Occasional Paper

Pawns, Puppets or Weapons of Choice: Examining Boko Haram’s Use of Female Suicide Bombers in Nigeria

The use of girls as suicide bombers by Boko Haram in Nigeria has brought to the fore critical questions about the exploitation of girls in crises situations. The use of females as a war tactic is not new but the juvenile nature of the girls used by Boko Haram has changed the nature of guerrilla warfare and led to intense fear and panic in society. This paper interrogates the utilisation of girls and women in suicide bomb attacks in north-eastern Nigeria. Current
conventional wisdom suggests that most of these girls are either being used as “pawns” or “puppets” by the group. The paper argues for a more robust response by the state and its agencies as well as a critical rethinking of societal systems that continues to foster the recourse to violence, suicide bombings and terrorism.