How women Groups contribute to stabilise peace, security across Nigeria

Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe

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From Bauchi, Borno, Edo and Delta States, women are making a lot of impact in shaping the lives of people in those communities, providing solutions to their everyday life challenges.

Voice of Nigeria takes a look at the efforts of a few women groups that are making such impacts in their various communities.

This wind of change is being activated in storytelling, then to the rehabilitated and empowered survivors of displacement, who have now become self-reliant and employers of labour and to the women taking the bull by the horn in tackling security as well as violent clashes against their fellow women, among others.

Osisa Community in Delta State

We begin with the Osisa Community, Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State, Southern Nigeria where the United Women Peace Builders Network has become a household name. The women in the group are changing the narrative by becoming a force to be reckoned with, such that when violations against their fellow women are reported to them, they ensure that justice is served. In fact, because they have become intermediate in peace-building activities in their community, nobody wants to be reported to them, because of their doggedness.

The success story began with the determination of some of the women to acquire the ability to read and write, where previously they couldn’t.

The Executive Director, Development Initiative for Community Impact and the Focal Person for Women in Peace Building Network for WANEP-Nigeria, Dr. Rachael Misan-Rupee, said it all began with the United Women Peace Builders Network Project and that beneficiaries were required to possess the basic requirements of reading and writing.

Dr. Misan-Rupee said that the training session funded under the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norad, was conducted through self-determination, where the literate women were sieved and selected, while the illiterate ones were dropped.

She said the women who were not selected went back and started developing themselves and learning how to read and write.

Dr. Misan-Ruppee said because the women developed themselves, the number of beneficiaries increased from 40 women to more than 120, which is an unintended outcome of the project.

She said because of the added qualities and number, the group of women had now become strong inter-mediates in peace-building activities in their community.

They interface with the Community Development Committees, whenever violent conflicts or disputes arise in the community.

They are now known as peace women, because their capacity to mediate on issues relating to violent issues had been built, to the point that during the commemoration of international days, they go around secondary schools to sensitize youths, while also moving from place to place sensitizing other women,” Dr. Misan-Rupee said.

According to her, women now meet regularly, using a grant of seed money given to them with which they registered the organisation and used the remaining to start an enterprise rental service.

“As part of their sustainability plan, the United Women Peace Builders Network uses their official account to intervene in matters that need funds,” Dr. Misan-Rupee said.

Eneme, Edo State

The Norad Project was extended to Edo State in Southern Nigeria, where the Eneme Women in Akoko Edo, in Edo State used the platform to begin the Story Telling for Peace, re-enacting old ways of preventing conflicts.

Again, Dr. Misan-Rupee said each year, people in the community gather from within and outside the country to listen to the tales of yesteryears, in which morals are taught for the resuscitation of the peace and security the community used to enjoy.

She said the project uses folklore to bring back the local solutions to Peace-building.

Dr. Misan-Rupee said the local strategy, approach and techniques are used through the people’s local language to tell the stories, and the dance and thereafter share the lessons learned from the story.

They are using the storytelling for peace to do inter-generational mentoring for the need of the young girls and the young boys to know that Peacebuilding is possible, peace is possible, and conflict is not the answer or solution to whatever issue that is available. There is no violent way of resolving conflict,” Mrs. Misan-Rupee said.

She said the Eneme Women were also empowered through the seed money given to them, which they used in agricultural processing services, where others come to them and process their goods and pay for them.

Mrs. Misan-Rupee called on women across the country to form a formidable network, coalitions or movements, and ensure that peace in the area was sustained, by looking for a source of income for the group.

Rehabilitation and empowerment of Borno IDPs to profitable ventures

From Borno State in North-East Nigeria, comes the story of survivors of insurgency to productive citizens through rehabilitation.

These women are survivors, who were living in villages around Maiduguri before the Boko Haram insurgency, which forced them to leave their communities and move to the IDP Camps, where the women were allocated shelters, but they ended up in brothels for sex, to survive.

