women, disability and conflict – why we should say and do more

The number of documents I have read on the experiences of women and girls with disabilities during times of conflict and violence in all my years of peacebuilding do not take even two hands to count. And I have gone looking for them. This lack of evidence is one of the main reasons why I am so happy to have been involved in the study What Violence Means to Us: Women With Disabilities Speak. Led by women with disabilities themselves, this research examines the situation for women in Plateau, one of Nigeria’s most conflict affected states.

Grace Jerry (one of the report’s co-authors) and I discuss research findings in this recording.

We also wrote conflict deepens dangers and worsens exclusion for women with disabilities for The Guardian:

Conflict can be both a cause of disability and a devastating complication for those already living with disabilities. Although all disabled people are affected, women face intersecting discrimination because of their gender and disability.

There is little research on the experiences of women and girls living with disability in conflict. To fill this gap, Inclusive Friends, a disability rights organisation, and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme studied the implications of violence for women and girls living with disability in Plateau state, where there has been sporadic violence along ethno-religious lines and between farmers and pastoralists for the past 15 years.

Women with disabilities led and participated in the research, which found that women’s experiences during conflict were an extension of the difficulties they lived with during peace time.

Daily life for those with disabilities in Plateau, and elsewhere in Nigeria, is bleak. Families rarely send disabled children to school and many keep them indoors to protect them or to hide them. Women said healthcare is often inaccessible – physically, financially and because staff have little knowledge of how to manage care for patients with disabilities. Workplaces are also inaccessible: many employers presume that disabled women have poor intellectual skills, and customers may be reluctant to buy goods from them.

Violent conflict exacerbates this reality. Women with disabilities find it difficult to flee violence and are often left behind. The study found that in one village in Riyom, members of the community locked all those who were elderly or had disabilities in a room before an attack; but the room was set on fire when the attackers came.

People with hearing impairments might not hear warnings, gunshots and sounds of others running away, and so remain behind, in danger. People with visual impairments might not know what is happening, exactly where they are, or how to escape. We heard of visually impaired women who were deliberately left in unsafe areas. We also heard of women who mistakenly ran towards the attackers and were raped and killed.

The family of Godiya* left her behind when violence broke out. Unable to walk, she tried to crawl along the ground to escape. But then she fell into a river and almost drowned before someone walking by rescued her. She told us she still wonders what would have happened to her had the passer-by not come to her aid.

Even when they are able to escape, women with disabilities might have to leave behind mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, medicine and hearing aids. This can lead to long-term health consequences and restrict their independence. If their caregivers have left the area, the women may become completely dependent on others.

Camps for internally displaced people (IDP) are often difficult to navigate for those with mobility problems or other disabilities. We have heard of men forcing disabled women and girls to have sex with them in exchange for “help” getting food and water. In the Jos North district, 15 out of 35 women with disabilities spoke of violations in IDP camps.

During peace and conflict, women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience gender-based violence but are less likely to be able to escape, speak up, to be believed, or to access services. Globally, women with disabilities aretwice as likely to experience domestic violence and up to three times more likely to be raped by a stranger or acquaintance.

Because women with disabilities rely on those in power, the risks of sexual violence and abuse are greater. When asked to identify perpetrators of violence, most of the women we interviewed named caregivers and family members – followed by security agents. We heard of female students experiencing violence from those charged with helping them. In one case, a student who was supposed to be helping a visually impaired woman to transcribe her notes raped her. She became pregnant and had to drop out of university.

When Uhuam* went into labour, her family were shocked and confused, as she had been confined to a room in the family home. They later found out that a male neighbour had sneaked in when no one was around and raped her. During our research, we heard from girls with mental and intellectual disabilities whose parents had injected them with contraceptive implants in case men raped them.

Godiya and Uhuam were among many women who felt that no one was helping them. They said they were not included in existing projects, and definitely did not benefit from programmes designed for them. Most said they received no assistance from community leaders or social services. When we spoke to people working in civil society, almost four-fifths said their organisations had no programmes to mitigate violence against women with disabilities.

The main reason decision-makers do not take these realities and needs into account is because women with disabilities are not involved in policymaking. Although there is increasing recognition of the need to put women at the centre of peace and security efforts, women and girls with disabilities are rarely included explicitly.

This general exclusion leads to further marginalisation, and undermines any hope of maximising their unique perspectives, skills and talents. Worldwide, people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, making up 15% of the global population, or one billion people. Three-quarters of people with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are women.

