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In the middle of the night on April 14, 2014, terrorist group, Boko Haram, abducted 276 girls from their secondary school’s dormitory in the town of Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Over the following days, 57 girls managed to escape. For two years, 219 girls remained missing.
Then, in May 2016, the first of the missing students, Aisha Nkeki Ali, was found by the Nigerian military. In October 2016, 21 of the missing girls were released by Boko Haram in a deal brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss Government. Two more girls were found by the military in the last few months of 2016. One hundred ninety five girls are still missing.
Words have a power that numbers can never have. During the last four months of 2015, in the heat of the worst of the insurgency, Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, the CEO of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF) in Nigeria embarked on a project to interview, photograph, and document the accounts of the parents of each of the missing girls. The MMF’s team managed to meet the relatives of 201 of them, and also interviewed some of the 57 escaped girls. The Daughters of Chibok is a collection of these interviews and photographs–a tribute to the girls–which aims to capture their lives before the abduction and to highlight how their families have struggled to cope afterward. For the families of the girls, and for the Chibok community, the trauma of this experience remains a daily reality.
Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and human rights activist. Born into a distinguished Northern Nigeria family of male scholars, Oyebode is the first girl in the family not to be married at 13. She is the founder and CEO of Nigeria’s Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), a non-governmental organization that promotes good governance and socio-economic change on the African continent through education and capacity building. The MMF is one of the organizations driving the reconstruction of the northeast of Nigeria devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency. The MMF also has an ongoing discussion with the Nigerian government regarding taking over the care of the captured female suicide bombers in the military’s custody and the rescued Chibok girls. Oyebode is a co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) activist group and drives the group’s activities in Lagos, southwest Nigeria. She is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Board of the Harvard Kennedy School, Women and Public Policy Program.
Akintunde Akinleye is the first Nigerian Photographer to have been awarded a prize in the prestigious World Press Photo, Netherlands in 2007 with an iconic photograph of a man rinsing soot from his face at the scene of an oil pipeline explosion in Lagos, December 2006. An award fellow of the National Geographic Society and resident fellow of the Thami Mnyele Art foundation in Amsterdam, Akintunde was nominated for Prix Pictet photography award on sustainability for his work: Delta, A vanishing wetland. He lives in Lagos and works for Reuters in Nigeria.