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Boko Haram Widows Suffer Stigma As They Try To Move On With The Hard Life

Hadiza Ali hopes to open a shop where she can sell the bags and shoes that she produces.

In a brand new, two-story building adjacent to a sluggish stream and low-cost housing units, dozens of women, all draped in brightly colored hijabs, listen to their teacher.

He speaks to them in a mix of Hausa and Kanuri, explaining to them how they can save money and pool it together to form a cooperative. For these women, this class is the answer to helping transform their lives.

Some of the women are wives of terrorists, members of the extremist group Boko Haram, which has ravaged northeastern Nigeria and the surrounding region since 2009. Most of the women are widows, struggling to provide for their children after their husbands were killed. Others say their husbands are in government custody.

All of them say they face stigma in their communities.

“People are afraid. Some people, because of who they think my husband was, they won’t even like to help me,” says Aisha Ali, a mother of eight children.

Seeking financial independence

Ali’s husband was killed by Nigerian security forces, and she wants to dissociate herself from Boko Haram. Like her classmates, she realizes that she needs to gain business skills because some in her neighborhood are too afraid to give her financial assistance.

Ali has been coming to the Future Prowess women’s skills training center to learn weaving. She sits, stringing thread around the needles of an old-fashioned loom. All of her financial hopes lie in mastering weaving.

“This training that I am receiving will help me and my children and, if possible, help me take them to school and end my suffering,” Ali tells VOA.

The Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School not only teaches business and artisanal skills to women, but a local nongovernmental organization also runs a school for some of their children.

“Some of them, their parents were killed in their presence,” says Suleiman Aliyu, the headmaster of the school. “First, at the beginning of any session before any enrollment we try to organize a trauma session for the new ones that will be enrolled plus their mothers.”

The school, which receives aid from donor agencies, operates on trust and confidentiality, so teachers do not disclose information about which students are the children of Boko Haram members. Students also are fed breakfast so they can concentrate in class.

posted from Bloggeroid

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