Women in Yola participate in workshops for Gender Based Violence and Empowerment

Registration for the workshop

Registration for the workshop

In late November 225 women participated in 3 workshops held in the Yola area. The workshops were put on through one of our sponsored NGO’s, Women and Youth Empowerment for Advancement and Health Initiative.

 

THEME OF THE WORKSHOP:

Training/support on sexual gender-based violence against Women (SGBVAW) and Girls on the Move and Empowering Them for Better living.

Session on Gender Based Violence

Session on Gender Based Violence

Samuel Yaumande delivered a lecture on SGBVAW. He also pointed out that about 75% to 80% of refugees in the world are women and children. Girls make up 2/3 of the 130 million children who don’t attend school. 2/3 of the women in the world are illiterate. In addition, young ladies at the age of 13 – 18 years are forced to marry and give birth at a very young age.

 

Other sessions of the workshops taught on what trauma is and how it affects us. Women were also enlightened on the value of a small business enterprise. They were encouraged to form groups to help one another in their business ventures. Sessions also included record keeping and  the value of good communication/advertising.

Muslims and Christians were encouraged to participate.

Participants –  both Muslims and Christians 

One of the particapants, Lami John, appreciated the effort of WYEAHI for the great support rendered to them to enable them  to engage themselves in petty business for the sustainability of their families. Some financial assistance was given to each participant.

Fadimatu

by Markus Gamache

Markus and Janada

Markus and Janada

Wagga was taken over by Boko Haram militant group in July 2014.  Many families both Christians and Muslims were taken hostage.  Wagga had experienced kidnapping of children and women even before the Boko Haram took over the village. Some Muslims were in support of the rule of Boko Haram but they did not believe the Boko Hamam’s mode of Islamic worship. Fadimatu Garba is a Muslim lady who hailed from Uvaha in Borno State but got married to Mallam Garba Ahmadu from Madagali. They were blessed with 10 children 8 of which are still living. Fadimatu saw the butchering of her husband and two brothers right before her very eyes.

Fadimatu

                            Fadimatu

Fadimatu shared her story with me last night. She said a huge amount of money, arms and brain washing was used to initiating young men and women into the Boko Haram group.  The contract of belonging to the group is sealed when you kill your own blood i.e. father, mother, brother or best friend.  You must also organize a gang rape on your mother if you are a man before killing her. This act does not portray Islam but again they always chant Allahu’akbar for every gunshot or during a mass movement on the street.

Her whole family lived in the village under the leadership of Boko Haram. When the military took back the village, the local guards of the village (called the vigilante group) attempted to clear the village of those families that lived with the Boko Haram. Two of Fadimatu’s brother-in-laws were killed.  Other Christians and Muslims families were also killed.  (The brain behind such killings by the vigilante was not to allow men that stayed and acquired the Quran education from Boko Haram to be part of the new community. They believed that they were part of the Boko Haram militant group and they may continue to spread the ideology when people go back to those villages in order to start a new life.  Another reason may be the anger by the Christian survivors who felt betrayed and cheated by their Muslim brothers took revenge.) Right after the military and vigilante group removed those present during the occupation of the Boko Haram, the militant group came at night and attacked the village again to retaliate for the killings. This final attack by the Boko Haram caused even more harm on the village of Wagga because many people were exhausted and had no strength at all to run to safety in the nearby bush so most of their children and wives were lost (captured) to the Boko Haram.

Fadimatu Garba had been sick; she was suffering from fibroids even before the Boko Haram took over the village.  She had lived for more than a year without medical care and became very sick from additional health issues.  Being traumatized, living a stressful life without much food and without a husband to help, she decided to re-locate where she could find some help.  She left the village to locate her brother Usman who is a staff with COCIN Church.  Her hope and prayers was to meet her brother for medical treatment, she was advised by the villagers to locate me (Markus Gamache) instead.  It was believed that since I am working with a Church I must know where her brother who also worked for Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) might be.  I had never met Fadimatu or her husband in my life but she was determined to reach a place where she could get medical and psychological help. Fadimatu left Wagga on Sunday 22nd November 2015 headed for Yola – not knowing that Yola was about seven hundred kilometers away from Jos where I live.

First day in Yola.  She arrived in Yola at about 3.00pm but she had nowhere to go, no phone and she knew no person that could take care of her.  She was offered a place to sleep in the motor park under harsh weather.

