Nigeria’s Central region has been plagued by violent clashes between farmers and herders over grazing agricultural land for decades. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflicts with many others displaced.
Helen Mabitin, 28, a Princess from Nghar village, in Northern Plateau’s Gashish District of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area has been hard hit by the crises. Her village was nearly completely rubbled during violent attacks in June 2018. Over 90 of her kinsmen were killed and hundreds others displaced in one night.
She and her Royal family can no longer travel to the village freely and frequently as they would want, because their home was destroyed, and the connecting road is still considered to be unsafe. However, Helen is not keeping grudges against anyone, not even the herders suspected of carrying out the attack.
Helen is a successful fashion designer, with national recognition. She has trained over 10 youths in the trade who are currently thriving and employing others. After the displacement of over 30,000 people from her home District, Helen trained at least 25 women from different Internally Displaced Persons camps in Jos and other surrounding communities.
She currently employs two permanent staff, three apprentices and hopes to expand. Her greatest wish however is to rid rural communities in the State of crime. This she intends to do by training them to be like her, “to earn legitimately and become useful to themselves,” she said.
Most of the crimes committed in the rural areas, violent attacks included, Helen believes are a result of joblessness.
“Many of the people doing it are either paid or brainwashed; and they accept because they have no alternatives to income generation, and/or they have nothing to lose if backfires.
“But if you give them skills to earn and provide their own needs, even if someone comes with any offer for crimes, they will not accept it,” Helen told MK.
Her stance, the trained TV Producer said stems from the memories of “good, cordial relationships” she shared with children of herders while growing up. “It might not be easy to restore that life,” she said, “but we can try to reduce the tendency for crimes and bloodshed,” she stated.
Her planned training, Helen hopes will provide a platform for youths from the two conflict communities to interact and neutralize their barriers. “At that level, peace can be hatched, and new frontiers of development can emerge,” she said.
Helen is purely a private sector player. She is not funded by government or any other organization. She has applied for grants from State Government but has yet to get reply. However, she is not relenting on her goals. “The little I save from this business, I will use it to change lives around,” she said. After all, fashion design, according to her, is more of a passion, and call to human service, than business opportunity.