Life after Boko Haram: Kingimi's story
Kingimi*, her husband and son were abducted by Boko Haram from their village in Bama local government area (LGA) 4 years ago. Not only was she repeatedly abused while in captivity, she witnessed horrific violence committed against others, including her husband.
“I did not understand why they wanted him to join their group so bad but they tortured him for months, I also had my own share of beatings. I have seen horrible things, people slaughtered and killed on a daily basis. I never thought I will be rescued, get to reunite or see people from my community. I thought my life was coming to an end. We couldn’t escape. I had lost all hope. We were guarded all day and night.”
Kingimi and her husband escaped in late 2016 and the Nigerian Army assisted their transition to an internally displaced person (IDP) camp in Maiduguri. She was happy to have survived the violence she had endured, and thought her former neighbours and relatives would be happy to see her and to know she survived.
Instead, she was met with crippling stigma that made it even more of a challenge for her to adjust to life after captivity.
When I came back, people were frightened of my presence, they saw me as some kind of a wild animal…Nobody wanted to associate with me. I was already depressed when I arrived and the condition in camp made it worse. People avoided me like a plague, so I felt alone and dejected.
Not only did Kingimi have to learn to deal with the trauma of being held captive by Boko Haram for 3 years and being rejected by her community, she also had to deal with the loss of her husband, who passed away once they reached the IDP camp.
“My husband died because of all the hardship they put him through, when we came back. People were scared of us. I don’t blame them…sometimes I am scared of me too. When my husband passed away, I felt like my world has completely crashed. He was my rock and the perpetrators took him away from me. I felt lost and the stigma around me was terrible.”
Kingimi participated in the sensitisation workshops for women and girls who have survived sexual violence by Boko Haram carried by International Alert Nigeria.
I enjoyed the meeting. I didn’t want it to end because it was the first time I felt accepted since I came. The women talked us and made us feel like human beings again. Now I have a group I can talk to and share my problems.
“Before the intervention of International Alert, through their sensitisation workshops, people in the camp were paranoid by my existence that made me feel inferior among others. But these workshops have helped to change the attitude and perception of community members towards me. The religious counselling by International Alert has also really helped me have peace of mind and accept destiny.”
About the project
Reducing stigma against those affected by Boko Haram was a project in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria to address the stigma and negative perceptions associated with women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram, as well as children born out of sexual violence.
Addressing the obstacles to women and children’s reintegration is critical for their survival and long-term peace in the country. We hoped to improve understanding of the challenges faced by women and children returning home by holding community workshops in internally displaced peoples camps and broadcasting radio programmes on stigma and sexual violence.
This pilot project was able to demonstrate positive attitudinal and behavioural changes within the community and as a result, has been extended in geographic scope, donor funds and partnerships since 2016.
*Name changed to protect identity.