20/06/2018 17:18 BST | Updated 20/06/2018 17:18 BST

When Our Village Was Attacked, I Became A Widow And A Single Parent Of Eight. After Three Years I Am Rebuilding My Life

In May 2015, we were woken up by gun shots - lives were lost, houses burnt and properties destroyed

Lydia Davou Pa

My name is Lydia Pam Davou. I am 45-years-old. I am a widow with eight children: five girls and three boys.

I left school aged 10. After marrying my husband, I worked as a farmer. He had a job with the government, and then retired and worked with me on the farm.

In May 2015, we were woken up by gun shots. We heard that the neighbouring village had been attacked by herdsmen. Lives were lost, houses burnt and properties destroyed. There was a great deal of destruction.

The herdsmen took their cattle into the farmlands around the village and ate up all the produce and cut the rest with machetes. Their farms were destroyed.

We were gripped with fear. We knew we would not be spared, due to the proximity of our village and the fact we are all farmers, too. The men in our community started to panic and met to discuss how to protect our properties.

Two days later, our community came under attack. My husband asked me to run to safety with the children whilst he would stay back and fight with the other men. I pleaded with him to come with us, since we were not armed and had nothing but sticks to protect ourselves. But he wouldn’t listen, so with some of my neighbours we ran for our lives and left our husbands behind.

Our houses were burned down together with our crops and the grains we had harvested and stored in the barns. It was all set ablaze.

An NGO set up a camp and fed us. After five days, some men from our community began to come in search of their families, but my husband was not among them. I asked if anyone knew where my husband was, but no-one did. They told me that the herdsmen had outnumbered the men from our community and killed most of them.

I began to cry and panic, I couldn’t sleep or eat. I wanted to go in search of my husband by myself, but I was stopped by friends. Finally, it was confirmed that my husband had been killed – his body was found in the well, with heavy stones thrown on top of him. The knife which had been used to kill him was found next to the well, along with his mobile phone and keys.

By the time I was taken to see his corpse it had started to rot, so we thought it was best to bury him in the well. Some of his friends filled the well up with earth, and that marked the beginning of my journey into widowhood.

The pain I felt was deep and lasting; especially when I remembered the dehumanising way my husband was killed. Loneliness became my companion, and all my hopes and dreams were shattered. I didn’t know how to face life all over again. My children and I took shelter in a single room owned by a relative who lived in Barkin Ladi town. My sons had to leave the room when my daughters and I would bathe and dress, and then we left the room for them.

Our neighbours were kind, they gave us food and clothing, but my children had to stop going to school as we couldn’t afford that anymore.

Another relative helped us find a place to live with two bedrooms. I started to do labourer work on other people’s farms, to earn enough to buy food for the family.

I heard from an elderly woman at church about the Women for Women International programme. I cannot begin to count how I have benefitted, but I know for sure that I have been given a new hope. I am deeply grateful for all the help and support, but I wish my husband was here with me. But the pain and trauma is subsiding every day. I learnt from the training that my health is an asset, so I have to guard it jealously.

I try to encourage my children to pick up the pieces of our lives and move on. I take special interest in my daughters and try to teach them how to cope with the changes that come with age.

The best part of the programme is learning about farming. I have been a farmer all my life, and I want to keep on learning new techniques. Currently I am farming potatoes, maize, carrots, tomatoes and peppers.

I am a member of two co-operatives, one at church and one with other Women for Women International programme participants. With a loan from my co-operative I bought five bags of potato seedlings and four bags of fertiliser.

With economic support, I am gradually rebuilding my life and the future for my children, who have now gone back to school.