#BringBackOurGirls focuses world's eyes on Nigeria's mass kidnapping
Three weeks after 257 girls were snatched from their school in Chibok, a fortnight after #BringBackOurGirls first appeared on Twitter, and a day after Barack Obama described the kidnapping as both heart-breaking and outrageous, the eyes of the world are finally and firmly fixed on events in the remote reaches of north-eastern Nigeria.
Michelle Obama has become the latest high profile name to tweet her support and in cities as far apart as Abuja, Washington, Los Angeles, Dublin and London, demonstrators have put on red T-shirts to draw attention to the girls' plight, demand their release, and to vent a deepening sense of anger.
Further protests are due to be held over the next few days in countries including the UK, the US, South Africa, Jamaica and Switzerland.
The hashtag, which started trending in Nigeria two weeks ago, has now been tweeted more than one million times. It was first used on 23 April at the opening ceremony for a Unesco event honouring the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt as the 2014 World Book Capital City. A Nigerian lawyer in Abuja, Ibrahim M Abdullahi, tweeted the call in a speech by Dr Oby Ezekwesili, vice-president of the World Bank for Africa to "Bring Back the Girls!"
A global "social media march" has also been organised asking supporters to use their networks to promote the campaign for 200 minutes on Thursday and there are also Bring Back Our Girls and a Wear Red Facebook pages.
The campaign has reignited the debate over the value of online campaigning or "slacktivism" as it is called by its critics. The hashtag has been used by different organisations to expose the story further online. Amnesty International and Unicef have backed the campaign, as have politicians and celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Wyclef Jean and Chris Brown. Actors Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake and Bradley Cooper have thrown their weight behind a parallel hashtag: #RealMenDontBuyGirls.
The US first lady said on Twitter: "Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families." She packaged her tweet with a photo of herself in the White House holding a white piece of paper with the message "#BringBackOurGirls" written in black, capital letters.
The Nigerian author Chibundu Onuzo, writing for the Guardian, said: "We have discovered the power of the hashtag over the last week. The simple, emphatic demand #BringBackOurGirls has moved across the Twitter timelines of the famous and the unknown, uniting Nigerian housewives and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton."
On Tuesday, 100 red-clad men and women gathered outside the Nigerian defence headquarters in Abuja to beg the authorities to find the girls amid claims they were to be sold into slavery, a protest that continued into Wednesday.
The chief of the Chibok community in the capital, Hosea Sambido, said the uncertainty had left mothers in his home town unable to eat and had forced fathers into the bush in desperate searches for their daughters.
"Please, we are begging the federal government of Nigeria, please, we are begging our army, which we depend on, please intervene into this matter for us, intervene into this matter for us.' said Sambido.
"Our community is relatively small. If a generation of the same age ' 276 ' are out, in the future where are we? Who cares? Can our girls go to school now? Help us. Please. Please."
In Washington, about 75 protesters wearing "Bring Back Our Girls" T-shirts rallied outside the shuttered Nigerian embassy this week to accuse the Nigerian government of failing to protect its young females.