The development forced Governor Babagana Zulum, to demolish the place because of the immorality perpetrated at the place, known as Barka da zuwa, in Maiduguri.

However, instead of the demolition limiting the activities of the women, they were left stranded and once again forced to look for men to either stay with or sleep with them to get money to buy food.

This is where Gender Equality, Peace and Development Centre stepped in and empowered 35 of them with grants to start businesses, after building their capacity how to run their business, particularly on Business Awareness and Business Skills.

The women were equally taught the culture of savings, where they were put into groups for the compulsory saving skill for about 9 to 12 months.

The money was afterwards given back to them to re-invest in their businesses. And so far, they are thriving in their businesses.

Similarly, after the first batch of 35 people’s successes were recorded, subsequent 60 others were trained in two batches, bringing the number of those trained to 95 women, who are now running their businesses.

Ms. Charity Charles, from the Gender Equality, Peace and Development Centre, Maiduguri, Borno State, told Voice of Nigeria that some women had also been trained to make cream, air-fresheners, disinfectants, detergents and local incense.

The training also included branding and packaging and today most of the women have also learnt how to brand their products with their names on them. Two of the women have registered their businesses, with the hope that the rest would join, to strive higher. The businesses for some of the beneficiaries in Musari, Ramatu and the team have excelled to a point that they have recruited girls that were once into commercial sex while some of the beneficiaries are still building their businesses,” Ms. Charles explained.

She said her organization’s Livelihood Officer carried out weekly monitoring of each of the businesses in their communities, by inquiries made in the various communities where the businesses are located to know their progress.

Katagum Women fight against rape, drug abuse

After developing the Implementation Plan or the Local Action Plan of the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1325 in Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State, North-East Nigeria, the women swung into action to ensure that what is written in the plan is implemented to the later, particularly to curb gender-based violence and drug abuse.

The resolution requires that women should be considered in decision-making to prevent, resolve, and mitigate conflicts, as well as be involved in peace negotiations.

Similarly, Bauchi State is among the states in Nigeria to develop a state action plan, while Katagum is also among other Local Government Areas that have also developed their Local Action plans.

So, after this plan was launched, the women sought to ensure the domestication of the plan, by seeking airtime on Bauchi State-owned Radio state for a weekly programme to sensitise women and mothers on how they should speak out and act against rape in Katagum.

The story coming from that end is that of success.

According to Mrs. Amina Bala-Jibrin, from Tattalin Gida Women Development Initiative, Bauchi, who spoke with Voice of Nigeria, said before now, the story coming from Bulkachuwa, was terrible, because it was the resting place for truck drivers from around the country.

She said; “Bulkachuwa is at the boundary with Bauchi State. And because of the influx of IDPs living in the communities, you see a lot of girls hawking to make ends meet. And that location is a place where the big trucks stop over to rest and refresh. And you know what happens after that. These girls you can get them up to 12 midnight outside hawking. Because that is the tie that most trucks stopover.”     

Mrs. Bala-Jibrin said the women were also using their meagre resources to sensitise the public, through advocacy visits to stakeholders, such as traditional rulers, religious leaders and the relevant government outfits.

She said the visits had yielded positive results, to the extent that the Chairman of Katagum Local Government regularly provides transport money for them to go around for the advocacies.

The United Nations Women’s organization empowered the women by providing them with skills to ensure a great reduction in rape incidences, especially in Bulkachuwa, which was notorious for such cases.

Mr. Bala-Jibrin said other vices were being perpetrated in the area where drug and substance abuse among youths, including girls also.

According to her, there is a serious reduction in the cases of drug abuse, because of the deliberate efforts made by the women, to ensure that these vices are reduced to the barest minimum and the victims rehabilitated.

“This came as a success of the way these women swung into action and the connections we have with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Department of State Services, the National Security and Civil Defence, NSDC, the Vigilantes, Zauren Surhu and a lot of other stakeholders that are into women and Peace programmes,” Mrs. Bala-Jibrin added.