The ongoing crises in Nigeria have a disproportionate effect on women and girlsWomen and girls make up the majority of the population of the internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps in which I work with my colleagues. As a Community Liaison Officer, part of my job is to build relationships with the women and girls in IDP camps - to listen to them and the issues they are facing. 

From sexual harassment, domestic violence, segregation to the denial of access to medical and NGO services, the situation for far too many women and girls is traumatic. And it comes on top of a conflict and landmine crisis that has forced them from their homes. 

At the community and institutional levels, the everyday experiences of women and girls are excluded by systems that structurally exclude women. 

In most places, women are not allowed to participate in the decisions which affect their lives. Where women are permitted to speak, it is at the behest of male leaders - with most women feeling like their views are not taken into account or prioritised. 

Aisha Baba Shehu is a MAG Community Liaison Officer in Nigeria

The recent, and continuing COVID-19 crisis is only worsening the situation, with women reporting increased cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy. With some male partners stopping their wives accessing medical and NGO services, these incidents are likely to be underreported. 

Economic inequality and pandemic-enforced restrictions also mean women, on the one hand, lack the financial independence to escape abusive relationships while, on the other, risk being left without an income should a male partner be killed or injured by a landmine or unexploded bomb. 

Meanwhile, conflict has seen schools destroyed and abandoned while coronavirus restrictions have closed others - increasing numbers of girls and boys have no access to formal education. 

Boys are at risk of being kept out of education in the long term as they are forced to help their families maintain a livelihood. 

Girls, however, are at increasing risk of being kept out of school to be pushed into early marriages – and some girls are prevented from going to school in the first place by male family members. 

© MAG/KC Nwakalor

MAG is working to deliver life-saving lessons to girls in north-east Nigeria

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It is with great sadness that I hear variations of these same stories repeated so often, from so many different women and girls. 

For me, these issues are too often lost in conversations around Nigeria’s humanitarian crises - the international community needs to do much more to support the fight against gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and gender inequality. For women and girls, landmines and unexploded bombs are just one of the dangers they face daily. 

The best place to start is to listen to women and girls, include them in all decision making processes and encourage and support girls’ education.