Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Welcome home to the 21 #ChibokGirls!















#BringBackOurGirlsNYC rejoices with our 21 #ChibokGirls who were released on October 13, 2016







FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
(718) 951-5000 x 1742
NYC Sunday October 16, 2016

On Thursday, October 13, with great joy, hope and optimism for the future, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC welcomed the news of the release of 21 of our #ChibokGirls from Boko Haram captivity. We rejoice with our #ChibokGirls, their families and friends.  We hope and pray that the 197#ChibokGirls and other Nigerians remaining in Boko Haram captivity are also rescued and reunited with their families as soon as possible.

The rescued #ChibokGirls have been reunited with their families amidst a combination of tears, joy and laughter. #BringBackOurGirlsNYC salutes the efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and other parties that made this release possible.

These 21 #ChibokGirls have suffered unimaginable physical, mental and psychological trauma.  They require a well-grounded structure for long-term, culturally-appropriate psychosocial care.  While we are happy that they are home and grateful for their rescue, we should endeavor not to further traumatize them by continually placing them under the public microscope of the media to satisfy our curiosity and propaganda.

The road to recovery has begun for these girls and we hope that they all recover in every way possible.  We rejoice with the parents, families, loved ones, and well wishers of the 21 #ChibokGirls. To them we say, CONGRATULATIONS! #BringBackOurGirlsNYC advocates that every possible mechanism be deployed for their successful reintegration into society.


#BringBackOurGirlsNYC will continue to campaign for the release of our 197 #ChibokGirls. With renewed hope, we shall push harder.  We call on all people of good conscience to join us as we demand the rescue and reunification of all our #ChibokGirls and other Nigerians in Boko Haram captivity with their families.

Monday, August 15, 2016

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC Statement: New “Proof of Life” Video on Our #ChibokGirls



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
mojubaolu@gmail.com
(718) 951-5000 x 1742
NYC Monday 15th August 2016

Yesterday, on Day 853 after the abduction of our #ChibokGirls, a new “proof of life” video about our #Chibokgirls was in circulation, broadly disseminated and widely commented upon in the media.  It is heartrending that these young women have been in captivity for so long in the hands of brutal, violent insurgents who are determined to use them as bargaining chips for their diabolical power-seeking agenda.  It is unfortunate that our #Chibokgirls have been left at the mercy of their abductors for 854 days today.  We are saddened and disheartened that our #Chibokgirls families and loved ones have had to cope for so long with their absence.  Nonetheless, we are determined to be hopeful that our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians, particularly the girls, boys, and women will all be rescued and reunited with their families by the Nigerian government and the international community. 
To quote BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria’s translation (by Dr. Manasseh Allen, Spokesman of the Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA) in Abuja) and transcription of some of the message in the video from the Kibaku language spoken by Dorcas Yakubu:

“Our parents please exercise patience. We are suffering here. There is no kind of suffering we haven’t seen. Our sisters are injured, some have wounds on their heads and bodies. Tell the government to give them their people so we can also come to be with you. We are all children and we don’t know what to do. The suffering is too much, please endeavour as we also have exercised patience. There is nothing you, or we, can do about this but to get their people back to them, so we can go home. Exercise patience as we also have endured.”

Given that guaranteeing the safety and security of citizens is a constitutional duty of the state, the rescue of our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians must be given more priority than observed thus far.  The international community must also rise to the challenge and demonstrate its commitment to the rescue and reunification of our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians. 

The BringBackOurGirls movement has steadfastly and unflaggingly called for our #ChibokGirls rescue. The Nigerian government must redouble efforts to rescue our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians.  This is key to demonstrating Nigeria’s sovereignty: that it is not a place where a band of homicidal insurgents can swoop in, abduct citizens, and hold them in captivity at will.  It is key to demonstrating that the Nigerian state is mindful of its constitutional responsibility to all Nigerian citizens.  It is key to demonstrating that the Nigerian government cares about the plight of citizens subjected to cruel and unusual brutality, violence and torture.  The international community also owes a duty.  It must demonstrate that its lofty statements are not just platitudes.  When some of us are insecure, all of us are insecure.  The rescue of our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians is a matter of urgent necessity and should be treated as such.  Once the rescue is done, reunification with their families, psychosocial care, guarantees of safety and security for affected communities from further insurgent violence is required.

