On April 14, 2014, 276 girls ages 16-18 were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents from their school in Chibok, Borno State. Fifty-seven of them courageously escaped on their own. Zero has been rescued and 219 remain in the hands of the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation whose members force grown men to swallow bullets for breakfast and utilise women as detonating weapons of war. April 14, 2016 marked two years in captivity. Yet, #HopeEndures.
I am an attorney and the Founder/Executive Director of Pathfinders Justice Initiative, Inc. (www.pathfindersji.org), an international NGO which seeks justice and provides rehabilitation for survivors of child sex abuse, rape and sex trafficking in the developing world (primarily in West Africa). I am also an activist and an organiser for #BringBackOurGirls, the global movement demanding the rescue and rehabilitation of the Chibok Girls of Nigeria. I am Nigerian. I am a mother.
Over the last week (April 4-9, 2016), I had the honour of walking with the families of three of the abducted Chibok Girls in an effort to document their lives over the last two years without their daughters. I am honoured that they have trusted me with their truth. The result is this photo essay entitled, “Letters to Our Daughters: #HopeEndures”. It is comprised of photographs reflecting the hollow reality of life for mothers Esther Yakubu, Rebecca Samuel and Martha Enoch without their daughters, Dorcas, Sarah and Monica. The excerpts are captured below:
Letter from Martha Enoch to her daughter, Monica Enoch
Life has been difficult without you these last two years. My life is in discomfort and I have been living with hypertension since they stole you from me on April 14, 2014. We miss you whenever we remember the role that you played in our family, especially your sisters. You were so kind and so special because you touched the lives of everyone that met you. Our prayers have never ended for you and we still sing your favorite choruses that you would sing in church. We sing them every morning and every evening in Hausa and we remember your voice. I always end up in tears. I wanted you to be a doctor and in fact, we have nicknamed [our other daughter] ‘doctor’ because of you. Your father had a dream where he saw you walking up a ladder to heaven. My hope is that I will see you here on earth again but if I do not, I know you are in heaven. Please serve God faithfully and I pray that God brings you back to me. I miss you, my daughter.
From your mum, Martha Enoch.
Letter from Rebecca Samuel to her Daughter, Sarah Samuel
You were only eighteen at the time of your abduction. By now you would be twenty years; that means it’s been two years since you were taken from me. I am suffering, I am bitter, I cry every time and I am praying and fasting. Many things are hard and we are just managing life. I know and believe in God that if there is still life, one day we will see you again. People say that the [abduction] is a lie, but it is true. I want to tell them that if it were their children, how would they feel? The 219 children have not returned since then. If not because of God’s grace, we all would have died. Some of us [parents] got hypertension, while others got different illnesses because we were thinking about our abducted children. If you were dead, we would have cried and been able to move on. But we do not know if you are still alive or dead. That is why we are worried. I cry and my heart is bitter every night. I am praying that if you are alive, God should rescue you. I believe God will save you. As your mother, I am begging God for you to continue praying wherever you are. I want to tell you to be strong and continue praying. I lost everything, I lost everything when I lost you.
From your mother, Rebecca.
Letter from Esther Yakubu to her Daughter, Dorcas Yakubu
April 14, 2016
It has been long I heard from you. How are you and your friends, wherever you are? Hoping that you are doing better, or managing life, and I know that the angel of the Lord Almighty is with you, and He will continue to be with you wherever you are. You don’t know – you don’t have any idea of the plans I have been planning for you all this while. From birth, I’ve been planning for you, your life, your education, your health, before you were kidnapped. Before marriage, I wanted you to go to the university, because I have not been there. My hope is that you will be a fashion designer as a woman. I had even bought a sewing machine for you, and a travelling bag, and some set of clothes. But up till now, for two years, I have not seen or heard anything from you. But I would like to advise you, wherever you are, please be strong in the Lord and He will see you through. I know I miss you, but I have the heart and I have the hope that one day I will see you again. I believe that one day I will fulfill my promise to you, and I will see you again, and my happiness, my joy, my life will be complete with you and I will be a happy mother again. The Lord is your strength and I have that hope in me that I will see you again and I will rejoice in the Lord Almighty.
From your mum, Esther Yakubu