During her second day in Yola, she continued looking for me.  Someone took her to a market in other to get in touch with Muslim tribal men.  She found one person who sold meat at the market to help her not knowing that he was just trying to get rid of her.  He took her to a cross road where he told her to stand and  that soon she would see her brothers passing by.

The second day, Fadimatu continued to ask people, “Where is Markus Gamache?”  Pastor Maiva from EYN Church in Yola was on his way to the mechanic garage to repair his broken car when he heard Fadimatu asking people on how to locate me in Yola instead of Jos.  So the pastor interviewed her to ascertain how genuine she was.  Pastor Maiva found out that she really needed help.  He came to her aid, found a place for her to stay overnight, paid for her food and called me.  I spoke to her via his telephone but I was at a loss  because I had no idea who she was. I agreed to allow her continue her journey to Jos.  Pastor Maiva paid for her transportation and other immediate needs. The commercial driver was kind to call me on their arrival to Jos. Pastor Maiva did not mind about her religion (Muslim) but treated her as a sheep needing a shepherd.  He knew that she was a Muslim but he followed Christ’s command to “Feed his sheep.” I went to the motor park to take her to my home and only proved I was the right person by communicating in our shared language.

First evening and night in Jos.  Fadimatu arrived in Jos at about 4.30pm on Tuesday, she arrived at my house and she met my mother where both of them were surprised to see each other after such a long time. My mother now had a Muslim sister to pray together in the house. It was another night of hearing about people that were killed during and after the attack.  Wagga village is still experiencing some secret and mysterious killings on a weekly basis.  There are no men staying overnight at the village but even during the bright day when people work on their small farms in groups there are attacks by unknown people.

Challenges in her visit. On the second day of Fadimatu’s visit in Jos, the young men that are still staying with me brought me a frightening message. They testified that Fadimatu and her husband were the first family that hid Boko Haram in the village even before the final takeover of the village by the group.  They met me with the request to please relocate her to another place because they do not think she is here for treatment or help. To the young men, Fadimatu was a suspect and they pleaded with me to please hasten the process of finding her brother and taking her away.  One among the young men suggested searching her small bag to see if she was a spy or carrying anything harmful.  As a human being I was totally heartbroken by their response. Even though I know that in a time like this it is dangerous to welcome an unknown woman with a head covering into your house, I believe in the spirit of interfaith that the church premises is a place where people could come and find peace, hope and encouragement.  I can never fully protect myself and my family but God is in ultimate control.

Fadimatu needs our prayers.  Janada, my wife, and my mother are trying their best to make her feel at home and perform her Sallah as when due and move around.  My effort to trace her brother is still on but nothing is happening toward his whereabouts.  Fadimatu went to the hospital for several days for treatment and was then admitted. She is suspected to have a cervical cancer.  She is now been referred to teaching hospital in Jos for more screening.  Up to now nobody has come to see her and she is being taken care of by Janada at our home.  We will take care of her hospital checks by tomorrow.

Conclusion: We are lucky to have found Fadimatu but there are many small children on the street without parents, widows without care and families without help.  Places like Madagali and Gwoza are still not very accessible to volunteers who want to offer first aid. Even in Yola, Mubi, Michika, Chibok, Askira, Bama and other places in Yobe and Borno people are suffering.  The Federal Government, International NGOs and Local NGOs are trying to reach to remote places but they are still not accessible. One is not free to walk or travel at night.  I personally do not know how true the reports from media and government are but by hearing from the horse’s mouth we know that there are still places that are not fully liberated from the terrors.

The Leftovers – Widows and Children

By Janet Crago

Many Nigerian widows and children are having a very difficult time adjusting to their new family situation, and “moving on” with their lives.  They’re often left feeling like “leftovers”.  But, let me explain.  Like widows in many places, they often don’t know what to do to survive, and in Nigeria, they often find themselves begging for help with their living situation and/or begging for money for the education of their remaining children.  Many of the men and boys have been killed.  Boko Haram doesn’t kidnap men.  The men are slaughtered (i.e., throats cut).  Sometimes they’ll even slaughter small boys.  They only kidnap women and children.  They’re the “leftovers” in this conflict.

