Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Why Do Chibok Girls Remain With Captors?

Chibok Girls Stay with Boko Haram

An article in Voice of America online reports on a newly released video from Boko Haram. The video shows 12 Chibok girls who appear, “to relish their new life and disavow their old.” A few are holding babies, the article says.

A few of the Chibok girls released several months ago, from CNN

A few of the Chibok girls released several months ago, from CNN Newsource online.

Psychologists weigh in with explanations.  “Connections formed by years of captivity and shame at marrying militants might explain why some Chibok girls have chosen not to return home from their Boko Haram ordeal, experts say.”

Chibok girls who have been released or escaped are in a special program at American University of Nigeria in Yola. Conversations with them confirm the treatment that caused classmates to agree to marry the militants.

Psychologist Somiari Demm works with the girls at AU. She said, “Stockholm Syndrome — where hostages or kidnap victims can develop a strong alliance with their captors — is a condition that has been identified by psychologists in a range of crises.”

It is estimated that 100 Chibok girls remain in captivity.

Open Doors for Special Learners

Last summer I asked the board of Friends of Nigeria, FON, to give a grant of $1000 to Open Doors for Special Learners. FON is an “association of Nigerian Peace Corps alumni and others who support the interests of the Nigerian people,” as the website says.

The boy Emma is learning to swing at Open Doors.

The boy Emma is learning to swing at Open Doors.

My friend Joanne Umolu founded and runs Open Doors in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Open Doors also has a Facebook page where you can find photos and comments.

In the request, I quoted Joanne. “With the Nigerian economy in a sad state today, we have children at Open Doors who need sponsorship, either for payment of fees or for transport to and from Open Doors, or both. Right now we even have some children who are on scholarship but whose parents have stopped sending their children to school because they cannot afford to pay the bus or car that brings them to school.”

The grant was provided. Joanne was extremely grateful.

She and I wrote an article for the next FON Newsletter. “Open Doors provides quality educational and vocational training, speech and language therapy, and physiotherapy. The conditions treated include mental retardation, autism, ASD, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, Down syndrome, and others.” We added, “The curriculum is designed to develop the potential of each individual, with emphasis on acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills, ability to communicate, and development of daily living, pre-vocational, and vocational skills.”

Joanne related the stories of three people. Two are now on the staff. The third, Emmanuel, was abandoned as a young child when he did not develop properly. He was found and cared for by a pastor. He is making slow but steady progress at Open Doors.

Some of you will receive the FON Newsletter where you can read the full article. I’ll try to remember to post a link when the story comes out.

What Can We Learn From African Countries?

Nicholas Kristof, in The New York Times on January 17, lists twelve African countries that are ahead of the U.S. in health, education, human rights legislation, and other fields.

Rwanda is his third example. He says, “Rwanda may eliminate cervical cancer before America.” Why? Because Rwanda “vaccinates virtually all girls against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer.” Older women who were not vaccinated are screened. He compares this with the U.S., “where only 65% of American girls get vaccinated for HPV.” He adds, “a woman dies every two hours in the U.S. from cervical cancer.”

He says Nigeria ensures that 93% of households get iodized salt, number 7 in his list. The rate of households using iodized salt in the U.S. is much lower and iodine deficiency is increasing.

I encourage you to read the full article.

My Sister Visits

My sister Beth is arriving tonight for a brief visit. So I have to finish removing my stuff from the bedroom she will use upstairs. I still haven’t put away everything after returning from Nigeria.

Where to put the summer clothes I pulled out to pack for the tropics? What needs washing, what needs to go on hangers or in drawers? Or where to keep the remote control for the air conditioner in our bedroom in the village that I brought back by mistake? Got that one: I have a drawer for plugs that I use in Nigeria – that’s the place for the remote!

The American author Amor Towles

The American author Amor Towles

Beth will come with me to the Mount Holyoke Book Club on Monday night. We are reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Actually I’m listening to it. I have it in iCloud, the only version available at the Westport Library. He is an amazing writer.

What can I learn from him? Writing meaningful scenes! He’s a master.

There are still have about 6 hours to go. I listen in bed, when I’m working in the kitchen, or want a break from writing. And I’ll put it on in the car when I drive to Westchester Airport tonight.

I’ll bring Beth to observe my class on Tuesday morning when I’m teaching “Customs and Culture of Nigeria” at the Fairfield Bigelow Center.

And we will play Scrabble, lots of Scrabble! We’re competitive, but with luck I can win more games than she can! We play online and are about even, I think.

What do you do for entertainment when you have visitors?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. The girls who remain with Boko Haram is a very sad story indeed. But I guess the “stockholm syndrom” is a reality & hopefully they are content after being brain washed. But sad nonetheless especially for their families.

    Also your email said 12 reasons to admire about African countries & i only saw 2 in the article. Did i miss something?

  2. Good passage on Open Doors for Special Learners and the FON donation. Thanks.

  3. Stockholm Syndrome was the first thing I thought of when I read the title of this post. It brought my anger over the conviction of Patricia Hearst.