Rejected by her community: Kodoma’s story
When Kodoma finally escaped from months of captivity under Boko Haram, she faced stigma and rejection from her community.
I was abducted in Mayinti just a week after giving birth to my fourth child. We were taken alongside other women and children to a community in Sambisa Forest in Nigeria called Jimiye Bomma.
“I spent seven months in captivity, being humiliated by a Boko Haram member who had married me. Whenever I did not cooperate, he would tie me with a rope and beat me mercilessly. I was lucky to escape in the night with my children,” Kodoma tells us.
Before her abduction, Kodoma had a difficult relationship with her husband. Following her escape, she was happy that her husband welcomed her back. They stayed together for three weeks until he noticed that she was pregnant. He brought the issue to the attention of community leaders who unfortunately supported him, saying Kodoma could not live in the same house since she was pregnant by someone else.
My husband abandoned me and my children. He never comes to visit or send any resources for our livelihood. This rejection and the stigma … worries me to the extent that I am almost running mad.
With her four children, a pregnant Kodoma went to live with her grandmother but she was ill and Kodoma found it hard to find the money to cover the costs of looking after her children and her grandmother. Without the support of her husband and with no food to sustain her family, her situation deteriorated. It was then that Kodoma decided to go to her brother for help, but he rejected her too. Rejected, stigmatised and with nowhere to go, Kodoma was introduced to International Alert.
How can dialogue help deal with trauma and reunite families?
“I was invited by a social worker to attend the community dialogue sessions organised by International Alert and their partners.”
It is there that I got the opportunity to share my struggles and experiences with other women and girls. Attending the session has helped me recover from the trauma. That was the first time I was shown love by the community. The sessions were very informative, even those who had been stigmatising me realised my pain.
Fortunately, both Kodoma’s husband and her brother live in Madinatu host community. With the support of International Alert Nigeria and partners, community leaders and social workers in the area invited them both to attend a dialogue session with Kodoma, where they discussed her abduction and the possibility of reintegrating her back into the family. Whilst discussing the circumstances of her abduction, they came to realise that Kodama was unwillingly and forcefully abducted by Boko Haram and that there was no justification to let her suffer after having managed to escape.
After the session Kodoma’s husband said to her: “I deeply regret my actions and beg your forgiveness, I have realised the pains you passed through while in captivity and I thank God for seeing you and my children alive, I am a human being that is bound to make mistake and I assure you, I will not repeat it.”
Kodoma’s brother said: “I thank the organisation [International Alert] that convened this session. I want to apologise to my sister for making her life more miserable after her abduction, my rejection of her was uncalled for. I regret my actions, and hope this will be my first and last mistake. Please forgive me for the past.”
As a result of the workshop, Kodoma and her husband reunited, and she feels more secure and in control of her future.
“I find it more comfortable to live in this community because with these dialogue and sensitisation workshops, the community members are willing to accept and support survivors towards their reintegration. I really appreciate the efforts of International Alert, particularly for raising awareness on the reduction of stigma directed towards survivors of sexual gender-based violence perpetrated by Boko Haram.”
*Name changed to protect identity
About the project
Supporting vulnerable communities and conflict-sensitive reintegration in northeast Nigeria was a project to help reintegrate survivors of sexual violence by Boko Haram as well as support people internally displaced by the conflict.
International Alert Nigeria worked in three camps for internally displaced people and one host community in Maiduguri, and another community in nearby Bama, to help those affected by the violence reintegrate back into society and move forward with their lives.
This included holding victim support and family dialogue sessions – especially women, girls and children, running public awareness campaigns on stigma reduction, and training local leaders on peacebuilding and non-violent conflict resolution.