Boko Haram Survivors Share Their Stories in This Chilling International Day of the Girl Campaign

Work directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow

A Boko Haram survivor shares her story. - Credit by I Am Not a Weapon
Headshot of Minda Smiley

Earlier this year, UNICEF said more than 1,000 children have been kidnapped in Nigeria since 2013 by Boko Haram, the terror group that sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in 2014 after abducting 276 female students in the country.

On International Day of the Girl, Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow and Smuggler founder Patrick Milling-Smith are drawing attention to the plight of the many young girls who’ve been abducted by Boko Haram via a chilling campaign that features interviews with female survivors.

With help from journalist Dionne Searcey, Bigelow and the rest of her team spoke to these girls about their harrowing and brave experiences. The resulting videos and photography portraits feature their individual stories of survival and escape.

In one video, a woman by the name of Fatima explains how she agreed to carry a bomb after refusing marriage to a Boko Haram insurgent. After accepting the group’s mission to bring the explosive to a congested area, she managed to find help and escape.

In another film, a woman named Maryam says her family was living in peace before Boko Haram invaded her village. When she was abducted, Boko Haram tied a bomb onto her and told her to visit a checkpoint after she refused to marry an insurgent. On the way there, she met an elderly man who ultimately helped her remove the bomb.

“When Boko Haram tied the bomb on me, I was so afraid,” she says. “Something was telling me, just press it and die, forget about everything. I never thought I would survive, that was my thought.”

The “I Am Not a Weapon” campaign, which encourages viewers to donate to the International Rescue Committee, has a dedicated website and Instagram account. Both were created by Austin-based agency Preacher to support the initiative.

“In times of crisis, young girls are at greater risk of neglect and exploitation,” the website reads. “They can be kidnapped, trafficked, recruited into armed groups, forced into early marriage and genital mutilation, and experience violence from their partners in their homes. Conflict intensifies gender inequality and oppression, affecting adolescent girls disproportionately.” According to the site, donations to the International Rescue Committee will go towards helping girls and other survivors of violence rebuild their lives.


Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and Dionne Searcey
Produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Dionne Searcey, Patrick Milling-Smith and Lance Malbon
Cinematography & Images: Adam Ferguson
Associate Producer: Henry Chen
Editor: Justin Yates
Assistant Editor: Gretchen Schroeder

Created in Partnership with: Preacher, International Rescue Committee, Smuggler

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@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.
Publish date: October 11, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT