“We decided to put together this collection of thirty narratives to correct the invisibility, the confusion, the caricaturising and the writing out of history.” This stirring and intimate collection brings together 25 unique narratives to paint a vivid portrait of what it means to be a queer Nigerian woman. Covering an array of experiences – the joy and excitement of first love, the agony of lost love and betrayal, the sometimes-fraught relationship between sexuality and spirituality, addiction and suicide, childhood games and laughter – She Called Me Woman sheds light on how Nigerian queer women, despite their differences, attempt to build a life together in a climate of fear. Through first-hand accounts, She Called Me Woman challenges us to rethink what it means to be a Nigerian ‘woman’, negotiating relationships, money, sexuality and freedom, identifying outside the gender binary, and the difficulties of achieving hopes and dreams under the constraints of societal expectations and legal terrorism. She Called Me Woman is full of beautifully told stories of resistance and resilience, joy and laughter, heartbreaks and victories, collecting the realities of a community that will no longer be invisible.
The people of northeast Nigeria have experienced three intersecting and interlocking crises. Long-standing under-development, weak governance, and inadequacy of public service provision and access had led to a region with some of the worst social development indicators, particularly for women and girls, in the nation. Over a decade of violent conflict has led to devastating and gendered impacts on access to education and healthcare, livelihoods, and mental health and psychological well-being as well as causing high numbers of deaths, injuries, disabilities, and displacement. Then, while official numbers of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections and deaths continue to be low, the region has experienced significant economic and social impacts linked to the pandemic. Based on remote interviews conducted in November 2020, eight months after the first COVID-19 case in the country was confirmed (in Lagos on 27 February 2020), this study examines how the pandemic is affecting conflict dynamics in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states and uncovers the opportunities available to mitigate harmful impacts and build peace. The study addresses the following five research questions:
• How is the COVID-19 pandemic and related dynamics affecting relations within and between communities and how can social cohesion be built?
• How do the COVID-19 pandemic and related dynamics affect relations between communities and the state and how can trust, confidence, and good governance be improved?
• What information about COVID-19 is reaching communities and how can rumours and
misinformation be disrupted?
• How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting gender and conflict dynamics and what entry-points exist around women, peace and security?
• What are the potential long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how may it affect conflict trajectories?
This research report examines what is already happening with regards to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on conflict, gender, and social exclusion dynamics and potential trajectories. It starts by looking at the implications of COVID-19 and related policymaking for access to health and other services and their economic impacts on jobs, incomes, livelihoods and workload. It then considers impacts on social relations and conflict dynamics, trends in VAWG, the (risk of) other human rights violations, and dynamics around decision making and communications. It ends with conclusions and recommendations. It is shared publicly to help others to adapt programming to be conflict sensitive, gender-transformative, mitigate violence, and build peace. There are three accompanying 4 page policy briefs, on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
This briefing paper outlines major trends around how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected violence against women and girls in Nigeria before examining response in terms of service provision and prevention. It ends with detailing concrete recommendations for government ministries, departments, and agencies, civil society organisations, and donors.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) was widespread in Nigeria before COVID-19 and there has been a significant increase during the pandemic. This report presents the findings of interviews with women’s rights activists and government officials and data from VAWG services and that released by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). It shows how COVID-19 has exposed the nature and scale of pre-existing challenges, lack of systems, and the extent to which VAWG is not prioritised.
Mali Climate Fragility Risk Brief: Mali, May 2020
The majority of Mali’s regions are currently affected by violent conflict. At the same time, Mali’s climate is changing. It is already experiencing increasing temperatures and significant inter-annual and decadal rainfall variability, leading to repeated droughts, floods, strong winds, and bush fires. Conflict and climate change are combining to affect livelihoods and put resilience under strain in five ways:
1. Rent-seeking behaviour negatively affects environmental degradation and conflict dynamics
2. Conflict-insensitive climate and environmental action increases grievances
3. Migration is both a resilience strategy and source of tension
4. Conflicts over natural resources are likely to increase
5. Climate change and conflict both undermine livelihoods and social cohesion
Over the last decade, community militias have played key roles in the conflict in northeast Nigeria, protecting civilians from a range of threats including attacks, abduction, sexual and gender-based violence, and extortion. At the same time, these groups have been responsible for harm against civilians. This report takes an in-depth look at the role of community militias in the conflict in northeast Nigeria, capping off research since 2016. The report also provides recommendations for federal and state governments, donors, and NGOs to mitigate harm to civilians in the present and encourage the successful reintegration and social cohesion of community militia members.
