NIGER: Life after Boko Haram. Hope & Homecoming.
“All that mattered was reaching a place where I could finally tell myself: I am free.” – Ya Koura.
In Niger, the threat of Boko Haram turned everyone’s lives upside down.
Teenagers became fighters. Wives became widows. Innocent people became prisoners. So many futures—upended by years of conflict.
Our Niger team’s project Kallo Lenio, Klla Founna (Together, let’s move towards the future), funded by the European Union, is helping communities all over the country emerge stronger from this crisis. We are facilitating the reintegration of forcibly married women, offering professional training to marginalized young people, and supporting the psychological healing of those who were impacted the hardest—the victims, but also the perpetrators, of the violence.
These are the stories of lives after Boko Haram.
Read: their stories
NIGERIA: Advancing religious tolerance.
Everyone should have the right to express his or her faith and beliefs freely. Unfortunately, this freedom is not always granted. In northern Nigeria, inter-religious violence and vigilante justice has instilled a climate of fear between different religious and ethnic groups. Moreover, the weak mechanisms for seeking justice in cases of violation of religious freedom has eroded communities’ trust in federal and state governments.
For this reason, the protection of Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) is at the core of our “Advance religious tolerance” project, funded by the United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). To move the issue forward, we bring together religious leaders, policymakers, judges, local governments, and interfaith organizations to trigger multi-level discussions and responses.
This month, we organized a high-level virtual meeting to encourage these stakeholders to develop concrete actions to defend religious freedom within the legal framework. Notably, the event presented a contextual analysis highlighting obstacles to the implementation and enforcement of laws to protect human rights and FoRB in the region. Our conclusions, combined with feedback from the participants, provided everyone with the necessary knowledge and guidance to tailor interventions to more effectively promote religious pluralism tolerance and respect for human rights.
Read: context analysis
[Success Story, by Fanhana Bamba]
GUINEA: UNITED IN OUR DIFFERENCES: Meet Makoyengbè.
“My hatred was such that I stopped going to the mosque to make sure I didn’t run into them,” – Makoyengbè.
In 2018, Makoyengbè’s life was turned upside down. During the communal elections, political dissent led to an escalation of violence in the rural commune of Karala in south-eastern Guinea. Makoyengbè’s husband was seriously injured, and her house was ransacked. “I told myself that if they [the culprits] had the nerve to treat us as they did, mine would be to reject them for the rest of my life. I was no longer talking to members of the opposite party. My hatred was such that I stopped going to the mosque to make sure I didn’t run into them,” she says.
A year later, Makoyengbè took part in Search’s activities as part of its “Unis dans nos différences” (United in our differences) project, funded by the European Union’s Instrument for Stability and Peace (IcSP ). The program included participatory theatre performances, dialogue activities, and training for women leaders. The common thread of these activities? Counteract exclusive attitudes and discourses underlying violent extremism and unite people across religious, ethnic, and political divides. During the training, Makoyengbè learns conflict transformation, leadership, and positive communication techniques. “Something completely changed inside me. The training helped me see things differently: hatred gave way to forgiveness. It has liberated me and allowed me to live again in peace, with myself and others”. When she returned home, her husband was surprised by this sudden change: “She was the first to tell us that reconciliation was impossible. It was a dead end. But when she came back from the training, she brought us all together and asked us to put what had happened behind us,” he confides.
Having become a leading figure in her community, Makoyengbè is the first to go to where conflicts break out. “I now feel that my mission is to bring peace to our village and our homes,” she says. Makoyengbè is a living example of what she preaches. “Thanks to my new skills, I have been able to resolve many conflicts. We are destined to live together, it is essential that we learn to accept each other despite our differences,” concludes Makoyengbè.
SIERRA LEONE: Talking Drum Studio’s transition as a local non-profit entity.
Following Liberia closely, it is now the turn of Talking Drum Studio Sierra Leone to become a local entity. Established in 2000, while the war was still raging, TDS Sierra Leone has since created innovative radio and television programs to spread peace, unity and reconciliation.
Among others, our radio drama “Atunda Ayenda,” which means “lost and found,” has become a household name. With 90% of our radio listeners having listened to our soap opera, it remains, to this day, a powerful means of influencing crucial decisions regarding the nation’s peace efforts.
We are proud to have been part of this life-changing journey and to pass on the torch today. With 20 years of experience, the team will continue to inspire and unite the Liberian people in creating a tolerant and inclusive society.
Visit Talking Drum Studio’s new website
MALI: Staying connected through art during Covid-19.
July marks the end of our national Covid-19 awareness campaign. Four months ago, we launched the CoronArt Challenge: an art contest to raise awareness about the right steps to curb the pandemic.
More than 157 people, including well-known singers and rappers and citizens from all walks of life and all regions, put their talents to good use. They created short videos to promote compliance with protective measures and to combat rumors and misinformation about the disease.
Our winner? Uju, a young girl from Nigeria. A few months ago, she came to Mali to follow her dream: making music. When the pandemic broke out, Mali’s borders closed, and Uju found herself stranded far from home. The contest came at just the right time, giving her a chance to regain and spread hope through singing. To culminate the competition, Uju joined the other finalists to unite their musical talents in a music video.
Watch: Music Video