Wellington girl to lobby for captives

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014
Sophie Gainsford,

JOIN THE CALL: Sophie Gainsford, 10, centre, from Wellington, will urge the Nigerian Government to ‘‘bring back our girls’’ when she visits its Tanzanian high commission.

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A Wellington 10-year-old will take an impassioned plea for the safe return of the 270 kidnapped schoolgirls to the Nigerian embassy in Tanzania.

Sophie Gainsford , a former Lyall Bay School pupil now based in Dar Es Salaam, has been chosen from by her school to speak at the city's Nigerian high commission this week on the girls' plight. They were taken by militant group Boko Haram.

She will ask the Nigerian Government to take strong action on behalf on the children.

"I know many people will be looking for them and I ask that you make people and money available to do more," her speech will urge the commission staff.

More than 300 girls were taken from their boarding school a month ago in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. Fifty-three escaped, but an estimated 276 remain with the militants, who aim to impose Islamic Sharia law on Nigeria. One name for the group, Boko Haram, can be loosely translated as "Western education is sinful". The leader has publicly called the girls "slaves" and threatened to sell them.

Sophie imagined the pain and fear of the girls and their families. "I think it was wrong of the terrorist group to take the girls in that kind of way, and while they were at school.

"They think it's wrong for girls to have education - they should only learn the religious books and not get a proper education. I think they're wrong."

Sophie was chosen from her class of 21 at Aga Khan School based on her speech. Dad Ian Gainsford said his daughter had always been "a bit of a social justice activist".

"Even when she was as young as 3 or 4, if anything was unfair, Sophie would speak out and want to put it right."

He said Sophie and her brother Malachi had struggled to settle into the new country after the family moved to take up Salvation Army positions in February last year. But both had done well to adjust.

Sophie said the heat and the poverty were the biggest differences from home.

"And the traffic is terrible - we're always being told off by police."

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- The Dominion Post

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