As 16-year-old Miriam* stepped out of her tent to fetch water near the Madinatu Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state in January last year, a middle-aged woman she knew as “Aunty Kiki” approached her.
She asked Miriam if she was interested in moving to the city of Enugu to work as a housemaid for a monthly salary.
Miriam, who is now 17, wasted no time in accepting the offer and began to prepare for her trip to the east the following day.
She told her 17-year-old cousin, Roda*, about it and advised her to approach Aunty Kiki.
When Roda, who is now 18, met Aunty Kiki the next morning, she asked if there was a job for her, too. The woman quickly agreed, so Roda packed her bags.
“We were both very excited to travel to Enugu,” Miriam says. “We had suffered so much for four years and were happy to go somewhere new to start a new life.”
Both girls, who used to live in the same compound in Bama, fled the northeastern Nigerian town in 2017 when Boko Haram stormed the area, burning down houses and kidnapping women and children.
Miriam and Roda fled, leaving other members of their family behind. They do not know what happened to them.
The two girls trekked for several days to reach Madinatu, where they remained for nearly two years before their trip to Enugu in southeastern Nigeria.
In Madinatu, Miriam and Roda lived together in a small bamboo tent inside the camp that houses more than 5,000 people who, like them, had fled Boko Haram.
Life was tough in the camp. Food was in short supply and IDPs had to beg on the streets of the nearby town to be able to get enough to eat.
So the girls jumped at the chance of paid jobs in Enugu.
They did not have time to tell anyone they were going.