Zamfara Analysis of Violence and Insecurity, February 2020
Zamfara state in northwest Nigeria has seen high levels of violent conflict yet conflict dynamics are little studied and understood. This analysis fills this gap and answers the following six questions, integrating analysis on age, gender and disability throughout:
1. What are the root causes of violence and insecurity? What are the key grievances held by different groups and how do they manifest in violent and non-violent ways?
2. What is the impact of violence and security on people (differentiated according to age, disability and gender)?
3. What are the gender dynamics around conflict and how do gender norms and realities drive violence and/ or peace?
4. What are the factors (including government, security force and community action) bringing people together and/ or promoting peace and stability?
5. Who are the key actors with influence, means and motivations to mobilise groups and resources into collective action for peace or for violence and what are links between them?
6. What are the potential trajectories, both positive and negative, around peace and security?
The herder-farmer violent conflict in the Middle Belt is often presented as a problem of the cultural and economic lifestyle of a certain group. This inaccurate representation of the dynamics of the conflict has often exacerbated the conflict. This ethnographic study provides detailed accounts of internal socio-cultural dynamics within and between the main pastoral groups and farmers in areas that have experienced significant violence in five states of Nigeria’s North East, North West and the Middle Belt. It examines how these dynamics affect and are affected by conflict and presents the groupings with which pastoralists self-identify, the key challenges they face and how they have adapted to these new realities. A closer look at intra-pastoralist relations, how different groups interact and the contours of conflict dynamics between them presents an interesting picture of an evolving culture responding to disparate survival needs that threaten its very existence. Relations between farmers and pastoralists, and the dynamics of conflict reveals limitations in policy responses that have had unintended consequences.
Since 2009, the parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon bordering Lake Chad—which are home to more than 17.4 million people—have been locked into multiple and overlapping crises. Climate change is having profound adverse impacts on the conflict, intensifying existing dynamics and creating new risks. Communities in this region are thus vulnerable to both the impacts of climate change and the ongoing conflict. If the region is to break free of the conflict trap, we must tackle the impacts of climate change as part of peacebuilding efforts. Communities are vulnerable to both the rising impacts of climate change and the ongoing conflict. This creates its own feedback loop: violence undercuts communities’ capacity to adapt to climate change, but climate change undermines efforts to escape the conflict trap. While the situation varies significantly between and within countries, we identify four key climate-conflict risks.
- Climate and conflict dynamics undermine livelihoods
- Increased competition for natural resources
- Recruitment into armed opposition groups
- Heavy-handed military response
The conflict in northeast Nigeria has evolved in complexity and intensity since 2009, now extending beyond the country’s borders into the Lake Chad Basin. While many associated with armed opposition groups (AOGs) have done so against their will, these groups have demonstrated the ability to mobilise support and offer a sense of belonging, purpose and community. This study contributes to understanding the relationship between empowerment and radicalisation through interviews with young people who were ideologically aligned with AOGs in northeast Nigeria. Integrating analyses of gender, age and power dynamics throughout, it traces their journeys to association, their experiences while in the groups, journeys to disassociation and reintegration.
