Members of a dialogue session in Madinatu Host Community discussing forgiveness and tolerance towards survivors of sexual violence and children born of rape by Boko Haram.
Musa Abba* is a 45-year-old internally displaced person (IDP) from Mafa local government area (LGA) who is currently living in Madinatu host community, one of the many local districts in Maiduguri hosting violent conflict-related IDPs in the Northeast of Nigeria.
Musa is a senior religious official and is well respected in his community. For this reason, he was identified as someone who should receive training from International Alert and our partners about peacebuilding, social cohesion and tolerance. Skills which he could then use within the community to help reduce stigma towards survivors of Boko Haram violence and help them reintegrate back into society.
Before attending this training, I had a negative perception about women and girls being abducted by Boko Haram. I could not believe that they were abducted, but thought they had followed Boko Haram members willingly. I could not accept women and girls who were sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) survivors nor the children born of sexual violence.
However, during the training, Musa had a change of heart.
“I am highly convinced that SGBV survivors are innocent, and so these survivors need our love, care and support in the pains they are passing through.”
Now Musa provides this same training to other members of his community, alongside other influential leaders like him. In May 2017, he held a training with 45 participants (9 female and 36 male), which resulted in the participants also having a similar change of heart regarding the reintegration of women and girls who have survived rape.
Muh’d shares his experience of this training and the effect it had on him. “This session had a very positive impact on me because before attending this session, my thought was revenge on what I experienced as a victim of the insurgency as I left my home town Mafa and find myself here as internally displaced person in my own country in Madinatu host community. With this my reason I had it in mind that any person willingly or unwillingly associated with Boko Haram is going to be a danger to me because they push me to the world of tragedy and trauma, but now I change my mind and leave everything to the almighty creator and I take it as a divine decree, so now, I will stay in peace with my fellow colleagues when we are back in our communities of origin.”
Musa is working hard to build peace and increase social cohesion, by reinforcing positive messages to his community. Helping to change their attitudes and perceptions towards women and girls who are SGBV survivors, as well as other persons unwillingly associated with Boko Haram.
Leaders (traditional leaders, religious leaders) must find common ground with everybody in the community to mitigate any further conflict and reduce stigmatization of victims of Boko Haram, as well as increasing efforts of social cohesion and reintegration. Then we will all be able to build lasting peace in our returning communities.
Musa Abba is one of 80 trained leaders under the FCO-funded programme since April 2017, and one of over 1000 community leaders who have been trained since January 2016 under wider social cohesion programming by International Alert in partnership with UNICEF with SIDA, Embassy of Norway and Embassy of France funding.
*Names changed to protect identity.