Born and raised in the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, Fatima Askira is one of the woman leaders from Nigeria who stood for the upliftment of women and for promoting peace in her community. And it was this courage that got her named as one among the other leaders in the 20 Years of Women, Peace, Power of UN Women on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325.
Askira is the founder of Borno Women Development Initiative in Nigeria. The organisation works for empowerment of girls and women. Her organisation also strives for promoting peace in communities affected by violent extremism.
For this Nigerian brave woman, life changed soon after violent clashes started to erupt in Maiduguri in the northeast Nigeria. With Boko Haram, a violent jihadi group, starting a rebellion against the Nigerian government in the 1990s, life completely changed for women like Askira.
She remembers that the attack by the rebellious group intensified when she just finished her university in 2012. On her jumping into the realm of activism, Askira says that it was the horrible situation and plight of her people that made her choose it. This brave woman says that she could not bear the horrors lashed against the people, especially women and children. She came along women who had to flee their houses and region with only what they were wearing. They left behind all their belongings. Askira went down to the places where these people were staying and could not stand the plight. And this was a beginning when she started to collect clothes for these people.
And this was only a beginning. It was here that she started the Borno Women Development Initiative in 2014. Through the NGO, Askira and her team have been focussing on empowering women to become active participants in the peace building process.
She says that some women were abducted or held hostage by the rebels and some others had joined the rebellious moment voluntarily in the belief that they are fighting for a just cause. But once in the grip of these rebellious forces, Askira says that it was difficult for them to come out. Moreover, when these women return back, the stigma that they face was beyond description. She says that her organisation worked among these women and their families to bring back the old smile in their faces.
The Nigerian leader also said that she had to face criticism for being active. She also mentioned that she had received threats for being active in the society and also allegedly for corroding traditional values.