As the violence in northeast Nigeria continues into its tenth year, communities have been mobilizing to augment Nigerian state responses. These groups, known as the yan gora (Civilian Joint Task Force – CJTF), yan banga (vigilantes) and kungiyar maharba (hunters) have played important roles in protecting communities and pushing back against opposition groups. In the course of these activities, these groups have also caused civilian harm. This study aims to better understand civilian perspectives around the dynamics associated with the yan gora in Maiduguri and explore potential areas to mitigate civilian harm and advance civilian protection. Civilians credit the CJTF for bringing back some stability and safety to Borno. They believe the group is proactive in investigating reports received from community members, sharing information with civilians, and serving as a bridge between communities and security forces. The CJTF also patrol communities, conduct joint patrols alongside the military, perform security scans and body searches, and run checkpoints. They have assisted civilians to safety, enabling them to securely pursue livelihoods such as farming, and played a key role in resolving disputes. However, all civilian interviewees also pointed to concrete ways some members harm civilians. Members have been involved in assaulting and killing those thought to be associated with armed groups. They restrict movement outside IDP camps and use their positions of power for sexual exploitation and abuse. They intimidate civilians, employ punitive justice measures to settle personal scores, trade drugs, and have been implicated in the commission of extortion and theft, including the diversion of humanitarian aid. Civilians felt that opportunities for redress for harm do not exist. Every civilian interviewed was concerned for the future. In particular, civilians shared concerns over: 1) the increased politicization and mobilization of the group associated with the 2019 elections; 2) that the group’s involvement with politicians was diluting their focus on protection; 3) the group would become increasingly involved in criminality and gangs; and 4) the group derailing processes of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration, and rehabilitation; 5) tensions within the CJTF, or between CJTF and vigilante and/ or hunters, would develop into a new phase of the conflict.
Lake Chad Climate Fragility Profile, May 2018.
Climate change is increasingly recognised as a ‘threat multiplier’ that interacts with and compounds existing risks and pressures. When climate change converges and interacts with other environmental, economic, social, and political shocks and pressures, it can increase the likelihood of instability or conflict. This threat is particularly virulent in fragile and conflict-affected situations where governments and societal institutions already struggle to achieve security and equitable development. At the same time, conflicts and fragility often contribute to environmental degradation and undermine the ability to adapt to climate change, thus creating a vicious circle of increasing vulnerability and fragility. The Lake Chad Basin region is currently experiencing one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises. More than 10 million people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance and 3.7 million people are expected to face severe food insecurity in north-east Nigeria during the upcoming lean season. The crisis was triggered by violence linked to armed opposition groups, such as ‘Boko Haram’ and ‘Islamic State West Africa’. But the underlying causes for the insecurity go beyond the current violence and are rooted in the region’s historical context. In addition, an increasingly changing climate exacerbates the challenges already faced by the predominantly rural population around Lake Chad, most of whom rely on farming, fishing, and raising livestock. This Climate-Fragility profile summarises the key challenges the Lake Chad region is experiencing as a consequence of the interplay between climate change and fragility. The Climate-Fragility profile is envisaged as a first component of the Lake Chad Risk Assessment project. The project aims at identifying climate-fragility risks in the Lake Chad region and providing recommendations for policy-makers and donors engaged in the region to plan, design, implement and evaluate policies and programmes to respond positively to these risks.
The violent conflict in northeast Nigeria has not only led to widespread displacement and reduction in livelihoods but affected community tensions and conflicts. Humanitarian and development programming have potential to bring communities together across lines of division, promote social cohesion and address causes of conflict if designed and implemented with conflict sensitivity in mind. Conversely, programmes can instead create tension and exacerbate already existing conflict. This study, integrating gender perspectives, examines conflict dynamics in 8 northeast local government areas (Gombi and Hong in Adamawa State; Biu, Hawul, Jere and Kaga in Borno State; and Bursari and Jakusko in Yobe State) with focus on their implications for programming. It first analyses political, economic, social and security factors that contribute to conflict, violence and instability or enable peace and social cohesion looking at context, key actors, conflict dynamics (grievances and resilience) and possible trajectories for each LGA. It then outlines conflict sensitivity action plans i.e. ways to mitigate, manage or prevent conflict based on the analysis presented.
Gender Assessment of Northeast Nigeria, June 2017.
