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Moving on: The Girls who escaped Boko Haram

Moving on: The Girls who escaped Boko Haram

For the past six years, Northern Nigeria has been devastated by violence as Boko Haram have tried to employ its influence on the region. Farms have been seized, villages razed and millions of people displaced fleeing the violence of Boko Haram and the extreme hunger that has followed in its wake.

Violence against girls, including sexual violence is shockingly still a frequent occurrence in many women’s and girls’ lives, but especially during times of conflict. During conflict, rape can be used as a weapon as war and it’s harder for families to protect their children, especially girls.

For International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict we take a look at the girls who were abducted by Boko Haram and how we’re helping them move on from the terrible violence they have endured.

I pray that my child finds his way back home one day

It was early in the morning when Boko Haram attacked Grace’s village. The still morning air brutally punctured by the crack of gunfire and the screams of Grace’s neighbours.

“They began to burn our properties. They burned our food stores of ground nut, corn, rice, beans, even our cattle feed” she recalls. “They tied my husband’s and son’s hands behind their backs and loaded us all on to trucks. We drove for a long time and arrived at a large compound. We were taken to a big building and separated. The men and boys were taken away.”

It has been two years since Grace escaped from Boko Haram. Thankfully, her husband also escaped and the two of them are beginning to piece together the fragments of their life.

However, Grace still has no news of her son. According to reports, the militants have now moved from the area and Grace assumes that they have taken her son with them “He is somewhere…” she says, looking at the mountains in the distance. “I cannot imagine where he is or what he is doing now. I just pray that he finds his way back home one day.”

Children are paying a heavy price at the hands of Boko Haram and everyone in Grace’s village knows a child who was taken, many of them remain missing. Although they cannot be certain, their parents fear the worst. The stories of Boko Haram’s child brides and child soldiers, being all too prevalent in the region.

Loveth is now back in the school and hopes to become a midwife after her ordeal of being taken by Boko Haram
Loveth is now back in the school and hopes to become a midwife after her ordeal of being taken by Boko Haram

I was terrified beyond imagination

Loveth (then aged 14), her brother and his friend were forced at gunpoint into a waiting vehicle and taken to a border town between Adamawa and Borno states under the control of Boko Haram. Upon arrival at the site, the hostages were segregated by their gender.

“I didn’t know where we were. I was separated from my brother and his friend. It was a strange place to me and I was terrified beyond imagination,” says Loveth. She was desperate to escape, but had no idea of her location. “I just couldn’t imagine how I would make it to safety even if I managed to break free.”

However, three weeks in captivity, Loveth and a few other captive girls, found hope in the form of an elderly woman who ran errands at the site and who took pity on their plight. She was a local and pressed into service by Boko Haram. Risking her own life, the woman helped Loveth and other six girls at the site escape. “She knew the area very well and explained the escape route to us,” says Loveth.

Loveth is now back in the school and hopes to become a midwife.

We are helping Loveth and the other girls affected by the violence through our child protection and sexual and violence against girls work in the region. We have recently scaled up our response to the crisis by opening two field offices in Adamawa and Borno states - the worst-affected areas in Nigeria. One of the programmes that will be rolled out will work towards reuniting mothers with their children and relatives that have been stolen by Boko Haram.

I pretended I was disabled

Sarah* (then 18) and her stepmother were working on their farm when they were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. She cannot recall noticing the gunmen arrive, her first recollection was being seized by her attacker and dragged to a truck; her stepmother taken alongside her. By pretending to be disabled, the insurgents left Sarah and her stepmother behind when they moved from the area.

Although they were able to escape, life has not been easy for Sarah or her stepmother. The ongoing violence in the region has led to soaring food prices and seeds have become increasingly hard to come by. What seeds that are available are often low quality and incredibly expensive.

The ongoing security issues has exacerbated an already fragile food situation and the UN estimates that 6.3 million people are now facing a food crisis in Nigeria in the Lake Chad region – over 70 per cent are in northeast Nigeria.

To help those affected by the crisis, we are providing emergency relief goods for vulnerable families, paying particular attention to vulnerable girls and young women. We’re also putting plans in place to support the recovery and reintegration of girls and young women affected by armed conflict through the provision of educational and livelihood skills.

We're helping women and girls who have escaped the violence of Boko Haram

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