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Rep. Frederica Wilson Fights To #BringBackOurGirls

Matt Laslo
/
For WLRN
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (far right) poses with a group holding #BringBackOurGirls signs.

C-SPAN is pretty boring. But flip to it on any given Wednesday and you’ll notice the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives is splattered with red outfits.

That’s the doing of South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She’s spearheaded the effort to get lawmakers to wear red on Wednesdays to highlight the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. When Wilson was last in Nigeria, the woman who started the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls thanked her for the support she’s drumming up in Congress.

“We’ve kept this Twitter storm going so she actually said to me, 'It appears as if the people in the United States care more about the girls than the people in Nigeria.' So it has put a lot of pressure on the government," says Wilson.

Wilson is a former school principal and she says she can’t fathom an attack on an elementary school. It’s also personal for her because she remembers protesting when her mother forced her to go to school when she was a kid.

“And I was holding on to her skirt as she took me to school and I was crying. And after I got to school and she came to pick me up, I said, ‘I’m not ready to leave yet.’ So, children love school and for little girls to be in school studying and be kidnapped by Boko Haram? That is unconscionable. This whole world should be in an uproar," says Wilson.

Wilson’s effort has been steadily picking up support, according to California Democrat Jackie Speier.

“Well, you know, it started with the women and it has grown to include our male colleagues and that is good. And the more attention we bring, the greater the influence will be on the State Department and hopefully an effort to retrieve the young women," says Speier.

She says there’s only one problem: “We wear red every Wednesday and we’re running out of wardrobe choices."

Joking aside, Speier says Wilson has been important to keeping the girls in the public conscience.

“She’s been pursuing a campaign that’s been very refreshing because there was so much national and international attention to these young girls, school girls being taken by Boko Haram, and it was on the front page and it was in the front of all of our minds and then all of a sudden poof it was gone, and yet the girls are still missing," says Speier.

It’s also a bipartisan effort. South Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo has joined in.

“It’s a wonderful way to raise awareness and to not let people forget about these precious children, girls that were abducted. So I’m very thankful to have a colleague that is so persistent in reminding people about that horrible human tragedy and it’s an effort that continues so I’m glad to be a small part of it," says Curbelo.

Wilson has also kept the issue on the radar of some of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington. While wearing red on a recent Wednesday, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi praised Wilson’s leadership on the issue.

“She’s wonderful. It’s just great. It’s really an example to the rest of us never to forget and to keep on bringing to the world’s attention the plight of these young girls," Pelosi says.

But the school girls have been missing for more than a year, even after other kidnapped Nigerians were rescued. Wilson says that fills her with optimism.

"So when they have found lots of girls and children and none of them have been the girls that were kidnapped. So that gives me hope that they are together. And I think there’s a purpose behind that, why they’re together and everything that’s going on. I think the intelligence will help us locate them," says Wilson.

When the new president of Nigeria was just in Washington, Wilson and her allies wore red outfits to let him know that Congress still hasn’t forgotten about the plight of those little girls.

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