The National Network Coordinator, West African Peace building Network (WANEP), Bridget Osakwe has called for more women participation in peace building, conflict prevention and decision-making in Niger Delta and north east regions.
Osakwe who made the call during a two- day planning meeting on WANEPs new project tagged, Enhancing participation of women in peace building and human security in Nigeria, observed that over the years there has been a remarkable absence of voices of moderation that women provide in decision-making on strategies to be adopted in the course of managing conflicts in Nigeria.
She regretted that in the past decade, the country has faced numerous challenges to its development efforts in the form of episodic outbreaks of clashes across the country.
She said in the north east geo-political zone, violent extremism has increased in tenacity from unabated attacks from the violent extremist group Boko Haram.
“Since the inception of this Islamic extremist group in 1995, it has continued to intensify attacks in the north-eastern states and other parts of Nigeria.
“Since 1998, over 40,000 Nigerians have been killed in more than 2,300 incidents reflecting a wide range of ethnic, religious, political and economic tensions across large portions of the country.
This accounts for almost 40 percent of the total deaths more than any other source of social violence in the country.””, she stated.
In all these violent conflicts, she affirmed that the palliative capacities of women drawn from their connections as mothers, sisters and wives to cushion trends or patterns of violence in communities has been missing.
She continued, saying that. “Because this voice has remained suppressed in the ongoing conflict dynamics in the two regions, belligerents and other interested parties to the conflict who benefit from economies of conflict have yielded to various levels and dimensions of violence to attain their goals.
“Although the government at federal and state levels have brought resources to bear in putting forward structures and strategies to promote peace in the regions, these conflicts have continued with new and emerging dynamics,”.
On WANEPS new project, Osakwe explained that it aimed to mainstream gender capacities and platforms for peace building, human security and social change among local women networks in selected communities in the Niger Delta and north east region.
Explaining further she said : It is principally designed to strengthen women social networks for relevance, recognition and active participation in peace process and inclusion in political and economic decision making especially where such decision directly influence their wellbeing and stability within their community.
In the Niger Delta the three states selected for the project are Delta, Edo and Rivers where pipeline vandalisation, kidnapping and resource based conflicts are on the increase. While in the north east, there is need to consolidate the peace building efforts of the government by integrating components of countering violent extremism into National Action Plan at the local level”.
Speaking also, Prof. Patricia Doli of the University of Maidugiri lamented the increased rate of prostitution among women and girls in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the north east.
According to her, Mothers in the IDPs camps now set target for their female children by sending them out to sell goods worth of N500 and warned them not to return home with nothing less than N2,000. “She is indirectly asking them to go in to prostitution so as to make up the money. The men in such environment take advantage of that to impregnate the innocent children and this has led to high rate of child abandonment in the society.
Where ever there is conflict, women and girls are the worst hit, so there is urgent need for women to be involved in the peace process of any conflict region because when there is peace and security, they will be able to contribute their quota to the nations building, she noted.
On her part, Okpohworho Faith, Director Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Delta state described non acceptance of women in mens gatherings as one of the factors that hinders women from participating effectively in peace process in conflict zones.
She said: Most women are not really accepted by men in their meetings. At the grass root level, there are in some cases where the constitution stated that women should be part of the executive and most women are not aware of this, because they are not part of their meetings. It ought not to be so because the issue of peace building and security concerns both men and women and there is no way one can undermine the female folk in such critical issue, she noted.
Also speaking, Voke Ighoroeje of Right Education Empowerment and Development Center for Social Change (REED) commended WANEP for what he described as impactful initiative, adding, this project will fit in to our democracy work. So, for us and above all it will help to promote peace particularly in the participation of women and girls in peace processes and governance structure and in the leadership position in the community.