrally linked with the strategic objectives, ideology and finding of extremist groups, noting therefore that women’s empowerment and sexual violence prevention should be central to international response,” she explained.

The annual report sheds light on a number of new themes, including a list of 45 parties, mostly armed groups, suspected of committing sexual violence as a tactic to terrorise. It also links sexual violence in conflict with forced dispossession of land and property and the denial of women to vital sources of livelihood.

It also highlights the vulnerability and targeting of ethnic and religious minorities, including LGBTI individuals by armed groups, who are keen on imposing morality and exert social control.

The Special-Representative heads to the Middle East tomorrow to meet with survivors, refugees and Government officials in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

“The visit is undertaken against the backdrop of a catastrophic new trend of the use of sexual violence as a ‘tactic of terror’ by extremist groups, not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in Somalia, Nigeria and Mali,” Ms. Bangura said.

The emergence of such armed groups spotlights political and operational challenges that lie ahead in terms of engaging with some of these parties, for concrete and time-bound commitments in line with Security Council resolutions. Ms. Bangura also underscored the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Al Qaeda/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Sanctions Committee includes sexual violence as part of its designation criteria.

Ultimately, an effective counter-strategy to this emerging threat would include intensive community-level engagement, including with women and civil society, youth groups, traditional and faith-based leaders, the Special Representative said.

And progress has already been made, Ms. Bangura said. Over the past two years, the international community has signed frameworks of cooperation with the African Union and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, and are now moving toward similar lines with the League of Arab States. A number of regional organizations have also appointed envoys on women, peace and security.

At the country level, the Governments of Angola, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and South Sudan have all pledged to address sexual violence, through the signing of Joint Communiques with the United Nations outlining priority areas of intervention.

“These commitments were undertaken at the highest levels of Government, and are the basis for implementation plans that are now being developed by national authorities in concert with the United Nations and other partners,” Ms. Bangura pointed out.

It is also notable, she said, that there were 187 convictions of soldiers and Commanders in the DRC between July 2011 and December 2013, and as noted in the report, this ear there were 135 convictions by military tribunals. UN expert teams are also supporting national progress in Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire and South Sudan.


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3 girls who escaped from Boko Haram’s mass abduction have a wonderful message for the world


Gary Cameron/REUTERS)Protesters march in support of the girls kidnapped by members of Boko Haram in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington May 6, 2014.Three girls who escaped a mass abduction by Boko Haram one year ago today have a powerful message to share — the jihadists won’t stop us from learning and living.

Al Jazeera spoke with the girls, who were abducted along with more than 200 of their classmates before jumping off of the trucks of their kidnappers.

The three girls are now attending college at the University of Nigeria in Yola.

When asked if they want to go back to their hometown of Chibok, all three girls say yes.

“I want some changes in Chibok, like the environment,” a girl called Blessing said. “I want to be a lawyer. I want to fight for justice. ”

Another, Mary, says she wants to ” become a medical doctor. To go to Chibok and build clinics and hospitals because we don’t have educated doctors there. I will try hard.”

The third, Deborah had a profound message: “It was said that if you educate a girl you educate the whole nation. It is very important. They haven’t stopped me. … That’s why I am going back when I graduate. The education there is very poor. So I want to help by building a school. I want to empower women by creating centres that will teach them things.”

The military conflict in the region makes it difficult to search for the captured children, and there are only rumors and brief sightings to go on.  The BBC reports that their classmates are likely being taught the Koran and married off to members of Boko Haram. 

Nevertheless, the ones who got away remain hopeful.

Deborah also sent a message to captive girls: “The message is be brave and courageous. Be a hard worker and always believe in God, that whatever you are going through, God is there for you, he will help you. Have ambition that you are great and you were made to be a great person.” 

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Report: At least 2,000 women abducted by Boko Haram

Amnesty International says many of those captured in Nigeria since start of 2014 are forced into sexual slavery.

rrrrrrThe abduction of 276 girls in Chibok one year ago sparked global outrage [Reuters]


Boko Haram have abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, according to rights group Amnesty International.

A report published by the organisation on Wednesday says many of those captured have been forced into sexual slavery and trained to fight for the group.

The group based its findings on nearly 200 witness accounts, including with 28 people who escaped from the armed group, which recently had a pledge of allegiance accepted by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“The evidence presented in this shocking report, one year after the horrific abduction of the Chibok girls, underlines the scale and depravity of Boko Haram’s methods,”  said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

The publication of the report coincides with the one-year anniversary of the mass abduction by Boko Haram of hundreds of school girls from the northeastern town of Chibok. The abduction of the 276 girls sparked global outrage, and 219 are still held by the group, the others managing to escape.

Amnesty says more that 5,500 civilians have been killed by the group, which has also forcibly conscripted men and young boys to take up arms in its war against the Nigerian government and other neighbouring countries.

“Men and women, boys and girls, Christians and Muslims, have been killed, abducted and brutalised by Boko Haram during a reign of terror which has affected millions,” Shetty said.

RELATED: Girls who escaped Boko Haram refuse to be victims

The group has implemented a harsh interpretation of Islamic law in the areas that it holds, and witnesses spoken to by Amnesty recount seeing the group carry out stonings and lashes.

Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on Monday vowed to make every effort  to free the girls abducted a year ago, but admitted it was not clear whether they would ever be found.

“We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them,” he said in a statement.

Source  Aljazeera

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Justice at last for Liz as rapists jailed

wwwwwwRights activists demand the arrest of the men who gang-raped Liz in 2013. FILE PHOTO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Three men were on Monday jailed by a Busia court after they were found guilty of raping a primary school girl whose story attracted global attention.

Busia Chief Magistrate Margaret Wambani found Owino Oduor, Fredrick Owin Odhiambo and Vincent Ouma guilty of gang-raping and causing grievous bodily harm to Liz and convicted them to 15 and seven years in jail respectively for the two offences.

Liz, her family and human rights campaigners welcomed the verdict.

Lawyer Wycliffe Okuta, who represented the three, applied for a stay of the sentence pending appeal.

But Ms Wambani upheld her earlier ruling and ordered the accused to be remanded in prison until their appeal is heard and determined.


Three other suspects in the case are still at large.

Liz and her mother welcomed the ruling but called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the remaining suspects.

“We are happy that the court has been fair and done justice especially for my daughter who has been subjected to all manner of trauma and indignity,” Liz’s mother told the Nation.

She went on: “It has been like a long bad dream that has done a lot of harm to us and turned our lives inside out. Finally, there is hope.”

The teenager said she was happy with the ruling, adding that the attack had left her with “unending backache”.

“I would like to see all of them arrested and locked in. They messed up my life,” said the soft-spoken Standard Eight pupil.

She said she would now focus on passing Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams later in the year.

Human rights organisations Equality Now, Avaaz and Fida Kenya welcomed the ruling but urged police to arrest the remaining suspects.

“Today’s sentencing is sure to have a ripple effect across the nation and hopefully the region. The fact that Liz’s case took so long to reach this point, and still faced serious obstacles despite strong and national global support, illustrates the injustices that are still suffered by survivors in a criminal justice system in transition,’’ said Equality Now legal consultant Kimberly Brown.


Liz, then 16, was accosted by a group of six young men as she returned from her grandfather’s funeral in Tingolo, Busia County, on the night of June 26, 2013.

Liz and her family said that after gang-raping her, they pushed her into a pit latrine before escaping.

Three of the rapists were arrested the following day and taken to Tingolo AP Camp where they were ordered to cut grass after which they were released.

Liz was also punished for “venturing out in the night’’ and was ordered to clean an office at the Administration Police Camp.

The sexual and physical violence left the teenager, then in Standard Seven, wheel-chair bound and with a leaking bladder after developing double obstetric fistula and a spinal injury.

