Journalist Seeking Abducted Nigerian Girls Brings Message, Plea To Midtown Scholar

Isha Sesay

Journalist Isha Sesay has spent the past five years documenting the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in northern Nigeria, and Friday night she got to meet one of them at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg.

Patience Bulbus was one of the 164 girls who escaped Boko Haram’s armed soldiers when they burst into her school in Chibok. Bulbus took the stage at the bookstore with Sesay and Margee Ensign, president of Dickinson College. Bulbus is now studying in a program there designed specifically to help some of the girls who survived Boko Haram.

Bulbus didn’t speak of her escape or how she found her way to Central Pennsylvania, but she is in the region thanks to Ensign’s commitment to helping the girls who survived. Ensign is former president of the American University of Nigeria and was in the country when the abductions occurred. She led a question and answer session with Bulbus and Sesay following the author’s remarks at the bookstore.

A former CNN reporter and author of Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram, Sesay has won several awards for leading the network’s coverage of the brutal abductions of girls from their school in northern Nigeria. She quit her job at CNN to continue to cover the story of the abduction and to help in the international effort to help find the more than 100 girls who are still missing.

While people all over the world were horrified at abductions, and First Lady Michelle Obama even helped to lead a global response to demand their return, Sesay said the outrage hasn’t been enough to return all of the girls to their families.

“That 112 girls are still missing is outrageous,” Sesay said. “If it hadn’t been for the outcry and groundswell from people all over the world, Nigeria would not have done anything.”

Sesay, whose family comes from Sierra Leone, said in Nigeria and in many parts of Africa that women and girls are not valued. It took a global groundswell to get the Nigerian government to pursue Boko Haram and to try to rescue the girls. Sesay was motivated to bring world attention to the plight of the Nigerian girls because her mother came from an impoverished family and only escaped through education.

Education is the key out of poverty for women throughout the world, but it is denied to millions of girls in Africa, who face being married off before they are 16 years old into a life of servitude and misery. The girls abducted from their school were on the path to better lives when the soldiers stormed the place and ended their dreams of a better live.

Sesay called on people in Harrisburg to join her efforts to become advocates for women around the world. And she especially called for people in our region to keep global attention on the missing girls of Nigeria.

“The Nigerian government hates criticism, especially from the United States,” she said. “We must keep the pressure on. You can all tweet to the Nigerian government.”

Sesay says she will not rest until the missing girls are found. She is trying to lead a worldwide movement to make sure they are not forgotten.

“I don’t believe they can’t be found,” she said. “The issue here is will. The issue here is dedicating the resources. The issue is valuing the lives of women and girls.”

People who want to help can donate directly to The New Foundation School of the American University in Yola, northern Nigeria.