Empowered women build empowered communities – Local women and local authorities in Nigeria develop strategies for an inclusive and sustainable peace

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Empowered women build empowered communities – Local women and local authorities in Nigeria develop strategies for an inclusive and sustainable peace

February 4, 2019 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“In Nigeria, like in many other countries affected by conflict, women and girls bear the burden of violent conflict, but are excluded from formal conflict management and peace processes.” With these words, the High Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Development in Gombe State, Nigeria welcomed the participants of a Localization workshop organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) – Nigeria with support from the Global Affairs Canada. GNWP and WANEP held the workshop in Gombe State on January 28 and 29, 2019, and in the neighbouring Bauchi State on January 31 and February 1, 2019. The Localization workshops convened representatives from the State and local governments; civil society; traditional and religious leaders; security sector; and the media to discuss the relevance of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and other Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions to their State and local communities.

Bauchi and Gombe are both located in North-East Nigeria, the part of the country that has been the most affected by the violent Boko Haram insurgency. Between 2011 and 2018, over 35,000 people were killed in the insurgency, at least 1.7 million people remain internally displaced, an overwhelming majority of whom are women. Bauchi and Gombe have been affected by the violence, and have also received many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to their location just south of the Borno State – the home base of Boko Haram. The impact of the violence is strongly gendered. Due to gender norms and stereotypes, women have been targeted by Boko Haram, sexually violated, and recruited as suicide bombers. Those who returned have faced rejection from their communities. The insecurity in Bauchi and Gombe is further fuelled by land disputes and violent conflict between farmers and pastoralists; as well as by political violence, stemming from rivalry between key political parties. The impact of these conflicts is also gendered. For example, as a representative of the security sector in Gombe pointed out, the widespread political violence discourages women from participating in politics and running for office.

Nigeria adopted its second National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS in May 2017. The efforts to implement the NAP at the State and local level have been ongoing since then, supported by various international actors. The Localization workshops further contributed to and built on these efforts. During the workshops, the participants learned about UNSCR 1325 and discussed how it is relevant to their State and their local communities. They have identified the key priority areas for the implementation, and the concrete actions necessary to address these priorities.

In Gombe, where a State Action Plan (SAP) for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 has already been adopted, the participants focused on priority actions to implement the NAP and the SAP in their local communities. Examples of such actions included: traditional leaders building awareness of the negative impacts of drug abuse in their communities, providing mediation training for women to enable them to mitigate the farmer-pastoralist conflict, and holding political parties accountable to their commitment to condemn any political violence, by signing non-violence accords with representatives of the political parties, including at the grassroots level. These actions will form a basis of Local Governance Area (LGA) Action Plans. So far, only 2 out of 11 LGAs have adopted Action Plans.

The workshop participants formed a Localization Steering Committee composed of representatives of the State government, LGA government, civil society, traditional leaders and the security sector. The Committee will ensure that the agreed actions and priorities will be disseminated, and transformed into specific and actionable local action plans across all 11 LGAs. To support this, GNWP and WANEP, in partnership with the Office of the Honorable Commissioner for Women’s Affairs, is planning “echo trainings” to disseminate the outcomes of the workshop and ensure commitment across the State.

In Bauchi, the participants appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the Women, Peace and Security agenda, since only two of them have heard of UNSCR 1325 before. The workshop focused on building the knowledge and capacity of the key stakeholders; and on formulating a draft State Action Plan. The State Permanent Secretary for Women’s Affairs and Deputy Director for Women’s Affairs have committed to taking the plan forward and ensuring its finalization and adoption. A Technical Working Group was also appointed to finish the work on the draft State Action Plan, with technical inputs from GNWP and WANEP. Some of the priority actions for the SAP included: economic empowerment of women and youth to prevent conflict; ensuring sexual and gender-based violence survivors’ access to adequate healthcare; and sensitization of traditional leaders to reduce etho-religious conflict.

The participants of both workshops also made concrete personal and professional commitments to UNSCR 1325 implementation. These included: teaching their daughters and sons to respect each other, and to be loving and peaceful individuals; sharing the knowledge gained through the workshop with colleagues in their department or organization; and reporting about women’s role in peacebuilding in their work as journalists.

“An empowered woman is not a threat to her husband. She is an asset to her husband, and to her community.” These words of Professor Patricia Donli, a gender expert and a resource person for the two workshops were the main message that the participants took away from the Localization workshops in Bauchi and Gombe. They left inspired, taking with them the concrete commitments and the plans of next steps to strengthen the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Bauchi and Gombe in the coming months.