This assessment focuses on gender dynamics in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in northeast Nigeria, a region affected by conflict between armed opposition groups (commonly grouped together in the umbrella ‘Boko Haram’) and the Nigeria state. After an overview of trends across the three states, the assessment turns to examining Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in detail. For each state, the assessment starts by providing context, highlighting key conflict dynamics in the state and outlining relevant legal frameworks. It then goes on to cover involvement in conflict, physical harm caused by armed actors, dynamics around displacement, economic and psychological impacts. The state sections finish with examination of women’s participation and voice (or lack thereof) in governance and peacebuilding and discussion of VAWG through an overview of incidence and trends and analysis as to prevention and response mechanisms.
Masculinities, Conflict and Violence in Nigeria, (Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme and Voices for Change, 2016).
Differences in ways Nigerian men and women are socialised and valued – and disparities in abilities to access power, resources and key roles in society – create gendered power relations. These differences fuel personal struggles as well as conflict and violence in the home and the wider community and further deepen gender inequality. This study examine masculinities, conflict and violence in four states in Nigeria: Borno; Kaduna; Lagos; and Rivers. It shows that men and boys are raised to see themselves as breadwinners, heads of household and providers of security while, in general, women are expected to be submissive or supportive. These notions of masculinity and femininity set difficult standards to achieve. Norms and roles have changed and continue to shift compared with previous generations. Men’s inability to meet societal ideals causes conflict at household and community levels as well as creating personal struggles. Although there were good relations between generations in a number of communities, older men were seen by many, particularly younger men as misusing their control over resources and opportunities for their own ends. Young men were treated with more respect if they joined groups that ‘protected the community’ and enabled them to provide for families. Men have the power to make choices and many are able to resist violence and work for peace. However, male-dominated institutions drive cultures of violence and conflict by propagating norms of masculinities linked to power, control and dominance. The report ends with recommendations for government, civil society, donors, community leaders, researchers and others.
What Violence Means to Us – Women with Disabilities Speak, with Grace Jerry, Patricia Pam and Chukwuma Nnanna, (Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, 2015).
While there is growing recognition in Nigeria and across the world of the need to protect and promote the rights of women and people with disabilities, this commitment has yet to translate to positive and genuine impact for women with disabilities who face double marginalisation due to their gender and their disability. This groundbreaking study, the first of its kind in Nigeria and one of the first in the world, carried out in four conflict-affected local government areas in Plateau State in Nigeria, addresses this gap. Research was carried out using emancipatory methodology with women with disabilities themselves taking the lead in conducting and analysing the research. Respondents spoke of the violence women and girls with disabilities face in times of violent conflict and relative peace. They are often not warned of impending danger, find it difficult to escape violence, lose or leave behind mobility aids, medicines and caregivers in the midst of crisis, and express a sense of abandonment. This violence forms a continuum with experiences during times of relative peace. Women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience gender based violence but less likely to be able to speak up, be believed and access services. Respondents felt interventions by government, security and civil society actors did not take the needs of women and girls with disabilities into account. The report ends with recommendations for government ministries, departments and agencies, security agencies, relief agencies, educational institutions, local and national media organisations, organisations for people with disabilities, donors and international partners.
Winners or Losers? Assessing the Contribution of Youth Employment and Empowerment Programmes to Reducing Conflict Risk in Nigeria, with Jessie Banfield and Oladayo Olaide, (Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, 2014).
Implementing Resolution 1325 in Liberia – Reflections of Women’s Associations, with Ruth Gibson Caesar, Cerue Konah Garlo and Steven Schoofs, (International Alert, 2010).
Long before UN Security Council Resolution 1325 came into existence, women in Liberia played an important and visible role in bringing an end to the country’s civil war. Women’s organisations and networks in Liberia therefore embody a significant amount of practical peacebuilding knowledge and experience. This report is based on a small study on women’s organisations in Liberia, which sought to document the impact of Resolution 1325 on the strategies and activities of women’s organisations in Liberia. As such, this report provides a tentative assessment of how and to what extent women’s organisations are utilising Resolution 1325 in their work and how the resolution is shaping their strategies and activities.