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali

As I talked to Rebecca Dali, who started the non-profit organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment and Peace Initiatives), she told me that she’s recorded the names of over 10,000 widows who are the result of the Boko Haram insurgency.  Many of them are very young, and almost all of them have multiple children, with very few boys still living.  So, what are some of the problems faced by those newly widowed? —

  • Virtually all of them live in poverty, and struggle daily to have enough to eat.
  • Many have inadequate shelter.  If they’re still living in their home area, most houses have been burned.  If they’re displaced, they might need to go to a refugee camp or live with relatives.  Traditional culture in Nigeria dictates that when a man dies his property becomes the property of the deceased man’s family, so the widow often cannot go back to the house she was living in even if it is still standing.  Also, if a widow remarries, her children that were born from the marriage with her late husband now become the “property” of her deceased husband’s family.  Unfortunately, children inherited in this way are sometimes abused, treated as house servants, and get very little education.
  • If a woman manages to escape from Boko Haram and returns to her husband, she is sometimes rejected even by him.  He can refuse to allow her back into her previous home.  Even if he allows her to come back, sometimes his family will reject her and make her life miserable (i.e., she is now a “spoiled” woman!).
  • Physically, the women who manage to escape from their Boko Haram kidnappers frequently come back home savaged and very thin.  If they refused to convert to Islam, they were not allowed to eat until everyone else had their fill, which meant they very often went away hungry.  The food and supplies furnished in the Boko Haram camps were stolen from villages they’ve invaded and destroyed.  But, the women of the Boko Haram will not even share the necessary products for cleanliness, so any woman who escapes will come back very dirty.

The purpose of CCEPI is to assist women who became widows because of Boko Haram.  CCEPI helps them learn skills to be able to live on their own, and operates a livelihood center where they teach knitting, sewing, livestock farming, and computer skills.  They also have a department that assists widows who have been the target of gender based violence, an education department which assists widows and their children with school fees for the primary or secondary school of their choice, and a child protection department that takes care of orphans and displaced children.  The children are assigned a guardian who ensures that they’re taken care of.  CCEPI also has a Health department where widows can purchase common drugs.  CCEPI also teaches sanitation skills and helps to provide shelter for the shelter-less.

ZME - Women's Ministry

ZME – Women’s Ministry

But, CCEPI is not alone in these efforts.  Widows are also getting help from the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (known as the EYN).  EYN now has a Director of Women’s Ministry, Suzan Mark Zira, who has started a very important ministry for the assistance of widows.  Each DCC Secretary (District Church Council), and the Women’s Leader in that district, make a list of the widows in their district who need assistance.  When this is done, the Women’s Ministry has planned a four-step process to help them.  This four-step process is:

  1. Provide emergency relief assistance as needed
  2. Conduct Trauma Healing Workshops where needed
  3. Enable Skill Acquisition – The purpose is to enable them to earn enough money to live on their own.  The Women’s Leader in each district is first trained in how to make the following products:  liquid soap, Vaseline, room deodorizer, perfume, shampoo, Dettol (liquid antiseptic), and Izal (bleach).  She then teaches the widows in her district how to make these products.  Each are taught a different product so they don’t need to compete against each other.
  4. Provide money to start their businesses – Each widow is given just 2,000 Naira ($10) to start their business.  They are also given the first products that they will sell.  This gives each of them a start for their business.

To ensure that the money given to the women reaches its destination, the Women’s Leader from the district must sign for the money she will give to the widows in her district.  Then the individual widows must sign when they receive it from the Women’s Leader of her district.

Widows (picture courtesy of EYN)

Widows (picture courtesy of EYN)

The Women’s Ministry has also given a very important Project Management workshop.  They call the Women’s Leader, the Women’s Secretary, and the Women’s Treasurer from each district to come to a training workshop to teach them how to write reports so the Women’s Ministry can receive regular updates on what’s happening in each DCC.  They’re also being trained on accountability and transparency, leadership and mentoring, and the ministry guidelines for a woman ministering to others.

This Women’s Ministry Program was established in the last six months.  There are currently two women serving full-time in this ministry.  They’re facing the following challenges:

  • They don’t have a vehicle to transport the various ingredients they need to take to leaders who will then train others to make the products mentioned earlier.
  • They don’t have adequate staff to accomplish their goals.
  • They lack a stove for the preparation of their products.
  • They need dedicated paid Women’s Ministry staff at the DCC level.

 

Respond like the Shepherds

Shepherds Quake

Shepherds Quake

 

 

Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing
Alleluia.
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Luke 2:8-20

When I think about Christmas’s spent in Nigeria, I remember fondly the Christmas play which was performed every year. When the angel visited the shepherds, they fell down and shook violently which put new meaning to the line from Silent Night – shepherds quake at the sight.

