Uprooted; An NGO’s concern about the untold resilience of women in conflict
Halima Bukar spoke with suppressed emotions as she relayed her terrifying escape experience when Boko Haram insurgents attacked her community, Bama in Borno state, some years back.
“We spent three days looking for our children as we escaped from Bama…when see dead bodies we stopped to check if they are our children, but we will see they are not”, said Halima.
Halima, 40 years old was narrating her ordeals of two years back to a filming crew of PAGED Initiative, a media-biased budding Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that tries to explore the survival instinct and resilience of Boko Haram victims.
Bintu Tijjani was 47 years old when Boko Haram attacked Bama. She is now 50. She spoke about how she had found a new life in her displacement as she eke out a living selling iced water and soft drinks from the deep freezer she was able to acquire through petty trading.
Though happy for being a survivor of the attack on Bama three years ago, Mrs tijjani still recalls her ordeal after spending days in the bush trying to escape to Maiduguri.
“We spent 15 days without eating or drinking while looking for our children”, she told the ‘Uprooted’ crew. “We will cross rivers, go to one village and they will tell us that if you go to that village there are children there. We will go there and discovered they are not there”.
Both Halima and Bintu said it was by the grace of God that they later reunited with their children in Maiduguri. But many others could not reunite with either husbands or their kids.
Now patching up with her husband and kids in a rented single room apartment in shanty suburbs of Maiduguri, Halima said she was happy that she could still live a normal life and even do little business to help her husband in getting the kids in school and providing for the family.
The High definition of the video beamed on a projector screen did not help in concealing telltales of pains and anguished that the women passed through after Boko Haram conflict had dislodged their former peaceful life.
This is the kind of story that we want to use the ‘Uprooted’ project to tell”, said Ummi Bukar, who is the managing director of PAGED Initiative.
“The stories different from the usual negative reports about people in displacement and lack; the one that talks about the resilience of the survivor beyond the conflict to silver-lining”.
“The dominant perception of the survivors of the conflict, fuelled by current reportage, is as victims, rather than a actors possessing agency - a narrative/ perception that does them more harm than good”.
Miss Bukar spoke at the launch of the ‘Uprooted; Yet Surviving’ a video documentary telling the stories of how Boko Haram displaced women are managing to piece together their shattered lives.
She said the Uprooted; yet surviving project appreciates the female resilience amidst the raging conflict and strife in the northeast region.
She said the project tries to look at how women and girls manage to eke out a livelihood through “decision making power”, which are some of the alien qualities they suddenly acquired amidst their state of displacement and lack.
“The project aims to restore their (women and girls) dignity/pride in living by producing a film to be used for sensitisation and advocacy purposes”, she said.
The 20 minutes video, which is a ground tester to a proposed one hour full documentary to be developed later on, was watched by a creme of civil society actors and journalists who gathered in a mini hall at Barwee Hotel Maiduguri.
The launched film was actually not a premiere. It was only test-produced with a view to engender possible critique of the work for further editing and improvement.
Miss Bukar said PAGED Initiative would rely heavily on suggestions made by previewers to develop a full documentary.
Chief of the Civil Society Network in Borno state, Ambassador Ahmed Shehu, said the UPROOTED project of PAGED Initiative was quite novel as it comes as the first that was ever attempted by a local Nigerian NGO.
|Miss Bukar, M.D PAGED Initiative|
Professor Patricia Donli, said the NGO deserved the loudest accolade for coming with an initiative that tries to tell the story from the point of view of resilient women.
The 20 minutes film tells the stories of about four different female characters all with remarkable tales of how they were able to carry on despite the gory experiences that they have passed through.
Previewers at the launch event all agreed that “Uprooted” tells a realistic story of what women and girls are going through in the cause of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict.
The Boko Haram conflict has displaced nearly 4 million people within the North East subregion of Nigeria. Majority of the displacements are from Borno state. Women and children form the largest percentage of those affected by the conflict.
Since 2009 that the war erupted, more than 20, 000 lives were lost on both sides of the conflict.
|A Graphic Time Line of Disappearing Lake Chad|
Experts blame the Boko Haram conflict chiefly on poverty, illiteracy and lack of jobs amongst the millions of people around the dried Lake Chad. Lake Chad has today shrunken by 95 percent from its pre-1960 size of over 20, 000 square km. This massive loss of water has left million of people from the riparian communities of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon who depended on it for survival, in stiff competition over the scarce resource of the dried Lake.