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Emeke Obanor

Fatimah, age 6, was born to a mother held in captivity by Boko Haram. After her mother was killed in a raid conducted by Nigerian armed forces, Fatimah was freed and reunited with her extended family. She enjoys looking at ‘Archie’ comics, hoping that one day she will go school to learn to read.

Boko Haram is a terrorist group operating in northeastern Nigeria, which is predominately Muslim. Their goal is to create an Islamic caliphate. While they began as largely peaceful, in 2009 they began a reign of terror, killing thousands and displacing 2.3 million. Boko Haram has orchestrated dozens of bombings in public spaces, including law enforcement headquarters and UN buildings. Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of women and girls, forcing them into marriage servitude; in one event in 2014, the group kidnapped 276 girls from a school dormitory in Chibok. Having radicalized many of them, Boko Haram relies on young girls to carry out more than 70% of their suicide bombings.

Governments in the region have managed to liberate many captives, but reintegration is difficult. Many are ostracized for their perceived complicity in the terrorism committed by Boko Haram. Others face challenges supporting themselves and their families, having lost years of work and educational opportunities, and having to face physical and mental health challenges.

The United Nations special rapporteurs on human rights issues noted “there is an urgent and pressing need for effective measures to address stigma, ostracism and rejection of women and children associated with Boko Haram by their families and communities. Efforts at community cohesion, peacebuilding and reconciliation must start now and accelerate as people begin to return from displacement.”