This year I also found myself taking a look at how the shepherds responded to the message from the angels.

First, the shepherds were in the fields, doing what they did every night; watching over their sheep. But that night they had a surprise visit from an angel. When the angel spoke, they listened to the message and identified the important aspects of it. NIV Luke 2:10-12”…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Second, after hearing and identifying the message they chose to verify it for themselves. v 15-16 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Third, after verifying that the message was true, the shepherds gave their testimony to everyone they came in contact with. v 17-18 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Fourth, after testifying and telling others, they went back to their jobs giving the glory to God for all they had seen and heard. v 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

hqdefaultSo this year as we hear the familiar Christmas story let us think of responding like the shepherds. We can do this by: Identifying the message, Verifying the truth of the message, Testifying about the message (tell others), and Glorifying and Praising God for the message.

by Roxane Hill

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) December 27 – 31, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015

EYN Devotions graphicA Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions December 27 – 31, 2015

Trauma Workshops – A Story of Healing

Sharing of stories aids healing

Sharing of stories aids healing

Comfort Michael:

One of the things I found interesting about this training is the healing from grief; before the training I thought that life was meaningless to me looking at my children and the challenge of having to bring them up. I think the training was specifically organized for me.

 

Comfort was one of the participants that attended the trauma healing workshops in Mubi. As at the time we met her, she was still basking in the feeling of guilt and remorse of the experience of the attack on Mubi town. She is from Michika LGA but was married to a Margi man from Askira-uba LGA of Borno state and the union is blessed with five children namely; Adamu, 15, Ibrahim 14, Ishaku 12, Anna 7 and Chiroma the youngest was 3 and half years old. Comfort proceeded to narrate her experience in the hand of the dreaded group Boko-Haram; I am a 38 year old house wife, and my husband before the incident was lecturing with the Federal Polytechnic Mubi. On that fateful day being 29th October, 2014, we received a distressed call from my younger brother who resides in Hilde, a town about five kilometers away from Mubi that the group was nearing to engulf Mubi a night before. On hearing that, I now intimated my husband about a likely impending attack on Mubi, and sought her husband consent on the necessity of relocating to Yola since we have witnessed a mass exodus of people to safer haven. I tried to persuade my husband to leave, but he was reluctant, and rebuked me of spreading rumor.

Until when it became clear to us that Mararaba was under siege that night and people in Mubi were already scrambling to other zones for safety. After, several attempts to assuage him to start moving, he finally agreed to my proposition but that last conformity could be seeing to be too little and too late.

We finally set out of Mubi; My husband, one of his younger brothers with us, my five children, my younger sister and a student of the Federal Polytechnic Mubi who we opted to help. Incidentally, after a two kilometers drive within Mubi we failed into the hands of this group of improbable youth on motor-bikes, which at first did not appear to us as members of the Boko-Haram, with guns and machetes and were looking infuriated. As they approach us, they stopped the cars we were driving in and inquired to know about our identity. My husband responded to them that he is a lecturer with the Federal Polytechnic Mubi and with him were members of his family.

They practically ordered the men out and tied their hands to their back and laid them just a few meters away from where we parked. I remember the only thing I overheard them discussion with my husband was that you are running away to leave us with who to have supremacy over; they told him it is their type they are looking for.

Trauma is like walking with a stone in your shoe

Trauma is like walking with a stone in your shoe

This conversation was short lived, when all of a sudden I heard some gun shots targeted directly on them and looking out I saw my husband, his younger brother and the student shot dead. Seeing that, I became apprehensive and wanted to come out of the car, but my sister would not allow me, she kept cautioning me to remain in the car for fear of turning their guns on my children, but I cried profusely. I and the children were taken captives in a building with others numbering about three hundred women and children and were tightly guided by some armed girls.

In that building we do the cooking from what they supply us possibly from part of the looting. They also had severally tried to compel us to Islam, but we remained adamant, even though there were people among us who were willing to mortgage their faith, to be converted to Islam. At some point, the  girls guiding us kept urging us to read our Bible perhaps God would make them have a change of heart to free us; they were encouraging us not to disobey certain house rules, and forewarned that anybody who does that will be met with strict penalty. They confessed that they were tied of killing and that their hands were stained with blood.

