A journey from sorrow to joy

*Habiba* (not real name) and her family enjoyed a peaceful life in their village in the northeast of Nigeria till one day, their world was turned upside down. Their village was attacked by a Non-State Armed Group (NSAG) and Habiba was abducted alongside two other girls from her village. She was only 15 years old.

During her captivity, she was treated like a slave and forced to plough the fields under the threat of a gun. After three months of captivity, the minor was married to a fighter from the armed group. She was informed of this forceful arrangement on the day of the wedding

I was told one morning that my wedding had just been celebrated and that is when I was introduced to my husband. I resisted with all my force, but I was beaten. Soon after, a child was born out of this forced union. Those were years of extreme sorrow


After 4 years of captivity, Habiba was rescued in April 2021 and sent to a reintegration center.

“To leave captivity was coming back to life. Through discussion groups, I shared my experience with other young women who had been through the same thing. Little by little I was getting better”. Habiba benefited from Mental Health and Psychosocial Support through one-on-one sessions and discussion groups. Over the weeks, she learned to put words to her suffering and gradually heal her wounds through counseling.

Habiba was soon enrolled in social and economic support services at the Bulumkutu Interim Care Transit Centre (BICC). The Center is supported by UNICEF, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the European Union Support for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Former Armed Non-State Combatant and Boko Haram Associates (S2R) project. Equipped with a school, medical facility, and vocational training center, the BICC offers educational, psychosocial, and vocational skills support to children and women formerly associated with armed groups. Habiba enrolled in these programs.

The 19-year-old chose to learn tailoring as part of the skills program. ‘’Design and fashion have always been my passion. So, when I was asked to choose a skill, I didn’t hesitate for a second”, she said.  She went through 6 months of training.

Meanwhile, the social workers were aiming to retrace her family. While in captivity, Habiba had heard rumors that her father had been killed. But she hoped to see her mother and brothers again.  The search lasted 7 months, an unbearable wait. And then, the good news came. Her parents were traced to a displacement camp nearby. And yes, her father was alive and well.  Habiba was so happy to hear the news, she couldn’t believe her ears. A few days later, social workers took her back to her parents.

My tears wouldn’t stop flowing when I laid eyes on my mother. I never thought I would see her again and hold her in my arms. It was the most emotional day of my life

In April 2023, Habiba graduated and received a start-up kit which is distributed to all who complete these vocational trainings to enable them to start their businesses. The aim is to provide them with an income and ensure their financial independence. On receiving her kit, Habiba went straight into business.  She set about building up her clientele. Childhood friends, family, and neighbors started asking for her services, and now Habiba is gradually hoping to expand. “More and more people in my community are requesting my services. I am confident that the numbers of my customers will gradually increase’’. Her determination seems unshakeable.

Habiba is dreaming of a bright future for her 4-year-old son. “I love my child, and I dream of a bright future for him through education. I hope that with my income, I can send him to school and make sure he gets a good education”.

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