Ummi Bukar's UPROOTED Explores the Post Boko Haram Silver Lining.

By Century Favour | March 4, 2019

Is the Boko Haram crisis empowering women?

Conflicts are real, they exist in our world and although we may not always be able to prevent them, we can turn them into channels for social impact. This is why when I caught wind of UPROOTED- a documentary film directed and produced by Ummi Bukar, founder and Managing Director of PAGED Initiative [Participatory Communication for Gender Development] NGO, I was very interested.

Ummi Bukar

UPROOTED is a moving advocacy and education tool that explores the silver lining in the outcomes of the Boko-Haram conflict in Nigeria.

The menace of Boko Haram isn’t news to anyone who has ever heard of Nigeria. Since 2009, Nigeria has faced the greatest security threat from the Boko Haram fundamentalist Islamic group which has been termed the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

Featuring real-life stories of these four women- Ruth Stevens (Maiduguri), Hadiza Mustapha (Baga), Halima Bukar (Bama) and Zainab Hamidu (Gwoza), this film is more than just a work of art, in terms of colours, hues, lens and editing. Rather, the focus for me is the impact of this documentary would have on mindsets, locally and globally.

The documentary did a very good job of painting a realistic picture of the crisis and what was really happening on the ground.


You see, when we hear news around the Boko Haram crisis, missing Chibok girls etc. being peddled around, most times due to the politicization of the conflict, we don’t realize that this news is real.

We have fast become desensitized to this mindless insurgency and the destruction it leaves in its wake but they are all happening. But the violence is real, real humans died, real lives were disrupted, people lost everything, women became widows. Zainab, one of the case stories featured in the film lost both her husband and son. Her son was only nineteen. Men ran away because they were the targets, leaving their women defenseless. As it currently stands, there are more unreported than reported killings and attacks. These events should sharpen our thoughts and how we think and respond to critical issues because they may happen elsewhere tomorrow.



Let’s talk about the resulting social outcomes of the insurgency attacks and how they shaped the theme of the documentary;


One prominent change that the documentary highlighted was the change in gender roles- the role of women in a marriage.

Inferring from the background story of the rise of the feminist movement in the West following the Second World war where men had to go to war and women had to step into the offices to work.

Ummi saw a repeat pattern here, in that the Boko Haram conflict produced an awakening for the women in their ability to contribute to securing their livelihoods as opposed to just being dependants. When the men lost everything, they could not find employment and so women had to step up to provide for the family. Women had to start businesses to support the family, mini trades like selling akara, kola nuts etc. Some even worked for NGOs.

These women grew from being content to sit at home and not aspiring for more to having a sense of fulfilment at their ability to contribute. They became part of the decision-making process while the men got more involved in the running of the home. The changing dynamics also helped in strengthening their love relationships. Some men now cook for their wives.

There’s even a striking example of a woman who now has access to the husband’s ATM card.


An additional silver lining that this conflict birthed was inter-tribal cooperation and support. For instance, we learnt of a situation where an Igbo woman gave some money to one of the indigenous women to start a trade.


Also, we discovered that women are beginning to stand up and defend women rights. Some women formed vigilante groups and took part in providing security. In spite of the loss of their loved ones, it’s remarkable to learn that these women were not afraid to engage the Boko Haram insurgents under a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) umbrella.



Ummi intends to create a mobile cinema to display this social impact films. This will increase the reach across regions of the country, facilitate dialoguing and then report stories that come out of these dialogues so as to effect change and increase awareness. According to her, research is ongoing to find out other volatile zones and screen all over Nigeria as we live in a conflict-prone environment, especially with our diverse cultural heritage.

The hope is to also use this documentary as a medium to engage policymakers.

Here’s Ummi’s concluding sound bite;

“The essence of the documentary was not to find the silver lining but to give a listening ear to the horrors that these victims suffered and to share these stories to the entire country. We didn’t find the silver lining or the solutions to this problem rather the silver lining found us. It found them when they shared their stories and decided to let go of old grievances.

This has pushed us into doing more, we need to reach out to more people, we all need to play our parts.”

I hope this reawakens and inspires you to take action, as it did me.