As development, security, peacebuilding and women’s rights activists, professionals and officials, we need to start thinking about women with disabilities when designing and implementing laws, policies and interventions. Our work has to protect, empower and include them. If we do not, we are failing.

The report is available to read here.

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beyond Chibok: Nigerian women in the middle, grasping for peace

On the one year anniversary of the abductions from Chibok (14th April), the wonderful Lacuna magazine published this feature article I had written for them. Often, when writing or talking, we have to focus on just one aspect of what is happening. When the topic is women, conflict and insecurity, this is most likely to be either about women experiencing violence or about women fighting against all odds. While these both represent part of the reality, they can provide only a cardboard, one dimensional view of the situation. It was a luxury to be able to write about the full picture of what I have been seeing. Thank you Lacuna.

It has been 365 days and they are still missing. A whole year has passed since global attention focused on Nigeria in the aftermath of the kidnap of female students sitting exams from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in Borno State in the North East.

This was not the first time girls and women have been abducted and it was not the last. What was different about Chibok was the number of girls taken and the global interest this sparked. The worldwide movement encompassed the unlikely combination of Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousufzai, the pop star Chris Brown, women in a Syrian refugee camp, Michelle Obama and, of course, women’s rights activists from across Nigeria. They demanded a serious, urgent and decisive response.

What has been lost in the narrative is that this movement was started in Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, by women who live with the conflict every day. A week after the abductions, these women called on the Nigerian government and President Goodluck Jonathan to take action. Their plea was simple: “If it were Jonathan’s daughters that have been stolen today, would the country go to sleep?” Their voices came from the heart of the conflict and in the face of great personal risk and fear of reprisals.

#BringBackOurGirls

A wave of protests took place across Nigeria and on social media calling on the government to #BringBackOurGirls. In Abuja, over 1,000 people, mostly women, marched in the pouring rain to the National Assembly to urge their representatives to act.

Protests were also held in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and other cities around Nigeria.

Solidarity actions took place in cities around the world. Protesters, women and men of all different ethnicities and religions, gathered daily at Unity Fountain in Abuja to maintain pressure on the government. Women in the parts of north-eastern Nigeria most severely affected by the fighting and kidnapping had been organising already around previous cases of abduction. They intensified this, setting up services offering trauma counselling and advocacy for individual survivors. They reached out and rallied those within their communities that held power, such as traditional and religious leaders, to join the fight against the stigma and shame survivors often face.

Beyond hashtags

Living in Abuja and doing human rights, peace and security work, I experienced life in the eye of the tornado that was the intense media and political attention at the time. I was overwhelmed with requests for meetings from international NGOs, foreign government investigative missions and journalists.

Many seemed most interested in their own reputations and arrived in Nigeria with firmly-held preconceived ideas. I became profoundly disillusioned. My frustration was born out of the incomplete and twisted nature of the narrative being spun, in Nigeria and across the world. This was that the issue was about Chibok only, that it was about an easily demonised organisation they called Boko Haram (not actually their name but one given to them by the media) who had kidnapped more than 200 girls. Such abductions have taken place before and after what happened in Chibok in April 2014.

Little attention was paid to the women in the North East who had been negotiating for the release of kidnapped women and girls. Few noticed when women provided healthcare and psychological support for those who were released or managed to escape and others in their communities and spoke out about this on public radio and in other forums. This is in stark contrast to the horror and international attention and condemnation in the wake of the Chibok abductions. Services and assistance were focused solely on the Chibok community. Even when other abductions took place after April, if it wasn’t about ‘the Chibok girls’, people were not interested.

Then there is general prejudice. Nigeria occupies a strange place in the psyche of outsiders. Part fascination, part fear, people come to it full of preconceptions, thinking they know the country without having visited. Synonymous with 419 scams (such as the emails you receive promising untold millions – if you just send your bank details) and corruption, terrorism has been added to the many strings of Nigeria’s bad PR bow. Indeed there is only bad news ever coming out of Africa’s most populous nation: the heart of darkness for modern times.

Amid violence and kidnapping, aid shortages and hunger

Recently the violence in North East Nigeria has intensified. Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad (JAS), commonly known as Boko Haram, carry out attacks on villages and communities on an almost daily basis.

