Since the start of Boko Haram's insurgency thousands of boys and girls have gone missing across north eastern Nigeria. The Islamist group use the kidnap of children as a strategy in their asymmetric war. Girls, as young as eight, are taken to be married off to fighters or deployed as sex slaves and, increasingly, used to commit suicide attacks.
Mairo (11): ‘Our village was so peaceful. There were often parties, I went to school and had friends. The day began as usual: I went to school and did my best in the classroom. At first I thought they were just soldiers. Until they started shooting. They shot all the men in the mosque dead and recited Islamic verses. They spent a year in our village. No one was sure of their life. I could not go to school, because that was immediately closed. One day all the women and girls were driven into the school. Girls aged from 7 years to women aged 70 years old. We were tied up and beaten. We were given no food or water. They beat us and threatened to murder us. Married women they ignored. Unmarried women or young widows were inspected one by one, and were forced to marry one of the soldiers. If you were married you were supposed to have your sex with your new spouse. They said they would take us to Chibok. I was shocked, because I had heard about the schoolgirls who had disappeared there. That night with 20 other girls I climbed out the window. It was a big risk, because if you were caught you were killed instantly. I had no choice ... I did not end up as one of the Chibok girls.