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Film follows Boko Haram survivors after village invasion

The documentary "Forced" follows three women who fled their Nigerian village after a 2014 Boko Haram invasion. The film looks at their attempts to rebuild their lives as displaced people and how they've come to symbolize the plight of other women and girls who survived abductions and sexual assault. Hari Sreenivasan spoke to filmmakers Grace Oyenubi and Nani Sahra Walker to learn more.

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  • Megan Thompson:

    The militant group Boko Haram has terrorized communities in Nigeria, often targeting and exploiting children. The group's abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, drew international attention both to the group and to the plight of young women and girls. The insurgency killed thousands, disrupted the education system and displaced more than two-million people.

    The short documentary "Forced" tells the stories of three survivors, forced to flee from their homes after Boko Haram invaded their village… And how they've tried to rebuild their lives.

    Hari Sreenivasan spoke with the two director/producers of "Forced:" Grace Oyenubi and Nani Sahra Walker.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Grace Oyenubi and Nani Sahra Walker, filmmakers of the documentary, "Forced," join us now. First Nani, let me start with you. How did this idea come about to do this?

  • Nani Sahra Walker:

    So Grace in 2017 went to Nigeria to an IDP camp and internally displaced persons camp and met the three women that we eventually followed and the idea really came about I would give credit to Grace. She's from Nigeria and had really had this interest in looking at the survivors of a crisis and conflict like Boko Haram after the world had forgotten. And she asked me to join onto the project and I was very happy. I myself grew up in a developing country in Nepal so you know issues of war and conflict especially when it impacted the most vulnerable. We're talking about women and children was something that was very important for me.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Grace the fact that the world had heard about the Chibok girls so much. But there were so many other young women who we had not heard about. And when you went back there and when you talk to these people the stories that you end up finding they're so compelling and gripping and yet most of us have never realized that the problem is as widespread.

  • Grace Oyenubi:

    Yeah a lot of people did not know the scale of it. It's millions of people that have been impacted. A lot of them abducted, a lot of them raped, and of course all of them displaced. And just all leaving in different places just trying to survive, trying to leave one day at a time. So the scale of it is massive. So it was so important to tell such and such a story so that the world would know that look, after all of the crisis there are people living out there for survival rape, abduction, and internally displaced and they're all out there just living their life.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Nani, one of the interesting things is is that this need for safety or just a safe space. Even when they get into the camps perhaps the soldiers might have helped them get there. But then in certain circumstances the soldiers are also people that are abusing them.

  • Nani Sahra Walker:

    Right. And I think that these are the far-reaching effects of war and conflict where the good and the bad it's very difficult to distinguish right. These women were violated by their protectors and so there's something really damaging I think psychologically in this case because this is when they've already survived 11 months having escaped Boko Haram, surviving in the hills with very little to eat, having lost family members. And so experiencing that kind of trauma after such an event I think just adds on to more of the horror. Right. And just really piles you know this psychological aspect to a degree where you know these women it's going to take many years for them to recuperate. And we're talking about you know they don't have much access to therapy. There's very little mental health care out there.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Grace I want to ask where is Boko Haram today? I mean one of the military officials that you spoke with was somewhat optimistic and saying we've really got them down into one corner they're in a very small region. Is that true?

  • Grace Oyenubi:

    Well at the moment from what we heard, heard that the military has taken over some of the places Boko Haram had been taking. So we know that a lot of people are trying to go back and they they're scared because they see sometimes suicide bombers. You know they just try to make their presence felt. But we know that most of the places have been taken over by the military. You know they're just droplets in a few places. But you know the fear really for them is the infrastructure. There's nothing left there. You know what are they going back to. You know the whole place is in bad shape, you know. So for Boko Haram I know sometimes they just tried to show us that we're still here. But I know the military has taken over most of the places.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What's it like working as a female filmmaker trying to cover topics that certainly the men in power don't want you to be revealing?

  • Nani Sahra Walker:

    Well it's challenging, and I think that we you know we did confront the military general, and he gave us his response which was that there is some protocol in place. You know he didn't address the cases that had been reported. And I think we caught him off guard somewhat. On the other hand you know the issue is close to us as women. I think you know it's it's really important to address these issues whether it's you know in Nigeria and in this conflict or if it's right here.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Alright. Grace Oyenubi and Nani Sahra Walker, filmmakers of the documentary, "Forced." Thanks so much for joining us.

    Grace Oyenubi. Thank you for having us.

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