Girls escaping Boko Haram captivity face rejection – International Alert
International Alert, together with UNICEF Nigeria and local partners, have been providing support to hundreds of girls and women escaping Boko Haram captivity.
International Alert, a global peacebuilding charity, has called for more assistance for the reintegration of women and girls escaping the Islamic insurgent group, Boko Haram. The London-based charity said since 2009, Boko Haram has abducted an estimated 8,000 women and girls, as well as many boys. Unfortunately, girls and women that do return from captivity face mistrust, persecution and are typically traumatised.
In a statement released last week to commemorate the abduction of the 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, northeast Nigeria – kidnapped on 14 April, 2014 by Boko Haram – International Alert said while most of the women and girls remain in captivity, hundreds have escaped or have been rescued. Girls escaping often report physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and forced marriages at the hands of Boko Haram, the non-profit organisation said.
Upon returning home or being taken into Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, families and communities fear the girls have been radicalised, making it difficult for them to find acceptance and rebuild their lives.
“Tragically, communities, families and husbands don’t always welcome returning women and girls with open arms, for a fear they may have been radicalised in captivity,” said Kimairis Toogood, Peacebuilding Advisor for International Alert in Nigeria. “This problem is fuelled by a culture of stigma around sexual violence – especially if the girls return with a baby. These girls may struggle to integrate back into their communities, and face a life of isolation and poverty.”
Since December 2015, International Alert, together with UNICEF Nigeria and local partners, have been providing support to hundreds of girls and women escaping Boko Haram captivity. The organisations have also organised workshops to support the process of long-term reintegration. This includes working with communities and family members to foster empathy and reduce stigma. The programme is being supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the United Kingdom AID.
One of the young women who escaped from a Boko Haram camp and is enrolled in the reintegration programme said, “The issue of being raped and carrying a baby from sexual violence, the stigma, the isolation from suspicious people in the [displacement] camp was emotionally overwhelming. The [dialogue] sessions have been crucial in moving on in my life. They have helped me cope with the loss of my husband and the impact of rape.”
International Alert has initiated the #FutureForOurGirls campaign aimed at not only advancing the #BringBackOurGirls agenda, but also to step up support for the girls and their communities when they do return.
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