PHOTOS: ActionAid Gives IDPs From Dikwa A Reason To Smile
"Mungode, ActionAid, Mungode," the women sang and clapped, as they rejoice over the new lease of life they have been offered by ActionAid.
This comes years after they left their communities in the heat of insurgency that befell Nigeria's northeast.
Four years ago, Mariam Ali and 60 other women fled their homes in Dikwa. They had no idea when they would return or what they would do to keep themselves alive and sane.
The screams of horror and the death of loved ones have shadowed their personalities clouding their thoughts.
But these days, the voice of death are out of their heads and they can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Most of them had walked for 4 days to escape death while wallowing in the forest. It was a compulsory fasting period.
Some lost older children who refused to join the insurgents while others encountered snakes in the bush.
They had each made it to a camp after days of wondering without food or water.
Some years down the line, they now have a reason to smile and rejoice.
The excitement on their faces on Saturday has swallowed the misery they faced years ago.
They have one thing in common - they are happy they were picked by ActionAid, a non-governmental organisation, that took the responsibility of empowering them under its programme tagged; Strengthening Sexual and Reproductive Health Provision in Conflict Affected communities in northeast Nigeria (STRESPCIN).
First, it was counselling and psycho-social therapy that brought the needed mind change and then the empowerment followed.
The once Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) now have one skill at least to see them through life and the joy on their faces was infectious.
“With my machine, materials and other items I got from ActionAid, I can stand strong, face life and be able to raise money to take care of myself and other persons.
“I can also teach other women like me how to sew clothes and I am happy,” Miriam, a widow who lost her husband seven months after marriage said.
She could pass for a model with her smile of excitement, as she thanked ActionAid for sowing the seed of hope into their lives.
Aside from fashion design, other women were trained in shoe making, groundnut cake making, juice making, soap making and bedsheet making.
At the passing out ceremony held in Maiduguri, one of the facilitators at the training centre, Aisha Kida, said they received intensive training for three weeks, having at least four hours of learning period five days in a week.
Each of them got start-up tools and materials to put their skills to use immediately.
Another participant, who learnt how to make juice, Saharatu Musa, expressed joy that ActionAid gave her a reason to face life with boldness and skill.
She got a freezer, cooler and containers for her drinks. She has all it takes to start up and she is happy.
Saharatu, who lost her two sons to the insurgency, does not know where her husband is, but she says she will put all that behind and face life with renewed vigour.
"I am grateful that ActionAid assisted me with what I need to start drink production. I can make zobo juice, ginger juice and some other fruit extracts,” she told Bounce News.
Representatives from government ministries witnessed the handing over of materials: grinding machines, sewing machines, shoe making items and filing machine, stoves and other items to the women.
A representative of Dikwa Local Government Council, Shettima Dikwa, said he was overwhelmed by the decision of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and ActionAid to empower the women, emphasising that it was timely.
"We know this is a huge amount of money. We have seen our people benefit from this programme and we hope that they will be self-reliant and productive.
"We will also create an avenue to support this programme through creating a centre and employing those that they have trained to ensure they are further trained to empower others.
"I will report this to the local government to ensure we absorb this set of graduates to make sure others are trained," Mr Dikwa said.
There are 27 local government areas in Borno State and over 2 million persons are displaced in Nigeria’s northeast, most of them, women and children.
The coordinator of the ActionAid programme in Borno, Dr. Goje Mohammed, said Dikwa was selected because it is the most industrious community in Borno State prior to the invasion of Boko Haram terrorists.
"Since the community has been liberated and residents are gradually returning, we think it is wise to empower the women that would be returning any time they like.
"Women in the community are industrious and they like to contribute to the upkeep of their families and empowering them will make sure that they return with new skills that will help them organise their lives," Mr Mohammed added.
ActionAid will float other programmes in 2018 to ensure that more women are empowered to enable them cater for their children and families.