Culture/ Religion/ Tradition vs Modern/ Secular/ Foreign: Implications for Women’s Rights in Nigeria, Feminist Dissent, 3 2018 114-146
This article examines the binary of culture/religion/tradition and modern/secular/foreign and its impact on women’s human rights struggles in particular in northern Nigeria. This binary is commonly perpetuated by state and non-state actors, including politicians, community leaders and religious leaders, who weaponise culture, religion and tradition to resist the struggle for gender equality. It highlights how progress around some concerns, such as rape of young girls, has occurred concurrently with attacks on other rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights including abortion and sex outside marriage, and of those with non- normative sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. This hardening of attitudes and narrowing of what is seen as permissible not only obscures the diversity of how people lived and thought in the past but is also far from the reality of how people live their lives presently. It further reflects the increased influence of religious fundamentalism and conservatism in northern Nigeria.
Jihadi Groups and State-Building: The Case of Boko Haram in Nigeria, with Sarah Ladbury, Hamsatu Allamin, Paul Francis and Ukoha Ukiwo, Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 5(1): 16 2016 1–19.
This article considers the extent to which the Nigerian jihadi group, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS), also known as Boko Haram, is transforming its model of governance from domination by violence and force to governance through civil administration and public support. Drawing on over four years of research and programming in northeast Nigeria, the authors consider three aspects of such a transformation: the development of institutions, the propagation of an ideology and programmes to win over the hearts and minds of the wider population, and the role assigned to women and girls. The article finds that JAS has established little in the way of a civilian administration in the areas that have come under its control. Likewise, the movement has apparently made no concerted effort to project a vision of a future society or concrete benefits of the envisaged cali-phate that would generate a level of public support. Moreover, the brutal treatment of women and girls belies any attempt by the movement to promote a positive vision of the role of women, even as wives and mothers. In this, JAS is seen to differ from a number of other jihadi movements that have relatively sophisticated approaches to generating popular support and recruiting members. The article goes on to suggest a number of reasons for JAS’s failure to move towards a polity that is more consensual and less dependent on violence, as well as its implications for those who would seek to restrain the expansion and ideological reach of jihadist groups. It concludes by offering suggestions of how the government can seize the opportunity presented by this lack of a state-building strategy, in order to show the people of northeast Nigeria that it can offer a better alternative.
Why Feminist Dissent?, with Rashmi Varma and Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Feminist Dissent, 2016 (1), pp. 1-32.
This essay lays out the historical and intellectual lineage of the idea behind the journal Feminist Dissent. As the “Rushdie Affair ” was both the backdrop and the catalyst for a group such as Women Against Fundamentalism, the current conjuncture characterized by an exponential expansion of fundamentalism, neo-liberal austerity, rollback of the rights of women and sexual minorities, and racist control of borders and migration has necessitated a different kind of analysis, one that is absent from academic and popular discourse at the moment. This essay is an attempt to propose a new way of looking at the intersection of gender and fundamentalism, and underscores the importance of highlighting dissent as a crucial feminist strategy.
An Appraisal of Rwanda’s Response to Survivors Who Experienced Sexual Violence in 1994, Wagadu Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies, 2012 10, pp. 108-131.
Over a million people were killed in 1994 during Rwanda’s genocide and war, with many women compelled to ‘offer’ sex, raped, held in collective or individual sexual slavery and mutilated. An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 women still alive were raped between 1990 and 1994, 30 000 pregnancies resulted from rape and the 67% of survivors considered HIV positive continue to suffer the consequences of wartime sexual violence (Wells, 2004-2005). Countless women now live with serious illnesses, pain or injury, unable to provide for families. The level of trauma is severe, compounded by shame, exclusion, stigma, survivor’s guilt and contested feelings towards the children of bad memories born of rape and as many perpetrators were neighbours who often live nearby. Despite commitment to the rights of women and recognition of the prevalence of rape during the genocide, the Rwandese government has been slow to offer legal redress, medical treatment and counselling and has not prioritised prosecution and punishment. Conviction rates are low. Reparations are not forthcoming. Neither the national courts nor the gacaca, have investigated and prosecuted these cases in a fitting manner. Although attention has been paid to sexual violence, defects in the drafting of statutory law and its implementation discourage reporting, investigation and prosecution. Recent procedural revisions dismiss very real fears around fair trial, public ridicule, and increased trauma. Difficulties in addressing the legacies and widespread nature of sexual violence are being overlooked as the government prioritizes the construction of a sense of nationhood and continuation of its own power over the needs of survivors. The result is that many women, infected with HIV or with other serious illnesses, are slowly dying without reparation, healthcare, counselling or seeing perpetrators brought to justice.
