A new beginning for an adolescent girl who survived conflict

UNICEF, with funds from the European Union and other donors, is helping adolescent survivors of the ongoing conflict in Borno rebuild their lives through vocational training and psychosocial support

Katie Rice, Child Protection Manager, Search for Common Ground Nigeria
An insurgency survivor from north-east Nigeria
Search for Common Ground Nigeria
03 July 2020

Eighteen-year-old Yagana* lives in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC), Borno State, with her parents and siblings. 

When she was thirteen years old, Yagana was forced to join a non-state armed group to protect herself and her community after receiving life-threatening messages from members of the group.

“I received messages from members of the group through my brothers, instructing me to wear the hijab or become their next target. I was frightened and remained at home for some time. I then went to my mother’s village and hid there. After three long years, I returned home, only to receive another life-threatening message. This time, I sought refuge in my cousin’s home in Jos, Plateau State, and stayed there for a year. By the time I returned home, the group was very established, so I had to join them to protect myself and my community,” she said.

Yagana swept, cooked and washed clothes for the group members. After four long years, she was finally separated from their ranks and helped through a project funded by the European Union and other donors that supports the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups with their families and communities. 

New beginnings

With support from UNICEF and partners such as Search for Common Ground, Yagana attended psychosocial support sessions focused on healing trauma and building resilience and completed an apprenticeship, which she credits with paving the way for a brighter future.

“The sessions helped reduce the frequency of the nightmares I used to have. Hearing other people share their experiences also made me feel better, because I thought I was the only one going through such experiences. I tell the same to my neighbor whenever she feels depressed, and she also feels better.”

Yagana learned how to make local perfume through an apprenticeship with a perfume maker in her community and established her own business with a seed grant she received from the project.

“I used to ask my mother for money, but now I can support myself, my mother and my orphan nieces and nephews with school fees. I am currently mentoring two of my friends and my neighbour on perfume making. I am planning to engage more of my neighbours - especially displaced people - as I grow in this business. My life has changed for the better now and I am happy.”
*Name changed to protect her identity.