Empowering Women One Step at a Time
October 19, 2023
In the heart of Gujba local government in Yobe State, Maimuna is seen as a symbol of hope and resilience. With unwavering strength and courage, she leads a healing and survivor's group, providing solace and support to women who were once associated with combatants but have now returned home to rebuild their lives.
The stigma that clings to women formerly associated with ex-combatants is pervasive and stifling. Most of them are often abandoned by their own families and shunned by their communities due to perceived fear that they might bring more violence into the community. Maimuna, however, couldn't stand idle; she decided to extend a hand and help these women find a better path in life.
Maimuna explains, "Most of these women were forcibly taken during the crisis and coerced into serving as nurses, cooks, sex workers, messengers, and even spies for these groups." When they muster the courage to return home, they are met with rejection and discrimination due to this lingering stigma.
In many reintegration initiatives worldwide, women formerly affiliated with combatants are often overlooked, and their unique needs often ignored. Maimuna recognized this gap and initiated a survivor's group three years ago to aid women willing to reintegrate into the community. She embraced them as sisters and worked tirelessly to garner support from community members. The significance of such a group cannot be overstated, as it sets a powerful example of acceptance, encouraging others to return home.
Maimuna firmly believes that the first step in helping these women reintegrate is providing them with livelihood opportunities, thereby alleviating the burden they might otherwise place on the community.
"Having closely interacted with these women over the years, I have identified their primary challenge: the lack of a stable source of income. Few are willing to employ them, which could potentially force them back into their previous circumstances where they felt a sense of acceptance and care".
To address this inclusion challenge, Maimuna met with the Community Stabilization Committee, established through the UNDP Regional Stabilization Committee, advocating for the inclusion of these women in livelihood interventions. For the first time in the community's history, these women received livelihood support, including cash grants, livestock, and fishery equipment, empowering them to establish businesses and earn a sustainable income.
Leading a group dedicated to such a noble cause comes with its own set of challenges, yet Maimuna's unwavering resolve remains unshaken. She remains committed to ensuring that these women lead dignified lives.
"I receive death threats every day, and three women who worked with me have been abducted. But these challenges won't stop me from assisting these women. I will keep on fighting to ensure that they live with dignity." Getting them to be beneficiaries of the livelihood support initiatives is only the first step.
Currently, Maimuna's group comprises 87 women, and numerous others are reaching out to her team, seeking support for their return as inspired by her impact.UNDP works closely with local reintegration groups like Maimuna's to support women in returning home. This collaboration extends to supporting receiving communities through initiatives focused on community preparedness and fostering the essential promotion of destigmatizing returning persons.
In Maimuna's relentless efforts, we see a great example of how one woman can make a profound difference, holding the hands of others, one step at a time, toward a more inclusive future.
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