Moving forward together: Zainab's story

Zainab Modu* stands in front of a group of her peers. She is a young girl that has seen more than her share of violent conflict in her 17-years than many have in a life time. She is from Bama local government area (LGA) in Nigeria, but conflict has taken her several kilometers from her home and family.

Zainab remembers the Monday morning when Boko Haram attacked her community. Her family was so scared.

“My brothers ran away into the bush to get cover but we remained at home thinking that it will be overcome by the security forces. Before we knew it Boko Haram members came to our house. We told them there were no males in this house, so, the following day they took us to their leader, who said the young girls will be kept separately and be married off to the Boko Haram members.”

“I was forcefully married to a Boko Haram member, but after one week, I and three others decided to escape in the middle of the night, through the bush. We ran for a whole day until we reached a military convoy, which took us to Konduga town and later we were transported to Maiduguri. Upon arriving to Maiduguri in early 2015, security forces interrogated me. I told them I had relatives in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and they reunited me with them.”

Even though she was reunited with her relatives, Zainab felt lost and alone.

“I felt lonely and vulnerable. I wouldn’t get involved in any gatherings in the community to avoid stigmatization but [International Alert’s] training sessions have really impacted my knowledge and awareness and helped me feel free and join any form of community gatherings now.”

She was invited to the training session, run by International Alert and our partners, and funded by the UK government, for local community leaders in May 2017. It provided her with the opportunity to reflect and share her own experience of survival and find a way to not only to move forward but also help other young women like herself to build a future for themselves after escaping captivity.

I feel happy and motivated to talk for peace, because I never expects to see myself free from abduction. Now I sensitize my fellow colleagues on peacebuilding with the support from International Alert.

International Alert Project Manager, Babagana Ferobe Isa notes, “Zainab narrates the pain of abduction and challenges of acceptance of survivors in their communities, and advocates for peacebuilding to reduce stigmatization and increase acceptance of those survivors of sexual and gender based violence in their returning community.”

Using her own personal story, Zainab advocates for peace in her community. She runs workshops for girls under the age of 18, bringing together girls who have survived sexual violence by Boko Haram who are currently living within the host community with her.

She explains to them all that the girls who have returned deserve a life after captivity, and they need to support one another to help make the transition back into the community, after surviving such violence, easier and more peaceful. Most importantly, she encourages the girls to be forgiving and tolerant.

After attending Zainab’s workshop, Falmata told us,

I am glad for attending this session because it has changed my perception of hatred towards SGBV survivors and their children, I promise to show them love and give them the necessary support they need. I will also like such session to continue even after going back to our various communities.

Yagana also attended and she shares her experience of it. “I have been thinking and questioning myself of how to reconcile and live with the SGBV survivors of Boko Haram action after going back to my community but with the help of these sessions, I am convinced and have gotten my answer. I am ready to peacefully coexistence with victims of Boko Haram in our community."

*Names changed to protect identity.

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