It was on that account that one of the hostages held alongside with us a student with the Federal Polytechnic Mubi, sent a text message to a relation of hers, an officer with the Nigeria Air force, indicating the premise and in detail the nature of the attack, after being held for about a week in that building. The building was struck by the Nigeria Air force fighter jet targeted on the insurgents gathered outside and some of the few people with them killing seventeen of them. But fortunately for us, we found an opening through a glass narrow window where we escaped with my children and treked for a whole day a distance of about seventeen kilometers to Malanda en route to Gashala.

Unity circle - we are all in this together

Unity circle – we are all in this together

One of the things I found interesting about this training is the healing from grief; before the training I thought that life was meaningless to me looking at my children and the challenge of having to bring them up. I think the training was specifically organized for me.

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) December 20 – 26, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015

EYN Devotions graphicA Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions December 20-26, 2015

Education Must Continue Initiative is changing the statistics

Logo for EMCI

Logo for EMCI

Education for children in Northeast Nigeria has suffered immensely. Here is a description of the problems from an article in International Business Times.

Destroying Nigeria’s Children – Before Boko Haram launched its brutal insurgency in northeast Nigeria six years ago, the region recorded the lowest school enrollment rate in the country, especially for girls, as well as the lowest level of literacy and highest incidence of poverty. The insurgency has exacerbated the situation. Over half a million children in northeast Nigeria have had to flee to safety in the past five months, bringing the total number of displaced children in the conflict-torn region to 1.4 million, the United Nations said in September. More than 208,000 of them are not in school.

But the NGO, Education Must Continue Initiative, refuses to let these statistics stand. They are working hard to get the children back in schools. Here are some pictures(by Jay Wittmeyer and Roy Winter) from a recent visit to one of their temporary school in Yola.

Makeshift classrooms

Makeshift classrooms

Teachers at the Yola temporary school

Teachers at the Yola temporary school

School in a tent donated by Unicef

School in a tent donated by Unicef

More tentative classes

More temporary classes

Advocating for Change Through a Soup Kitchen

On an average day, I spend my time in an office—sending emails, reading updates about relevant hunger-focused legislation, and planning the future of Going to the Garden, but some days give me the opportunity to have firsthand experiences that overlap with my work. The Office of Public Witness is based out of the Washington City Church of the Brethren, and the Brethren Nutrition Program soup kitchen is also located in the church, and that means that I am sometimes called on to help in the kitchen on busy days or if the kitchen needs more  on volunteers.

Earlier this week, the kitchen was in short supply on volunteers, so I was asked to help cook, serve, and clean up lunch. In my work, it’s easy to get caught up on the statistics surrounding hunger. I know that 1 in 6 Americans face hunger and that nearly 46 million people receive SNAP benefits, and I know that low-income communities of color are more likely to face food insecurity than any other population in the United States. However, knowing all of these facts is still not enough to get the full picture of how hunger affects our society. Volunteering in the soup kitchen gives me the opportunity to see the faces of hunger.

By serving and eating with the guests, I’m able to hear people’s stories of how they’ve come to be at the soup kitchen. I met the older adult couple who eat their lunch at the kitchen in order to save money to pay their other expenses. I met the guest-turned-volunteer who still eats at the kitchen but who also regularly helps with meal preparation and cleanup as a way to give back. I met some who are just temporarily down on their luck and others who are facing insurmountable odds that are keeping them in systemic poverty.

Often, it is easy to think that going on visits to Capitol Hill to share our faith values with lawmakers does enough by asking for their support for legislation that bolsters hunger programs like SNAP. This work certainly is invaluable, but being able to put our faith and beliefs into service is an equally important part of the equation. By working in a soup kitchen, even for a day, it is possible to become more connected to our cause.

In Christ’s Peace,

Katie Furrow
Food, Hunger, and Gardening Associate
Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness and
Global Food Crisis Fund

 

Devotions (EYN Daily Link) December 13 – 19, 2015

DAILY LINK WITH GOD 2015

EYN Devotions graphicA Daily Devotional Guide from the
EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

EYN leaders in Nigeria believe prayer is one of the most important ways to support the Nigerian people and the Church.  These daily devotions were written by EYN members and published by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Reading them daily is a powerful way we can be in solidarity and connect with our brothers and sisters caught in this crisis.  EYN’s daily devotional for 2015 will be posted a week at a time on this blog, appearing mid-week for the following week. More information about the crisis can be found at www.nigeriacrisis.org.

Click on this link for Devotions December 13 – 19, 2015