Women of Kawar Maila community in the Maiduguri metropolis have decried their being labelled by the residents of neighbouring towns in the state capital as “Boko Haram wives.” The Executive Director, Herwa Community Development Initiatives, Dr. Mohammed Hassan, made this known while speaking during a sensitisation programme organised by the International Civil Advocacy Network (ICAN). Hassan said it had therefore become imperative to foster understanding amongst the various communities in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. He said that with such a perception, the residents of the neighbouring communities had been weary in their dealings with the people of Kawar Maila who they still saw as being sympathetic to the cause of the militant sect. Kawar Maila was believed to be the stronghold of the Boko Haram fighters during the notorious reign of the sect in Maiduguri, before the military drove them out of the city. Many of the men in the community, believed to have initially formed the bulk of the Boko Haram fighters, were also said to have been killed during the various confrontations with the security agencies and the military.
With the return of relative peace to Maiduguri, residents of some communities around Kawar Maila are believed to have continued to avoid any form of relationship with the women because of the belief that most of their men still maintain some connection with the insurgent group.
“Many of the men who formed the bulk of the insurgents had died during battle”
Hassan however assured that his group had been making efforts to change the wrong perception about the people of that community where most of the members of the sect who began the insurgency once lived.
Speaking on the topic, “Facilitating the Social Norms and Realignment in Kawar Maila”, he stated that ICAN had been trying to reduce the stigma against the women so that the whole communities could reunite.
Hassan added, “The communities surrounding Kawar Maila are not ready to accept them as a result of the fact that incessant attacks by insurgents happen in a particular ward there, thereby leading to stigmatisation. Many people stigmatise the residents because so many insurgents originated from the area. In fact, the women and their children from this community are summarily rejected, despite the fact that many of them have lost their husbands, fathers and children as a result of the insurgency.
“We have trained and empowered 100 widows, 60 lost their husbands, 40 of them lost their parents. I believe this training will really assist them to provide food for their children. We gave school uniforms to the schoolage children because their mothers could not afford to make uniforms for them.”
One of the affected women, 29-year-old Fanta Babagana, narrated briefly how her husband and two of her brothers were killed in 2013 during one of the incessant attacks in the area.
Another victim of the alleged stigmatisation, Ya’gana Abba, commended the efforts of ICAN towards reuniting them with the people of the other surrounding communities.