Fatima Adamu* was abducted by Boko Haram when her entire village in Yobe, Nigeria was attacked. She and many other women and their children were carted away in vehicles to an undisclosed location. Fatima lived in captivity for almost a decade until she got her freedom in 2021.

Hedayah, together with Neem Institute, are supporting families to prevent and counter violent extremism. Through its flagship program, the organizations are giving civil society organizations and community leaders’ the right knowledge and skills to positively support survivors like Fatima and empower families in supporting rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.

“Hedayah and Neem taught my family about forgiveness and the need to let go of the past, reminding them that what I went through was not my fault. Gradually, they began to open up. I am really grateful to God that my life is back to normal, I don’t have sleepless nights, intense fear and anger anymore and I am a happier person, despite all the things I went through."
“My life used to be very normal. I used to knit traditional caps and do farming to support my three children.Then Boko Haram came - they took everyone, mostly women and children.
I asked why they were taking us. I was met with complete silence. After hours of travelling into the bush, we were kept for years. We had hardly any food or water. I wore the same clothes for years without being able to wash myself."

The prolonged presence of Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) presents a significant challenge to Northeast Nigeria. Communities face consistent threats to local security and many families have members who are vulnerable to abduction and radicalization leading to violent extremism.

Fatima and her three children finally reclaimed their freedom when they managed to escape from where they were kept. When Fatima finally returned home, she couldn't understand why everyone was running away from her. People were visibly scared. She was ostracized and stigmatized. Fatima and her children were made to live in isolation.

“When we made it to a main road, people were avoiding us because we came from the bush. They must have thought we were mad.
When I finally arrived home, it was so bad that I had my own separate plate for food. My family would slide a plate into my room like a wild animal that was being fed, just so that they could avoid contact with me.”

Many women who return from captivity are stigmatized and ostracized by their community and even sometimes their own family - like Fatima. They are seen to be 'impure' and dangerous. These misconceptions can deepen the trauma that the survivors are already experiencing. This is why Hedayah and Neem’s program has been instrumental to the reintegration of Fatima into her family and community. Today, Fatima is much happier and her children have returned back to school

I plead with families of other survivors to be patient, it is often not their fault that they act the way they do. With love and patience, these survivors can get back to their normal self.”

Interested in learning more about our families programs in Nigeria and Indonesia? Visit our website here.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.