Nearly 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria were given a choice: join the Boko Haram militants that ripped them away from their school, family and homes, or become their slaves.
About half of the girls joined and were married off to the fighters.
Those that refused were forced to serve, cook, and fetch water for the terrorist group.
All of them were forced to convert to Islam.
Living in grass huts, the girls ate only rice and maize. Quickly, their food became scarce and a few of the girls died of hunger.
The reality of this situation is so dire, but this week progress was made.
Twenty-one school girls were returned back to their homes and families after being kidnapped two and a half years ago from their school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram.
“I felt like it was the day that I born her into this world,” said Ruth Markus, the mother of Saratu Markus, one of the freed girls. “I danced and danced and danced.”
Families rejoiced as their daughters returned home, though they know there’s a tough road ahead as these women grapple with the trauma inflicted upon them.
“We can imagine what they’ve gone through,” Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said at a news conference in Abuja Sunday. “So much needs to be done to get them back to living normal life after so much trauma in captivity.”
All of the parents are “very happy hearing that they have released our daughters,” Lawan Zanna, the father of Aisha Zanna, one of the abducted girls told the New York Times.
The group of 21 were released following a deal brokered by the Red Cross and the Swiss government.
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped from their beds as they slept at their boarding school. The release of these 21 girls is a good step, but many more girls are still missing.
In August, a video was released by Boko Haram which showed the bodies of several of the kidnapped girls who fighters say were killed by Nigerian airstrikes. The fight to get more of the women back alive, is still a mission for the Nigerian government.
Manasseh Allen, a native of Chibok whose cousin was abducted, said, “Whether it’s a ransom, whether it’s a prisoner swap, the government knows how best to get these girls back. All we are after is to get the girls back.”