“It was forbidden for a woman to even look outside”
I have seven children and they are all here in Pulka outside the camp. The others are with my husband while I’m here with this sick one. We are from Pulka town. My parents and siblings are now in Abuja, and are all alive. Before then, we lived with Boko Haram in Pulka for two months but the two months felt longer. We wanted to leave but we couldn’t, as they were everywhere in the town. They didn’t want to see women outside. You couldn’t go to farm, to the stream to fetch water or to the market. All these were duties for men. It was forbidden for a woman to even look outside. If you had to go out, you were required to wear a full niqab, which was not comfortable because of the heat.
Boko Haram had this big compound where they locked women up in cells for breaking any of these laws. There was no toilet or bathroom there and nobody was allowed to give you food. The women had to defecate and urinate inside their cell and the only way to escape was by climbing over a wall with the help of an inmate. When military planes started bombing the town, we fled to Shokshe and stayed there for 20 days before going to Cameroon. We only stayed in Cameroon for 15 days before returning to Pulka and we have been here since. I cannot explain how we survived but I know that there were days we slept hungry.
“Those who refused were killed”
I had two children but one was killed by Boko Haram and the other one is in Maiduguri. I came to Pulka three weeks ago and live with my sister in this camp. Back home, I was able to farm a few beans, groundnuts and guinea corn but when Boko Haram came, they took everything. They would come in the morning and leave in the evening and we hid in the mountains nearby. I depended on some children in our village to help me get to the mountain as I am eighty years old. Even though they were not after women and little children, everybody would run to the mountain or the bush. They were interested in getting the young to join. They wanted them to join them but those who refused were killed.
On the mountain, we survived on fruit we found there, and whenever Boko Haram left we would go to look for water. Also, we hid some groundnuts in the ground, so when we came down, we would dig some out and fill our pockets, then hurry back up the mountain. Sometimes when there was nobody to help me climb the mountain, so I would hide under my bed and, fortunately, they did not look there because they thought everybody had run to the mountain. We lived like this for three years before the soldiers came to the village. When I was sure it was them, I came out from under the bed and they put me in their vehicle and brought me here. The soldiers decided to burn the whole village so that Boko Haram would not live there.