‘How my business and I survived Boko Haram after I lost my husband’ – Amina


Usman Mohammed, Abdulhamid Al-Gazali

When Madam Amina Kashim Muhib opened her little tailoring shop in Kofa Biyu, Maiduguri, in 1998, she had no idea it's going to be her 'second man'--her 'second husband'. Unceremoniously, her husband, like hundreds of the widows in Borno, were among the earliest victims of an ungodly cause, the Boko Haram Terrorism.

On November 4, 2011, full of joy that her husband was going to knock at the door any moment, and give her a long-awaited 'I-am-back' hug, following a long journey, she got one, an eternally enduring one from death! The phone call she thought was from her husband was actually from a stranger who did all he could to break down a happy, keenly anticipating mood. 'It was the death of my husband', she struggled to say.

Her husband, Muhib Lawal, an electrician, was killed in the first attack that occurred in Damaturu, Yobe state. Lawal was killed on his way back to Maiduguri from Abuja to meet his family—his wife and four kids when he 'met his exit time'.

The sudden exit has left his family, yet again, in the hands of a society almost subdued and taken over by the very people to whom he was a victim. Kofa Biyu, previously locally known as Lawaran, meaning 'of Wednesdays' because of a weekly market activity taking place there on Wednesdays, was where she lived and her shop, her next man, stands.

At the peak of Boko Haram's reign of terror in Maiduguri, this densely populated community full of life and vigor, was converted into the operational headquarters of the insurgents who killed her husband. This simply means that everything was taken over by the insurgents—businesses, mosques, joints. All innocent people had to flee the area—it was actually, the beginning of internal displacement in Borno, Nigeria.

Madam, as was her husband, also lost her, then, twelve-year old shop to them as did every innocent person running a business.

However, she 'didn't lose the battle', she said. 'The battle is for my orphaned children, I know in the situation I have to stand up for them and I can't lose it', she said.

'I was bruised, but I could not just give up knowing that I have to feed, educate, train and make these children happy, no matter the odds so that nobody misleads them into a similar cause', she continued.

'I moved my sawing machine inside my house where I rented, to make it my new shop' was her response to the daunting challenge of losing-it-all. For close to two years, 'between 2012 and 13, this shop was closed', lamenting on the situation, she stressed.

'Those of us who survived till this day, despite the challenges, still count ourselves lucky because many could not make it--some were killed, some starved to death and others almost permanently displaced or disabled', she added.

Amina, 38, originally a Yoruba from Ogun state, was born and brought up in Maiduguri.

In her 10 by 12 feet, scarcely painted shop, Amina said she has 'trained not less than 40 women in the last 15 years'.

Mrs. Harira Modu, an internally displaced person from Gwom, a village in Mafa local government of Borno, who is being trained by Amina, along with three others, spoke of her a yearlong training, noting that, 'apart from the training, in the situation, the whole stay here is inspiring and reassuring'.

Amina has not only proven to be a man for her children, she's gone overboard.

She has understood, as a widow, 'the trouble women who lost their men or of low income, go through', and as such, took to 'support and help other victims to stand up for themselves and families'.

Two displaced persons, Aisha and Harira, victims of the same cause, besides Ronke and Hauwa, are being trained.

'In the future, I have plans for expansion. I intend to establish a tailoring school where we'll train and certify more people, I am not okay with just few people', Amina spoke of her determination.

'Our husbands who do not yet have tangible jobs to do since we moved here, sometimes depend on us', Aisha, stressing on how helpful the opportunity has been, explained.

But Amina's determination was greatly affected by Boko Haram, her business has suffered even though it has survived the war. It is indeed, though small-scale, one of the businesses that defied the odds.

Unfortunately, where she used to have 'many sawing machines, only one survived, we are hiring the other two at one thousand Naira (N1,000) each monthly'. Where she used to have customers and clients everywhere, she is today only managing to 'get them back'.

'Sometimes we generate N30,000 or more a month in this place. Yes, during festivities, like eid, or wedding ceremonies, we get quite beyond that', Amina said.

'With more tools, like modern sawing and embroidery machines, materials', she said she 'can train more people and greatly increase output capacity'.

Amina who said she's training the women free of charge, called on 'other women to engage in skilled works and businesses rather than begging and roaming the streets'. She further added that 'government should support small and medium scale enterprises especially in areas of provision of tools, loans and even awareness so that idleness, poverty and begging can be reduced'. She stressed that 'whatever the odds, women should not give up, especially on educating, training and feeding their children so that they are not misled by any contrarian'.

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