• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Meet Mary Katambi, a resilient Chibok girl captive escapee upskilling women

Meet Mary Katambi, a resilient Chibok girl captive escapee upskilling women

It is never an easy thing to surmount the trauma of captivity, especially in the hands of the nefarious Boko Haram group known for its terror operations in Nigeria.

But for Mary Katambi, one of the Chibok girls who escaped from the Boko Haram captivity by divine intervention, nothing gladdens her heart more than empowering the young girls and women with skills in tech and beyond.

“I empower young girls and women with training in data analysis. We had the first cohort towards the end of last year to early this year, where the young girls and women plus men in the north learned data analysis.

“We had over 100 participants in the northern region of Nigeria and beyond, and I want to continue with the training beyond the region,” she said.

Q: “But for Mary Katambi, one of the Chibok girls who escaped from the Boko Haram captivity by divine intervention, nothing gladdens her heart more than empowering the young girls and women with skills in tech and beyond.”

Mary plans to build a global digital business for every used item in every household, but we have started with pre-owned and new fashion items in individual closets.

Read also: Scorecard: The Chibok girls under President Buhari’s administration

“Right now, my team and I are building an MVP that will let individuals buy or sell their used or new fashion items in their closet at their comfort zone.

“Our platform connects sellers and buyers via a peer-to-peer platform called iGee Closet. We do not operate a physical shop; rather, we pick up the clothes from the sellers and, through our logistics partners, deliver the items to buyers in their comfort zone,” she stated.

In giving back to society, one of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 recounted how different individuals helped her overcome the trauma of her horrible experience.

“The experience was very traumatic. Luckily, after I escaped, I got the opportunity to further my education through the support of many kind individuals.

The opportunity was given to myself and my classmates who escaped to further our studies at the American University of Nigeria (AUN),” she said.

According to the resilient Amazon, who shared her success story with BusinessDay, “After my escape, I started at the intermediate level of the scheme because at Chibok school, we were taught in our local language, hence the need to brush us up to be on par with others in the English language.

“I wrote WAEC, passed it in 2016, and enrolled in AUN to study accounting.”

Read also: 9 years after abduction, army rescues two more Chibok girls in Borno

Though some of her classmates withdrew along the way because of the challenges of adjusting to the new academic life, Mary was determined to see through her studies.

“I told myself that I would be the first graduate from my family and be a model to the younger ones in my community. The fact that different individuals decided to sponsor her and provide all the resources I needed for my studies was truly inspiring. Hence, my resolution to complete my undergraduate study,” she noted.

After her graduation, she got the opportunity to do NYSC with the Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), which exposed her to many wonderful individuals who inspired her.

Upon NYSC completion, a friend and mentor of hers, Christiana Okere, who schooled at the Nigerian University of Technology and Management (NUTM), encouraged her to apply for the university’s cohort admission to upskill her for her entrepreneurship goal.

NUTM allowed her to learn from global faculty and from different individuals with different perspectives, beliefs, and experiences.

She and her classmates took many courses, such as an entrepreneurship class, where we were exposed to ways to solve real-life problems and how to start a business. We worked on a project as a team, from ideation to the user interface stage and so on.

She reiterated that being at NUTM helped her boost her confidence level and introduced her to a business ecosystem that was very instrumental to her success.

“It’s such a big honour, and I’m grateful to God for every person who has impacted in one way or another, and I believe I should also replicate it in any way I find myself.

“I cannot forget the Boko Haram incident, but I am truly thankful to God for bringing me out and lifting me to where I am now,” she said.

Speaking on Mary’s staying power and her academic feat, Atiku Abubakar, a former Nigerian vice president and the founder of AUN, said, “I’m proud that seven years after your release from Boko Haram captivity, you’ve beaten the odds to graduate with a degree in accounting from the American University of Nigeria. The best years are still ahead of you.”

Though a graduate of accounting seven years after she narrowly escaped from the grip of Boko Haram terrorists, Mary maintained that her ambition was to become an entrepreneur so she could create jobs for others.

“I don’t want to be looking for a job,” she said. “I want to run a business and create jobs for Nigerian youth,” she noted.

According to her, she escaped from the den of notorious bloodthirsty terrorists by sneaking out of the camp and trudging through the forest back to her village.

The extremist Boko Haram sect had on April 14, 2014, abducted Mary Katambi and 275 other girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok.

Within the space of ten years of the Boko Haram incident, Mary earned a bachelor’s degree and a postgraduate degree and also went to Italy for an exchange programme during her undergraduate programme, a feat that can only be achieved through resilience, determination, and focus.

Nigeria has been plagued by insecurity for decades. In the northeast, Boko Haram has waged a violent insurgency since 2009; in the north-central region, clashes between farmers and herders have escalated in recent years; and acts of banditry by gunmen in the northwest are terrorising citizens.

Across the country, the targeting of vulnerable populations has been widespread, including kidnappings for ransom or to pressure the government to meet the aggressors’ demands.

Experts also say that worsening economic conditions have led to an increase in abductions for ransom over the last four years.

Aisha Yesufu, the co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls movement that agitated for the release of the kidnapped Chibok students, decried the fact that the federal government seems to lack the political will to stamp out kidnapping ten years after the Chibok incident.

“I cannot believe that it has been 10 years and we have not done anything about stopping it.“ At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that there is no political will,” Yesufu said.

Amina Ali, one of the kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok, speaking about her ordeal at the hands of the kidnappers, bemoaned the fact that the government seems helpless over the ugly development.

“It is beyond time that the Nigerian authorities took meaningful action to counter armed groups like Boko Haram and gunmen. Nigeria must implement safeguards to protect all children, and the lack of accountability for these callous crimes is fueling impunity.

“The missing Chibok school girls should be returned home to their families, and all those responsible for committing grave violations must face justice,” she said.

Amina recalled how Boko Haram raided their school in 2014 as she and her classmates were preparing for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and took them away into the infamous Sambisa jungle, where they were imprisoned by their kidnappers.

According to Policy Weekly by Nextier, “the threat of abduction of students is severely affecting children’s learning. As of 2021, over one million children were afraid to return to school, and in 2020, around 11,500 schools were closed due to attacks.

Cristian Munduate, a UNICEF representative in Nigeria, speaking on the despicable effects of kidnapping, said the abduction of the Chibok girls was a wake-up call to the severe risks Nigerian children face in their pursuit of education.

“Today, reflecting on this tragedy and other recent abductions, it is evident that our efforts to safeguard our children’s futures must be amplified.

Given these alarming statistics, we must address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of this crisis. Education is a fundamental right and a crucial pathway out of poverty. Yet, for too many Nigerian children, it remains an unattainable dream,” Munduate said.