According to a report by The Guardian, after viewing the video, Dorcas Yakubu, Esther Yakubu’s mother said with “tears running down her face”: 


“From birth, I have been planning for you – your life, your education, your health. Before you were kidnapped,” …Up till now, I have not seen or heard anything from you. But I believe that one day, I will fulfil that, my promise to you, and I will see you again, and my happiness, my joy, my life will be complete with you.”


How much pain do we expect parents to bear?  How best can we demonstrate the commitment to rescue their children?  We commend BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria for its proposed march to the Nigerian Presidential Villa at Aso Rock and urge all people of good conscience to join them in the call for the rescue of our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians and their reunification with their families.  We at #BringBackOurGirlsNYC support BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria and remain hopeful that very soon, our #Chibokgirls and all other abducted Nigerians, particularly the girls, boys, and women will all be rescued and reunited with their families by the Nigerian government and the international community. 

For #BringBackOurGirlsNYC
Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome
Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies
Leonard & Claire Tow Professor, 2015/2016
Brooklyn College, CUNY


Friday, July 8, 2016

Guaranteed equal and equitable access to excellent education, especially for girls




Do you know about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?  SDG 4 focuses on education.  The goal is to have inclusive, equitable and quality education for all of us God's children, as well as for us to foster access to lifelong learning opportunities for all.  My late parents were schoolteachers.  Matter of fact, my father was a headmaster, and I was raised to love learning, treasure education, and to hone my thinking skills.  Growing up in the family that I did meant that learning in all circumstances became an ingrained part of my life.  A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the taping of the video challenge for Global Citizen's Education Commission. Here's my edited Youtube video, sans my plug for our #ChibokGirls



   


The other videos featured in the challenge are available here.

Here below is what I said in its entirety, which by the way, was already posted on this blog on June 24, 2016, the day I went to the Youtube headquarters at Chelsea Market to record the video.

"Guaranteed equal and equitable access to excellent education, especially for girls, builds a better world and glorious future. Excellent education should be a right available to every child.  It’s an investment in the future. It supports human and national security. I’m from Nigeria, which has the most out of school children in the world (over 10 million). I call on Nigeria’s government to actualize its Education for All commitment, and to rescue our Chibok Girls, abducted from their school by Boko Haram over two years ago. Let’s make all schools safe havens where children can joyfully learn, thrive, and grow."

We'd have a much better world if we devote more resources, energy, and imagination to providing the best possible education for all.  Excellence, equity, and equality in access are key.  The world would also be a much better place if we rescue our #ChibokGirls and all other abducted Nigerian women and children, and reunite them with their families.  Let's do it!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Statement for NYC Council Committee on Immigration Hearing and Open Arms Press Conference, June 27, 2016



Here's how I spent my day. 



Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, founder, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC
Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies
Leonard & Claire Tow Professor, 2015/2016
Brooklyn College, CUNY
3413 James Hall
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11210
phone:  
(718) 951-5000, ext. 1742; fax:  (718) 951-4833
email:  
mokome@brooklyn.cuny.edu; mojubaolu@gmail.com
Editor:  
Ìrìnkèrindò: a Journal of African Migration 



I stand here today as an African immigrant who came to the US 35 years ago. I give unequivocal support to the statement by the New York City Council Committee on Immigration that “In New York City, we reject anti-immigrant sentiments and welcome displaced people with compassion, respect, and generosity.”

I also support the two resolutions before the Council:
·         Resolution 1105, calling upon the President and the State Department to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States of America by the end of fiscal year 2016 and to increase such number to 65,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017.

·         Resolution 1103, calling upon the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate Ecuador for Temporary Protected Status to provide temporary immigration relief to eligible Ecuadorian nationals in the wake of a devastating earthquake.

As is evident from statistics, wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide caused 59.5 million people to be displaced. Only 1.2 million of them are asylum seekers, 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and 4.1 million are refugees.  According to the Migration Policy Institute,

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration proposed to significantly increase the number of refugees the United States accepts each year—from 70,000 in FY 2015 to 85,000 in FY 2016 and 100,000 in FY 2017—and scale up the number of Syrian refugees admitted to at least 10,000 for the current fiscal year, which began October 1. 
I support this decision and applaud the Obama administration for continuing to make the US a place of refuge, because:

For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people (Zong and Batalova 2015).
According to the Bureau of Census, there were 1.6 million foreign born Africans in the US in 2012.  Majority are in NYS, which has 164,000 people. The NY Metropolitan area also has the largest African-born population, with 212,000 people (US Bureau of the Census 2014).  However, “nearly a quarter of all immigrants from Africa to the United States in 2010 entered as refugees or received asylum as a result of ethnic conflict or civil war, particularly in countries such as Somalia, Liberia, and Sudan” (Gambino, Trevelyan and Fitzwater 2014, 2). 32% of refugees in the US are African (Anderson 2015).

