As another fall rolls around, teenagers across the U.S. are heading back to school and looking forward to reconnecting with their friends. But for the adolescent girl child of northeastern Nigeria – a predominantly Muslim region – staying in school with her friends is often an elusive dream. Especially if that girl has been ripped from her family and village by war and violence.
Aisha is a 17-year-old girl currently living in Fufore internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. She is one of hundreds of thousands of young victims of Boko Haram, one of the most violent jihadist terrorist groups in the world. Often, these children have watched family members brutally slain. Now they languish in the IDP camps, doing little to nothing, going nowhere.
Aisha was gearing up to start senior secondary school (middle school) when her village was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents. In the chaos, she was abducted and carried off into the forest, where she was forced to become a child bride. She was 12 years old.
This fall, ChildVoice is launching its Girl Empowerment Centers in the IDP camps of Nigeria with the hope of reaching girls like Aisha, whose despair is palpable. I’ve looked into these girls’ eyes and seen the emptiness and utter lack of hope they feel.
ChildVoice is stepping into the void in their lives with trauma counseling, social activities, vocational training, and health & hygiene classes, all within the loving, nurturing setting of our Girl Empowerment Centers. But in order to enroll 1,000 girls in our Nigeria Empowerment Centers this fall, we urgently need your help today! Every $100 we receive means another young girl can be enrolled.
Unspeakable things were done to Aisha as she was brutally beaten and sexually abused by her much older “husband.” She endured this treatment for two years before she managed to escape.
Nigerian soldiers found Aisha wandering in the bush and took her to Fufore IDP camp, where she now lives and takes care of her grandmother. Both her parents have died of illnesses. Aisha cried as she explained to us that the very people she thought would accept her back after her captivity – her fellow refugees in the camp – have treated her as an outcast. “They call me ‘matan Boko Haram,’ a cruel insult,” she said. The derogatory phrase means “wife of Boko Haram terrorists” in the Hausa language. Older women in camp won’t let her socialize with their daughters, viewing her as a bad influence because she lived with the terrorists for so long. Aisha left one form of bondage, only to be caught in the web of another.
According to the World Health Organization, loneliness and isolation are among the leading causes of suicide for those in refugee camps. ChildVoice hopes to break that cycle of despair and despondency that imprisons adolescent girls like Aisha by establishing our Girl Empowerment Centers in northeastern Nigeria’s IDP camps.
When our new Nigeria Country Director, Nari Welye, spoke with Aisha and some of the other hundreds of displaced girls she met, she says she saw an unexpected spark of hope in their eyes, simply because someone was willing to listen to them about their needs.
For the first time in a long while, there was talk of socializing with other girls, having a place where they could belong and be accepted, and learning new income-generating skills like tailoring and soap making. These Empowerment Centers will be welcoming sanctuaries where highly vulnerable girls find love and understanding, along with new friends and a place to belong.
This is why we need your help today! For every $100 we receive from caring donors like you, we can enroll another young girl like Aisha this fall, a girl who is desperate to escape isolation and find hope for tomorrow. Your gift of $50 or $100 will go a long way toward this goal – and any gift you feel led to give is valued.