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How An Abducted Boko Bride Rebuilt Her Life

After being held captive for four years, Salma shares her survival story
Grace Ekpu

Salma*, 21, was abducted by jihadist group Boko Haram at 16 and held captive for four years. Last year she managed to escape and is slowly rebuilding her life in north-east Nigeria with support from Plan International. Here, she tells her story. 

“When Boko Haram first came to my home town in Borno, I fled with some other girls. We met a woman who allowed us to sleep in her house and share her food in exchange for help with her business (selling food on the street). But then Boko Haram came to that town as well.

“They killed four of the girls I was with and forced one to become a suicide bomber. She died. They tie a bomb around your waist and monitor you until you enter the area where they want the bomb to explode. Then they disappear. 

“They said that [the rest of us] would be servant girls for their wives in the bush. Any of us who said no, they would cut off that person’s ear and hair and make them a complete slave. 

“But in reality I was forced to get married – and I had a baby, a boy, as a result of the marriage.

“They tie a bomb around your waist and monitor you until they want the bomb to explode” – Salma

“If you ever tried to escape, they would give you 100 strokes of the cane the first time, 80 strokes the second time and then the next time they would kill you. On my first attempt, I was caught. But on my second, I was successful. I was pregnant at the time and we started the journey about 11pm and reached a local town – where we asked the soldiers for some help – at 10am. There were nine of us who escaped that night, a mixture of ages. 

salma and her female support group
(Credit: Grace Ekpu)

“When I first got home I thought I was going to be stigmatised because of where I had been, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Everyone has been kind – my siblings and aunties have been very helpful. And my mum is here, too. 

“I’ve set up a support group for other girls like me. We don’t want to be defined by what’s happened to us. We want a future for us and our children.”

Plan International Australia is working to free girls around the world from child marriage. Donate to their cause at

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