She was eventually admitted to Gyno-Care Fistula Centre in Eldoret. She recovered and returned to school after more than a year out.

Her plight was highlighted by the Daily Nation’s DN2 on October 8, 2013.

The Nation Media Group started a campaign, Stand Up for Liz, Help Her Walk Again, which received support locally and internationally, raising Sh890,000 for her medical kitty

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Nigeria girls who fled Boko Haram look to brighter future


Lagos (AFP) – A typical day for Deborah includes classes on a manicured university campus and exercise in the evening — basketball, volleyball or aerobics. On weekends, she studies, swims or just relaxes.

But the teenager’s life now is one that was unimaginable 12 months ago.

On April 14 last year, she was in a packed dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, seeking a night’s sleep before writing end-of-term exams.

Boko Haram fighters stormed the school after sundown, kidnapping 276 girls.

The mass abduction provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to an insurgency that has devastated northern Nigeria since 2009.

Deborah was one of 57 girls who escaped within hours of the attack. Her life has changed but for the other 219 hostages still being held and for families desperate for news, the nightmare continues.

Despite promises from the government and military that the release or rescue of the hostages was at hand, there has been no credible information concerning their whereabouts in months.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to sell the girls as “slaves” and later said they had been “married off”. Experts say both are possible and they are unlikely to still be all together.

– ‘Blessing in disguise’ –

Deborah and 20 other girls from Chibok who escaped Boko Haram captivity are now studying at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in the northeastern city of Yola.

The privately-funded AUN does not look like other Nigerian universities and certainly bears little resemblance to Chibok, which even before the Islamist uprising began was a deeply impoverished town with poor roads and limited electricity supply.

Spread across a vast stretch of land on the outskirts of Yola, the campus includes an immaculate hotel, with a restaurant overlooking a pool that serves burgers and pizza, where faculty, including visiting Western professors, share sodas with their students.

“It is a beautiful environment,” Deborah told AFP via university staff in an email exchange.

The Chibok girls at AUN are studying a curriculum aimed at preparing them to start a four-year undergraduate programme next year.

Deborah said her dream is to work at the United Nations “to help my community in Chibok, Nigeria and the world”.

Others talk of becoming doctors or lawyers. All stress the importance of education. With degrees from the well-regarded AUN those dreams may come true.

But among the 21, the prospects feel bittersweet, as international attention returns to the plight of those still being held one year on.

Thoughts of their missing classmates are never far away and in their prayers daily, they said.

“We feel sad with the advantages we have now because so many from our hometown do not have these advantages,” they added.

They also acknowledged they would almost certainly not be studying at the university had they not been kidnapped.

Mary put this conflict in starker terms: “When the insurgency struck, I was devastated but little did I know it was going to be a blessing in disguise.”

– Horror with a purpose –

The Chibok girls at AUN felt united in a common goal to ensure that some good must come from last year’s tragedy.

“It has been a horrible journey yet we believe that coming to AUN is for a purpose, which is to be an instrument of positive change in our hometown,” Sarah said.

“We have not been broken by the attack. We see ourselves as the people who have been chosen to make positive future changes not just in Chibok, but in our country and the world,” she added.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the hostage crisis was heavily criticised, especially over his administration’s failure to immediately recognise the severity of the attack and to swiftly launch a major rescue effort.

Jonathan’s defeat in last month’s general election to challenger Muhammadu Buhari may have partly been caused by his inability to contain the Islamist violence.

Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates from the Hausa language widely spoken in northern Nigeria as “Western education is forbidden”, had already been suspected of committing crimes against humanity before the Chibok mass abduction focused global outrage.

But the girls studying at AUN suggested the Islamist foot-soldiers who carried out the kidnappings ultimately deserve mercy.

Northeastern Nigeria provides few opportunities and little hope of employment for young men, making them vulnerable to radicalisation, they said.

“I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them too,” Blessing said.

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