Lessons Learned Papers
Integrating Civilian Protection into Nigerian Military Policy and Practice, (Humanitarian Exchange, 2017), pp. 21-24.
Civilian harm has been committed by all parties to the conflict in northeast Nigeria. The military has caused harm to civilians through failure to protect communities from violence, failure to prevent collateral damage during military operations, thereby causing direct and indirect harm, and direct targeting of civilians, with unlawful detention, harassment, the destruction of property, sexual violence against women and girls, indiscriminate targeting of certain groups, such as young men, torture and excessive use of force. However, there have been some steps to change mindsets and the conduct of operations to mitigate civilian harm. This piece details the work of the Center for Civilians in Conflict to engage the military in these issues in northeast Nigeria, discusses lessons learned from this work, notes ways in which civilians continue to be harmed and lays out what steps need to be taken to ensure change.
Guidance on Mainstreaming Conflict Sensitivity, Gender and Social Inclusion in Research, with Kimairis Toogood, (NSRP, 2017).
Researchers are increasingly trying to ensure conflict sensitivity, gender and social inclusion analyses and approaches inform all steps of the research process with this in mind. This is important not only to ‘do no harm’ but also to ‘do more good.’ However, in many cases, researchers can struggle not to be merely being tokenistic in this effort. Understanding of how to translate from principles into practice, particularly through a combined approach, is limited. Studies lack awareness of the dynamics of power and conflict as a result: between and within communities and social groups and between men, women, boys and girls. Without reflecting these insights into the process, research can not only inherently harm people and communities but findings and recommendations will be less reflective of realities and thereby less meaningful. This guide builds on existing ethical standards, which integrate elements of conflict sensitivity, gender and social inclusion, albeit without taking a sustained approach. This guidance document is aimed at helping persons involved in commissioning, planning and conducting research to think through ways to integrate conflict sensitivity, gender and social inclusion analyses and approaches at every phase of the research cycle.
Observatory on VAWG Learning from the NSRP Experience, with Eleanor Nwadinobi, (NSRP, 2016).
The Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme worked on violence against women and girls prevention and response, recognising the links between it and other forms of violent conflict. One of the ways it did this was through the Observatory on Violence Against Women and Girls, a platform for reporting, referrals, response and advocacy for change. This paper shares lessons from this experience, giving an overview of violence against women and girls in Nigeria and the operations of the Observatory before presenting the Observatories in 5 states (Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and Rivers). It then goes on to present progress and achievements, challenges and key lessons learned. It ends with key recommendations going forwards.
The National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: Learning from the Nigerian Experience, with Eleanor Nwadinobi, (NSRP, 2016).
Nigeria passed its National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security in August 2013. This paper draws on four years of working on the development, implementation and monitoring of the NAP and deliberations with government and civil society. It begins with background on the women, peace and security agenda and goes on to discuss NAPs and the Nigerian experience. It then outlines progress on and challenges to implementation, the role of civil society and key lessons and concludes with recommendations for the future.
Implementing Resolution 1325 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – Charting a Way Forward, with Steven Schoofs and Lulsegged Abebe, (International Alert, 2010).
Based on International Alert’s work on women, peace and security in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, this briefing note seeks to contribute to the knowledge on Resolution 1325. It firstly briefly discusses the need to adjust the approach to implementing Resolution 1325 in challenging contexts such as post-conflict Sierra Leone and Liberia and conflict-prone Guinea. After a brief discussion of salient issues and thematic priorities across the three countries, it subsequently sketches the contours of a comprehensive agenda for implementing Resolution 1325 in the MRU region. The three components of this agenda are addressing women’s security needs, enhancing their political participation, and implementing gender equality legislation and policies. It ends with broad recommendations to sustain and enhance work on Resolution 1325 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone