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How Borno Women Struggle To Overcome The Travails Of Insurgency

Displaced men and women standing by the roadside at the entrance of Bakassi Internally Displaced Persons Camp, along Molai Road Maiduguri.
Photo Credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

It is 07:35 am on a Sunday morning in October. Somewhere around the Bakassi Internally Displaced Person camp, several women from different parts of Maiduguri, Borno State are waiting endlessly to get a menial job.

Some IDPs in Maiduguri are being transported to the neighbouring villages.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

One of these women is holding a hoe, walking back and forth as if contemplating whether to go back home or continue to wait for her luck on the street. She is Kaltume Ibrahim.

Thirty-year-old Kaltume, a mother of six, bought her hoe at the rate of N700 in 2020 for farming.

Kaltume Ibrahim (with red hijab) holding a hoe among her co-farmers
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

Whenever she gets hired to work on a farm, her daily wage is between N600 or N700 daily.

“I usually come out to the street every morning to look for a job (either farming or any menial work) I will go and do it to buy food for my children and if I don’t get I will go back home,” She told CAMPUS REPORTER.

But Kaltume did not get a farming offer today, and so she calmly went back home to weave caps. She sells each cap at N6,000. But it takes time to weave a cap. “All the caps I weaved took me one month and two weeks’ time to complete.”

There are several other women like Kaltume in Maiduguri struggling to make ends meet in spite of the decade-long insurgency ravaging their towns.

At the outskirts of the city are female farmers who are busy harvesting rice and groundnuts in various farmlands.

Aisha Muhammad is one of them. Though she appears exhausted when the reporter sees her, she continues working on her farm. “I grew up farming back home and have to continue farming to avert hunger, poverty and depression.

Aisha Muhammad, an IDP from Gwoza LGA, harvesting groundnuts on farmland at the outskirts of the state.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

“I have cultivated groundnuts in a plot of land which I hired at the rate of N2,000 of my own.”

Aisha said farmers do not always know the land or farm owners, but whenever they come out to the street, they can get an offer to farm for five hours, after which they get paid and fed.

Hauwa Ahmadu Kukuda, a widow, also narrated how she has been surviving through farming.

Hauwa Ahmadu Kukuda has harvested five 50KG bags of groundnuts on her four plots of farmland this season.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

According to her, survival is harder now that the government is no longer giving free food and medical supplies as they did before.

“Right now, the state government has ordered our evacuation from the camp within two months and two weeks and my biggest concern is shelter because the security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed in our ancestral homes again,” she said.

“There is nothing like freebies, enough or judicious distribution here again; you have to work to fend for your family. The only aid we get free is the insufficient ration of food supplied by NEMA and SEMA depending on the size of your family. Apart from other menial jobs, we once disinfected this camp for ten days and an undisclosed NGO paid us N27,000 each,” she added. 

Another female farmer was seen cutting raffia from nearby farmland.

“Apart from farming, weaving raffia into different sizes of the traditional tray has been what I grew up doing,” 50-year-old Falmata Bukar said.

Falmata weaves a tray in two or three days and sells it at the rate of N200 at Molai Market, but her palms bear several scars for the hard work. She said her earnings are hardly enough to get two meals per day.

Falmata Bukar weaving a raffia tray.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

Before the insurgency, Falmata’s husband and children provided food for the family but right now she fends for herself because her husband and five children have gone back to Monguno to farm.

Another woman, Falmata Abba, has been fending for herself and her five children for the past four years because her husband fled home to avoid the responsibility.

Falmata Abba (Right) pounding a mudu of maize to separate grains from the chaff.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

Falmata Abba pounds 10 to 20 mudu of maize in a day, depending on how the market is faring and gets paid N10 per mudu.

Several other women in the displaced camp have taken their destiny into their hands in a similar manner. One of them is Aisha Zakariya. For the past one year and six months, she has been waking up every day to fry and sell akara in the morning and evening at the camp.

“I always buy 3 mudu of beans at the rate of N550 each, 3 mudu of flour at the rate of N650 each, while I buy litres of groundnut oil on credit.”

From the business, she makes enough to cater to the needs of her family. She has also introduced her neighbour to the akara business. The lady, an orphan and widow, borrowed money and frying equipment and started her own business, sharing a space with Zakariya. 