Chronic underreporting and discrepancies between figures make it difficult to understand the scale of what is happening. The UN at the end of January reported approximately 981,416 people had been displaced across the country, of which more than 90 per cent are in the North East. Others estimate that over 1.5 million people have been displaced since the start of the fighting. People have abandoned rural areas in particular and flooded into the state capital Maiduguri, now bursting at the seams. Given the lack of camps for those displaced, people have been staying with friends, relatives and goodhearted people. I know of families living in chicken coops.

Acute food insecurity seems only months away. People have abandoned farms and agricultural activities due to the fighting, with predictable effect on the next harvest. Food stocks being depleted, people are resorting to eating grain saved for the next planting season. Markets have shut down.

Not only have people’s livelihoods in rural and urban areas been lost due to the fighting but there are now additional members (refugees from pillaged villages) of their household to feed – and food prices in Maiduguri are rocketing.

There is little humanitarian assistance being provided in the face of this escalating need, from the government or from the international community. In 2014, donors provided 17 per cent of the amounts needed for humanitarian work. The humanitarian crisis in Syria and elsewhere in West Africa, added to the perception that Nigeria is rich enough to cope without external support, are likely causes. Meanwhile, local communities try to cope.

The impact on boys and young men

Gender norms are significant in sparking, perpetuating and intensifying violence. This conflict has impacted men and women differently. The way that ideas of masculinity are used to perpetuate violence and drive recruitment is completely absent from analysis and debate.

It is significant, for example, that there is a social expectation that young people, men in particular, defend their communities and take responsibility for their protection. As reported by the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, “If you are a man you must join. At 13 and 14 you can join, you are a man.”

Boys and young men are pressured to join groups by threats to their families and incentivised by cash. Such pressure is difficult to resist. Gender norms oblige men to provide ‘bride price’ and be the family breadwinner. Faced with these responsibilities and high rates of unemployment, joining JAS offers livelihood opportunities. This is especially so, when manhood is synonymous with aggression and power. Add to these ideas the notion of a man’s responsibility to defend the community, whether from the encroachment of Western ideas, or from the abductions and killing by JAS.

Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno, recognized these pressures on young men and boys. He said: “Yusuf [founder of JAS]… also arranged inexpensive marriages between sect embers, which enabled many of them to marry and gave them personal dignity and self-worth.”

Living with violence

When people think of women and North East Nigeria (if they think of them at all), they think of the abductions of girls from schools and, more recently due to a wave of attacks, young girls used as suicide bombers. These are issues that need urgent action but this is only a partial account of what is actually happening to women.

The conflict exacerbates existing inequalities and marginalisation. According to a 2007 Population Council report, 75 per cent of women who live in rural areas of the North East and North West had never been to school, 64 per cent of young women in the North East are illiterate and the median age of marriage is about 16-years-old. Women own just 4 per cent of the land in the region despite their involvement in subsistence agriculture and other farm activities.

The way the conflict has unfolded, with constant attacks on villages and local infrastructure, has led to the closure of health centres, both permanently and for extended periods of time. This has particularly impacted women: pregnant women are rarely able or willing to seek medical attention and instead look to traditional birth attendants, who often provide a lower quality of care and may engage in harmful practices.

The majority of those displaced by the conflict are women and girls. Of the estimated 87,000 refugees in Niger, 50 per cent are women and 45 per cent are children. Many women must cope with the disappearance, detention, execution and recruitment of their husbands by JAS and the security forces. They live with the uncertainty of not knowing what has happened, the trauma of loss and violence, and the reality of providing for the family left behind. The little aid that is there is given to (male) heads of households: when a man is dead or missing, this may go to his brother and not his wife. Many women, having lost their primary breadwinner, engage in street hawking and selling sex.

There is also a concerted attack on women’s rights and freedoms. Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of JAS, first called for women not to mix with men in schools at all. Then he said women should not attend schools. He later said that nobody should go to school if taught Western, rather than Islamic, education.

My friends in Maiduguri report JAS members threatening women in markets, telling them they should not be in public without male relatives. Women wearing ‘tight clothing’ and particular hairstyles are often killed during ambushes and attacks.

It is right to say that women’s rights, their bodies and freedoms in Borno, as in other countries, have been the battleground on which the war is being fought.

Why does JAS use kidnapping as a weapon?

It was in response to the government imprisoning their own wives that JAS fighters began abducting women and girls.