Like Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, African refugees and asylum seekers are also fleeing genocidal violence, as is evident in places like Darfur, Sudan, from where we have fellow New Yorkers who have sought refuge in the United States along with their brothers and sisters from South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile. 

Among the Syrian refugees, there are also the Yazidi women, subjected to abduction, brutality and sexual servitude by ISIS, just like thousands of Nigerian women and girls, including our Chibok Girls, 276 of whom were abducted by Boko Haram, the violent insurgent group, from their school in Borno State on April 14 2014.  218 of these girls remain in the hands of their brutal abductors, who like ISIS (to whom they have declared allegiance), keep them in sexual and domestic servitude under appalling and horrendous conditions where sex is used as a "weapon of war".  When such women escape and seek refuge, it is only right that they are allowed into the US and welcomed.

On April 16, 2016 when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people and injured over 2,600, Secretary of State Kerry promised that the US would help and support the affected population and the country (US Department of State 2016).  According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 350,000 people, including Colombian refugees in Ecuador, need urgent help (Sonia and Gaynor 2016). The US has done some work on the ground. It should also designate Ecuador for Temporary Protected Status to provide temporary immigration relief to eligible Ecuadorian nationals in the wake of this devastating earthquake.

Like the Ecuadorian refugees, many Africans are forced to flee from their countries of origin and communities by natural disasters. Some are fleeing from dreadful pandemics.  The 2014 Ebola crisis devastated Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.  While it is gratifying that the US government granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to West Africans from these countries, given that the 2014 Ebola epidemic destroyed the already weak healthcare systems. Instead of giving only a 6-month extension to the TPS offered, the regular 18-month extension offered other refugees should be given. 


When devastating and cataclysmic conditions push people out of their countries and cause them to ask for American help, they should be helped, welcomed and offered refuge, not rebuffed. They should be given humanitarian help, and urgently too.  For all these reasons, the NYC Council should pass Resolutions 1105 and 1103.  

Thank you.

REFERENCES

Anderson, Monica. 2015. "African immigrant population in U.S. steadily climbs." Pew Research Center. November 2. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/02/african-immigrant-population-in-u-s-steadily-climbs/.
Gambino, Christine P., Edward N. Trevelyan, and John Thomas Fitzwater. 2014. "The Foreign-Born Population From Africa: 2008-2012 American Community Survey Briefs." US Census Bureau. October. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/acs/acsbr12-16.pdf.
Sonia, Aguilar, and Tim Gaynor. 2016. "Refugee baker joins Ecuador earthquake relief effort." UNHCR. May 13. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2016/5/5735db526/refugee-baker-joins-ecuador-earthquake-relief-effort.html.
US Bureau of the Census. 2014. "African-Born Population in U.S. Roughly Doubled Every Decade Since 1970, Census Bureau Reports." US Bureau of the Census. October 1. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-184.html.
US Department of State. 2016. "United States Responds to Ecuador Earthquake." Dipnote: US Department of State Official Blog. April 16. Accessed June 27, 2016. https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2016/04/19/united-states-responds-ecuador-earthquake.

Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. 2015. "Refugees and Asylees in the United States." Migration Policy Institute. October 28. Accessed June 27, 2016. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/refugees-and-asylees-united-states.

Statement for NYC Council Committee on Immigration Hearing and Open Arms Press Conference, June 27, 2016



Here's how I spent my day. 



Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, founder, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC
Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies
Leonard & Claire Tow Professor, 2015/2016
Brooklyn College, CUNY
3413 James Hall
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11210
phone:  
(718) 951-5000, ext. 1742; fax:  (718) 951-4833
email:  
mokome@brooklyn.cuny.edu; mojubaolu@gmail.com
Editor:  
Ìrìnkèrindò: a Journal of African Migration 



I stand here today as an African immigrant who came to the US 35 years ago. I give unequivocal support to the statement by the New York City Council Committee on Immigration that “In New York City, we reject anti-immigrant sentiments and welcome displaced people with compassion, respect, and generosity.”

I also support the two resolutions before the Council:
·         Resolution 1105, calling upon the President and the State Department to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States of America by the end of fiscal year 2016 and to increase such number to 65,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017.