Aisha Zakariya frying and selling beans cake (Akara) at Bakassi camp.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

“Proceeds from the sale of Akara is what helps me to put food on my table and sponsors the education of my eight siblings,” says Aisha. 

Amina Bukar Isa, who also sponsors her eight children’s education with the business, also fries akara to fend for herself. She started her business with the token that Senator Ali Ndume gave Gwoza IDPs during one of his visits to Gubio camp three years ago.

“I used N1,800 out of the N2,000 I got, to buy frying pan and the necessary ingredients to start the business,” she said. 

Weeks later, she used the profit to buy ten chicks at the rate of N110. She later sold the chickens and bought one goat which gave birth to six other goats making a total of seven goats. She went ahead to hire farmland for N2,000 through which she made additional income.

 “No venture is worthless,” she said.

Amina Bukar Isa feeding four of her goats’ yam peels in her tent
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

At another tent were three children and their mother, weaving caps beside a provision shop.  Singing ‘weaving caps is a blessed business,’ the woman said the money she earned from selling caps was the only source of her family’s income until the International Organization for Migration (IOM) gave her money to set up a small scale business.

Aisha Iliyasu and her three children weaving the second set of caps for the month.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

Aisha also wants her children to learn the trade in order to be independent.

There is also Zainabu Galadima. At 53, Zainabu does not enjoy good health. She has constant joint pain and heart-related ailments, but that never deterred her from pursuing a daily struggle.

She was among the 3,594 beneficiaries of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 2021 support who received business training and cash. Zainabu is a tea seller who started the business three years ago with her money and expanded it recently with the N140,000 capital the ICRC gave her.

Zainabu Galadima makes a living by selling firewood and tea.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

“I sell a cup of tea at the rate of N20, puff-puff N10 each and a bundle of firewood at the rate of N1,300 each.” Recollecting her experience at Ashigashiya in the Gwoza LGA, Zainabu lost properties worth thousands of Naira and did not know what to do or where to start after the attack.

Hajiya Fatima Abdulrahman said: “For each sack of charcoal, my gain is N200 from the initial capital of N11, 000 and N9,000 worth of food provided by Action Against Hunger under its economic development initiative.”

Fatima Abdulrahman packaging charcoal for sale in front of her raffia tent.
Photo credit: Zainab Yetunde Adam

CAMPUS REPORTER gathered that no fewer than 1.5 million people had been displaced in Borno, according to the ICRC. Many of the displaced now rely on humanitarian support from the government and non-governmental organisations.

Livelihood Support

According to Mercy Corps, market-based livelihood interventions and VSLAs in conflict settings helped to strengthen and diversify social connections, catalyse economic activity and promote psychosocial well-being. 

CAMPUS REPORTER obtained an ICRC document containing the facts and figures on humanitarian support provided to people in affected areas between January 2020 to June 2021 for the displaced and host communities of Bama, Dikwa, Damboa, Jere, Maiduguri, Monguno and Ngala LGAs in Borno. 

According to the document, cash support of N840,000 has been distributed among vulnerable, poor and displaced persons across the state.

A special grant of N1,306,080,000 has been shared among 12,264 physically challenged persons and 35,112 vulnerable women and youths. CAMPUS REPORTER has no means of verifying the distribution of this fund.

The Big Intervention

In addition to aid provided by international and local non-governmental organisations in different parts of Borno, the state government is working to curtail the hardship faced by displaced people in the state. The government has reconstructed, rehabilitated and renovated buildings in some of the recovered local government areas in preparation for the return of IDPs who are willing to return home.

Director General Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Yabawa Kolo, speaking on the resilience of IDPs of Borno in an Interview with Maiduguri TVC correspondent Jesse Tafida.

SOME EXECUTED STATE GOVERNMENT JOBS CREATION, YOUTH EMPOWERMENT & HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT PROJECT

PROJECT TITLE

STATUS

LGA

Cash support of N840,000 to vulnerable, poor and displaced persons across the state

Completed

State-wide

Special grant of N1,306,080,000 to 12,264 physically challenged persons and 35,112 vulnerable women and youths

Completed

State-wide

Construction and equipping of women training centres in Maiduguri

Completed

MMC

Source: Second Verdict (p328)

Support for this report was provided by Free Press Unlimited through the Campus Reporter Project of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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