The Current

Former Boko Haram captives need help with reintegration, says advocate

The world chanted "Bring Back Our Girls" when Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. This weekend, 82 of them were released.
The 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls arrived in Nigeria's capital, May 7, 2017, as anxious families awaited for an official list of names hoping to be reunited. (Olamikan Gbemiga/Associated Press)

Three years after the "Bring Back Our Girls" movement hit the mainstream, more than half of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped are now free.

On May 6, 82 Nigerian girls and young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists were released.

The abduction of 276 female secondary school students in Chibok took place in April 2014. Some girls escaped on their own during the abduction, and another 21 were released last October.

There are still 113 young women in the hands of the militant organization.

The newly released girls have not reunited with their families, says Manasseh Allen, a strategic team member of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group.

"We are waiting for the government to call the parents over for the reunion service," Allen tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. He has three cousins who have been released.

Related: 82 Chibok girls are free of kidnappers, but still not home

The government was issued a reunification template created by Bring Back Our Girls "to avoid mixing up the names of the 82 as it has happened with the 21 [who were released in October]."

On May 6, 82 Chibok girls were freed from Boko Haram captivity. One who was kidnapped in 2014 chose to stay with her husband, a government spokesman said. (Sunday Alamba/Associated Press)

Allen says the group has urged the government to open up the process of rehabilitation to professionals and international NGOs who are ready to help "in a manner that is globally accepted." 

"Because keeping them away, or in a locked facility, where education is taken to them is not something we would encourage."

Bukky Shonibare works with internally displaced people in Nigeria, as well as with those who have been abducted. She tells Tremonti there are many challenges the girls will face now they are released back into society, starting with coping with the trauma they endured.

"They had to go through life from their abduction to being sexually molested to being used as sex slaves to being used as war shields," Shonibare explains.

Beyond terrible physically injuries, pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, there's also the psychological torture that comes with being abducted.

"Having to get used to bomb blasts, watching people killed in front of you, people being shot in front of you makes it quite difficult for these girls and women to become adjusted to the society," she says.

A group of 82 Chibok girls, who were held captive for three years by Islamist militants, wait to be released in exchange for several militant commanders, near Kumshe, Nigeria, May 6, 2017. (Zanah Mustapha/Reuters)

"But the most difficult part of it for me, based on my work … is the fact that the stigmatization they get from the people that are supposed to provide love, care, attention, empathy for them."

She says sometimes girls feel safer with their abductors rather than facing the stigma back home.

Shonibare, who is also the co-ordinator of the Adopt-A-Camp program at The Light Foundation, says the group does what they can to help these girls by providing health care and psychologists.

"We have realized that education has become a very important tool not just in helping these people, not just preventing them from being radicalized, but also helping them get a culture back into the society," she says.

"But still the big work of the rehabilitation, reintegration and re-socialization that ... should be done by the federal government of Nigeria."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this post, including how American University of Nigeria helps girls released by Boko Haram.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.