·         Resolution 1103, calling upon the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to designate Ecuador for Temporary Protected Status to provide temporary immigration relief to eligible Ecuadorian nationals in the wake of a devastating earthquake.

As is evident from statistics, wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide caused 59.5 million people to be displaced. Only 1.2 million of them are asylum seekers, 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and 4.1 million are refugees.  According to the Migration Policy Institute,

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration proposed to significantly increase the number of refugees the United States accepts each year—from 70,000 in FY 2015 to 85,000 in FY 2016 and 100,000 in FY 2017—and scale up the number of Syrian refugees admitted to at least 10,000 for the current fiscal year, which began October 1. 
I support this decision and applaud the Obama administration for continuing to make the US a place of refuge, because:

For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people (Zong and Batalova 2015).
According to the Bureau of Census, there were 1.6 million foreign born Africans in the US in 2012.  Majority are in NYS, which has 164,000 people. The NY Metropolitan area also has the largest African-born population, with 212,000 people (US Bureau of the Census 2014).  However, “nearly a quarter of all immigrants from Africa to the United States in 2010 entered as refugees or received asylum as a result of ethnic conflict or civil war, particularly in countries such as Somalia, Liberia, and Sudan” (Gambino, Trevelyan and Fitzwater 2014, 2). 32% of refugees in the US are African (Anderson 2015).

Like Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, African refugees and asylum seekers are also fleeing genocidal violence, as is evident in places like Darfur, Sudan, from where we have fellow New Yorkers who have sought refuge in the United States along with their brothers and sisters from South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile. 

Among the Syrian refugees, there are also the Yazidi women, subjected to abduction, brutality and sexual servitude by ISIS, just like thousands of Nigerian women and girls, including our Chibok Girls, 276 of whom were abducted by Boko Haram, the violent insurgent group, from their school in Borno State on April 14 2014.  218 of these girls remain in the hands of their brutal abductors, who like ISIS (to whom they have declared allegiance), keep them in sexual and domestic servitude under appalling and horrendous conditions where sex is used as a "weapon of war".  When such women escape and seek refuge, it is only right that they are allowed into the US and welcomed.

On April 16, 2016 when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people and injured over 2,600, Secretary of State Kerry promised that the US would help and support the affected population and the country (US Department of State 2016).  According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 350,000 people, including Colombian refugees in Ecuador, need urgent help (Sonia and Gaynor 2016). The US has done some work on the ground. It should also designate Ecuador for Temporary Protected Status to provide temporary immigration relief to eligible Ecuadorian nationals in the wake of this devastating earthquake.

Like the Ecuadorian refugees, many Africans are forced to flee from their countries of origin and communities by natural disasters. Some are fleeing from dreadful pandemics.  The 2014 Ebola crisis devastated Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.  While it is gratifying that the US government granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to West Africans from these countries, given that the 2014 Ebola epidemic destroyed the already weak healthcare systems. Instead of giving only a 6-month extension to the TPS offered, the regular 18-month extension offered other refugees should be given. 


When devastating and cataclysmic conditions push people out of their countries and cause them to ask for American help, they should be helped, welcomed and offered refuge, not rebuffed. They should be given humanitarian help, and urgently too.  For all these reasons, the NYC Council should pass Resolutions 1105 and 1103.  

Thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2016

#BringBackOurGirls: A Call for Safe, Secure, Excellent Education for all Children


"Guaranteed equal and equitable access to excellent education, especially for girls, builds a better world and glorious future. Excellent education should be a right available to every child.  It’s an investment in the future. It supports human and national security. I’m from Nigeria, which has the most out of school children in the world (over 10 million). I call on Nigeria’s government to actualize its Education for All commitment, and to rescue our Chibok Girls, abducted from their school by Boko Haram over two years ago. Let’s make all schools safe havens where children can joyfully learn, thrive, and grow." 

The quote above is for my 30 second Youtube clip for the Education Commission video challenge sponsored by Global Citizen. It will be recorded at the Youtube Headquarters in NYC today, Friday, June 24th.

Participants were asked to answer the question:

"How can education best prepare you for your future? And what would your ideal school of the future look like?"

The Education Commission is passionately campaigning "for three things for the future of the education landscape:
  1. The importance of the youth voice on education financing and target decisions

My answer derives from my advocacy for our #ChibokGirls and my hope that Nigeria and all other countries commit to equal and equitable access to education. However, I don't like speaking from a script, and brevity can be very dangerous, given the impossibility of capturing the full essence of what one might want to convey.


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