Global Resources

Consequences of Boko Haram terrorism on women in Northern Nigeria

Author: A. Osita-Njoku, P. Chikere
Publisher: Applied Research Journal
Publication Date: May 2015

Throughout the 20th century, terrorism was largely limited to regional and national boundaries, and predominantly based on revolutionary nationalism in the fight against colonial powers. However, since the attacks in the United States in 2001 by Al Qaeda, smaller terrorist groups have been emboldened to strike far and wide, and to use terroristic tactics in waging bloody and asymmetrical warfare in numerous countries. In Nigeria, 2001 was also the year which saw the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency which targeted what they saw as the “evil” of western education, including the education of girls.

This paper, published in the Applied Research Journal, is primarily concerned with examining the consequences of Boko Haram terrorism on women, using a qualitative and explanatory framework which begins by defining the key concept – terrorism – as being asymmetric political conflict designed to induce terror and fear through violent victimisation and destruction of non-combatant targets. The origins and causes Boko Haram's emergence are then discussed, including a brief history going back to the 1990's, with causes including poverty, unemployment, and the influence of radical jihadists around the world.

Next the paper identifies and discusses the key consequences of Boko Haram terrorism on women in Nigeria, namely: the abduction of women and girls; the arbitrary arrest of women by government security agents; the use of women for labour to support Boko Haram activities; inflicting collective terror on women through kidnap, violence, rape, and forced marriages; denying women and girls education, and instead marrying young women off in their teens; and a livelihood crisis as women in northern Nigeria stop farming the land and go into hiding for fear of attack, and movement restrictions and emergency rule hamper economic activity.

The paper makes a number of recommendations aimed at both government and religious institutions and leaders.

  • The government should make youth education a priority, as this is the major tool to break the cycle of poverty in the northern region of Nigeria.

  • Government security agents should be properly trained and equipped to provide security in communities, and especially to vulnerable women and girls.

  • There should be round-the-clock security in schools to protect school girls from abduction, rape and forced marriage by the Boko Haram terrorist group.

  • Community policing should be strengthened to provide public safety, and communities should be involved by the security apparatus in the fight against Boko Haram.

  • Collaboration between the Nigeria government and the international communities, especially with Nigeria's neighbouring countries (Chad, Cameroon and Niger), is required in the fight against Boko Haram.

  • Strong political will is needed by the Nigerian government to fight the corruption which has impeded the fight against Boko Haram.

  • Islamic clerics should propagate the message of peace and respect for women’s right in their communities, with sanctions against religious clerics that incite violence against women or any minority religious group.

  • The government should collaborate with international donor agencies to provide cash transfer grants to assist mothers in ensuring their children, especially girls, stay or return to school.