Rebuilding lives after Boko Haram

Two years on from the insurgency group Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, most are still missing, as are many of the estimated 2,000 victims to have been abducted since 2012.

International Alert is calling for a #FutureForOurGirls and urging the international community to help support these girls and their communities when they do return home.

Whilst the Nigerian government has successfully rescued a number victims from captivity in recent months, a study by International Alert and UNICEF revealed that this often doesn’t spell an end to the horrific ordeals they have suffered.

Instead, it showed that women and girls returning home are often rejected by their communities and seen to have ‘Bad Blood’ from their experiences in captivity – a perception fuelled by a culture of stigma around sexual violence. The children of these returning women and girls, whose fathers are believed to be Boko Haram fighters, are seen as doubly damned and are treated with even more suspicion.

We believe that now is the time to invest in support for those rescued and help them move on with life after Boko Haram.

International Alert’s new project with UNICEF is showing that a great deal can be done to transform the lives of many of these women and girls.

Together with our local partners, Federation of Muslim Women's Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Herwa Community Development Initiative, we are running collective therapy sessions and dialogue clubs which are helping survivors and their communities move forward together.

We also help reduce stigma and prepare communities for the return of survivors by fostering empathy and trust. This includes supporting religious leaders in promoting a culture of tolerance and forgiveness. Kimairis Toogood, Senior Peacebuilding Advisor for International Alert in Nigeria, said:

“With more victims now returning from captivity, we are appealing to the international community and the Nigerian government to do more now to support efforts to re-integrate them, and ensure they can build a life for themselves and their children.”

Among the young women these initiatives are supporting is Fati (pictured above), a 22-year old who escaped Boko Haram captivity and is now starting to think about moving on from the pain of her ordeal:

“It has been very difficult moving to this camp and the experience of being verbally abused is traumatic, but I have a friend now because of the workshop, so we sit a lot together. She talks more than I do and I am also learning to be less shy.”

Read the story of Fati and other brave women and girls rebuilding their lives after captivity:

Fati’s story

Aisha’s story

Binta’s story