Arise Women and Become Peace Builders
Peace we know is not the absence of Conflict and there is not snapshot way of resolving conflict or violence except through a process. Most times people and government do not have the patience of indulging and allowing these processes to take effect before embarking on force.
There have been constant clashes between Fulani Herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt and the Southern Region which have typically breached peace in Nigeria. Militancy and cultism is yet another challenge that was brought by environmental degradation and was not properly managed; it was allowed to escalate into full blown violence. This violence came with its fallout of Internally Displaced Persons, constant insecurity, hunger and a general fall in standard of living. Poverty is everywhere
Means of livelihood for many have been disrupted by both the oil exploration and gas flaring in the Niger Delta, Herdsmen Attacks and Boko Haram in the Middle Belt & Southern regions. Fear of Herdsmen will not allow anybody stray from their residential areas. Deforestation and Desertification in the North has given rise to migration, Internally Displaced Persons and hunger. The mayhem unleashed by Boko Haram cannot be contained by our Federal Security Agents and so there are violence everywhere you turn around to.
Most people see these every day clashes as politically motivated, while others see it as an orchestrated, well planned out crusade of ethnic cleansing; but the Agricultural scientist and Climate Change crusaders believe that aside the Boko Haram Insurgency, the deforestation and desertification in the North has brought about massive migration of Herdsmen and their cattles into the Middles Belt, South-East, South-South and South West Regions that still have green foliage.
These cattle rearers are moving from community to community looking for grazing lands for their cattles and in their wake destruction of crops and farmlands follows at any community or path they cross. Some communities who have risen to protect their lands and crops always leads to mayhem - destruction of lives and properties in numbers and our government is not doing much to check mate these clashes. Based on these constant security risks, so many people have ran away from their homes and communities thereby bringing about scarcity of food and a continuous fall in living standard. These fall in standard of living have also brought about more public health issues because of improper sanitation and personal hygiene.
My community have had a fair share of skirmishes with herdsmen and the stories about women being harassed, beaten up and raped by these herdsmen in and around the farms. These have brought about women and other community people losing interest in going to farms. Men cannot venture into the forest on their own to check their animal traps except in the company of other men.
Nigeria has been turned into a snowball of violence that erupts at all times; the triggers and drivers of these violence are not being checkmated, arrested or prosecuted. Some engagements have dwelt so much on resolving some of the issues with taking into cognizance the place of women in the process.
But most recently I have been part of a 2day training by our organisation; a 1day Niger Delta Women day of Action by Kabetkache Women Development & Resource Centre and a 3rd engagement between some women led CSOs in Port Harcourt and the Eminent Woman of Angie Brooks International of Liberia – Yvette. During the engagement, she spoke at length the work Angie Brooks International has done in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana toward Peace building in post electioneering activities in those countries. At the end of the engagement outcomes strongly corroborated with the outcomes of the first 2 engagements that the Inclusion of Women in Peace building processes is key to reducing violence in Nigeria, Africa and the World.
The outcomes continues that while we are advocating for women inclusion into political, economic and social spheres, we must continue to educate and empower women with Peace Building Tools, enlighten them of the enabling laws and convention – UNSCR 1825; so that they will be well equipped to face the challenges of peace building and decision making processes when the rollercoaster starts whirling which I know will be soonest.
They also maintained that Women should drive the Peace building processes in homes and communities by showing love to their children and admonish them on the sanctity of life as women have an endearing way of speaking to their children and getting them to listen to reasons. Advocacy must be intensified to community, local government, state, national, Regional and to the international community on the need to allow women be part of peace building processes.
The issue of Environmental degradation and violence propped up too for those in the Niger Delta area of Rivers State. According to the women in one of our interactions, they said that they no longer have farm lands because of government and oil company acquisitions and for the little they have left, there is low yield due to long years of oil exploration and its attendant issues of seismic activities that destroyed lands, oil spillage and gas flaring. Aquatic lives have not been spared by flood, erosion and oil spillage thereby exposing women and girls to commercial sex with its attendant public health issues of HIV/AIDS, Cervical Cancer and other forms of ailment.
In the centre of all of these is Corruption, the king of underdevelopment and violence. Corruption is almost becoming a norm for us in Africa and Nigeria. The Civil Society has continued to lend their voices which are always drowned by those sitting in the fence and those who do not care.
Though some believe that the Government of the day is not being sincere in their pursuit to address these challenges and reduce the violence to the barest minimum.
Predictions of violence are very high as the 2019 General elections continues to draw near and most of us in the Peace building world have continued to carry out sensitisations and enlightenment programmes towards non-violent and peaceful elections. We have mobilised more than 5000 youths across Rivers State on Non-violent elections and other CSOs across Nigeria are doing same. We hope our efforts will yield bountiful fruits on peaceful elections.
Its time for women to rise up and take the future of their children and community into their hands.