Freed Chibok girls share lessons from life after liberation

Grace Dauda’s teenage years cannot be classified as her most pleasant experience. She was part of the unfortunate group of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, who were kidnapped on the night of April 14, 2014. She sustained severe injuries to her thighs while being taken to the forest by the terrorists, which eventually forced her to undergo four surgeries.

A decade later, she and Dinah Lawan (a Political Science PhD student at the University of California), as freed survivors, recounted their experiences during a 10th-anniversary programme organised by Enough is Enough Nigeria (EIE), a civil society organisation.

The programme focused on the measures adopted to improve the lives of the schoolgirls and to hold the government accountable. Together with findings from the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF) and the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, a booklet was also launched detailing the journey and challenges of the girls.

Grace stressed the importance of governmental support to help the freed girls with their education or business. At the same time, Dinah highlighted the importance of mental health therapy being included in the girls’ rehabilitation process. She also wishes to be re-enrolled in school, as her American visa expired while studying abroad.

“Many people are using us for their own interests because we have suffered a lot. We need help because the trauma has affected us in so many ways.”

Also emphasised by Grace was the bullying faced by many of the freed girls from society, which could be a factor in some of them experiencing the classic Stockholm Syndrome urge to return to their captors.

“There is so much bullying done to us, especially those that came with children and are being called names. That is why some feel that it’s better they go back because they might feel that “people don’t love me anymore.”

A call for legal reform and government transparency

Many civil society leaders and stakeholders at the event passionately advocated for the federal government to step in and show accountability towards the rehabilitation of these girls.

The Executive Director of Invictus Africa, Bukky Shonibare, stressed her concern about the media, the government and civil society organisations not being able to tell the exact number of Chibok girls still missing ten years later. In other cases, there are inaccurate figures of victims and casualties in conflict zones.

Bukky Shonibare via Presidential Precinct

“Behind every number that is inaccurate or missed out is a human life that is potentially not being prioritised.”

She also voiced the need for transparency concerning the funds given for the Safe School Initiative 10 years ago, as well as the implementation and active use of the Missing Persons Register.

Other notable figures, including Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, author of “The Stolen Daughters of Chibok” and executive director of the Murtala Mohammed Foundation, highlighted the importance of having the laws against statutory rape amended and included the absolution of marriages consummated as hostages.

“Many girls are unwilling to come back because they are afraid of the stigma caused by many of the things done to them in captivity under the guise of marriage.”

She also highlighted an instance in 2009 where the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s (SCSL) Appeals Chamber found the abduction and confinement of women for “forced marriage” in war to be a new crime against humanity.

What’s next for the Chibok girls?

The event ended with a feeling of hope and optimism, as many of the girls had decided to take charge of their lives.

Grace and the coordinator of Bring Back Our Girls Lagos, Habiba Balogun, announced the launch of a cooperative set up and managed solely by the survivors of the Chibok abduction. Spearheading this are Grace Dauda, Jummai Paul, and Saratu Ayuba, who seek offers of support in kind, such as laptops, smartphones, and even school scholarships.

More information can be found in the image below.

Author

  • ChiAmaka Dike

    Chiamaka is the Features Editor at Marie Claire Nigeria. She is a woman who is passionate about God, women, and top-notch storytelling in all formats. Send all feature pitches her way - chiamaka@marieclaire.ng

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