Following the arrest of over 100 women and children in 2012, JAS leader Shekau said, “Since you are now holding our women, just wait and see what will happen to your own women. Just wait and see what will happen to your own wives according to Shariah law, just wait and see if it is sweet and convenient for you.” The wives and children of soldiers were abducted from military barracks in Bama, an area in Borno, in December 2013 and the rate and scale of abductions has increased in the past 18 months. The following verse is used as Qur’anic justification to abduct so-called enemy women. “Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you.”

Women and girls are being taken from schools, markets, during raids, public transport, during and after attacks on villages and on roads. On 12th December 2013, armed men along the Damboa-Biu road captured women on their way home from the bank. Young women have been taken from their homes at night or from the streets while hawking products. The kidnappers offer between N2,000 to N5,000 (between £7 and £17) to their parents as bride price. Then the women and girls are taken to camps where they are forced into domestic servitude, ‘marry’ fighters and to convert.

One of the women who escaped spoke about being raped repeatedly by 10 to 15 men a day, some young enough to be her sons. She was also ‘married’ to one of them. When tested for HIV, she found she was pregnant. Her husband “found it difficult to accept her back”. She became depressed and tried to commit suicide. It was only then that she was permitted to have an abortion. In Nigeria, abortion is illegal unless to save the life of the mother.

When people sent to protect become the bad guys

Another reality of the conflict is abuses committed by government forces and officials. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting found that hundreds of girls and boys had been kidnapped from refugee camps in Borno and had been trafficked, raped or sold as unpaid domestic workers.

A reporter from the Centre was offered children at a price of N50,000 (£165) each by officials from the government’s National Emergency Management Agency. The same journalist interviewed a 16-year-old girl who was promised a job helping the wife of a State Emergency Management Agency official. When she arrived at his home, there was no wife. The state official locked her in his home and raped her continuously until she managed to escape. A panel set up to investigate the incident has been given just one week to gather evidence and present findings.

I interviewed women’s rights activists in the Middle Belt of Nigeria for an earlierreport and they told similar stories of the sexual abuse of women and girls by security forces. Sexual exploitation and abuse by armies is a problem worldwide, and while it has received greater international attention in recent years, there is still a culture of silencing and denial. When you raise the issue with officials, the reaction is either to reject it happens or acceptance with excuses such as, ‘What else can you expect? They’re so far away from their wives.’

Women as fighters

Women as victims and survivors of violence is just one side of the story. They are also active participants in both JAS and in groups aimed at stopping the sect.

There is a women’s wing of JAS made up of women and girls who chose to join or were forced to do so after being abducted. Although coercion is at play through the use of drugs, indoctrination and fear, at least some of these women are active agents who have chosen to join the sect. Gender inequality is tied to reasons why many women get involved. Academics Zainab Usman, Sherine El-Taraboulsi and Khadija Gambo Hawaja found in their recent research on radicalisation that societal and cultural expectations of women to depend economically on men leave them with few options when husbands or fathers leave to become active members of JAS or if they die. Without education and with little access to jobs, women have few ways to support themselves and their families. JAS gives money, food and other benefits to members and has a dedicated fund for widows of insurgents, in contrast to the lack of compensation or social safety net provided by the state.

JAS also offers opportunities to women they do not have elsewhere. Women in parts of North East Nigeria typically face barriers in taking part in public life, but were able to participate in gatherings led by Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of JAS. He would also speak to them directly, albeit about how to behave and dress.

A desire to avenge the deaths of family members by security forces is also a motivating factor for women joining, especially given widespread detention without trial of anyone of fighting age and extrajudicial killings of those suspected (but not proven) to be part of JAS.

Women play the traditionally gendered roles of cooking, cleaning, companionship and providing sex (either voluntarily or through force). They transport weapons and money past security officials, gather intelligence and lure security forces into ambush, as they are less likely to be suspected than men. Three women caught with eight AK-47 rifles which they planned to sell, said they had no other choice given lack of sources of livelihood and that JAS was offering them N1,500 per gun.

Women are also instrumental in recruitment and training, particularly of other women, by using family and kinship connections. Indeed, marriage is a powerful tool to cement relationships of trust and loyalty to keep those already radicalised within the fold and used as a reward for joining. Honour accrues to families whose members have been martyred in the struggle and there have been reports of women urging their men into battle and using social pressure to persuade family and close friends to join.

Women and girls have also participated directly in attacks. In July 2014, female bombers carried out attacks in Kano. In July 2014, a 10-year-old girl was arrested carrying a suicide belt. In January 2015, a girl suicide bomber thought to be as young as 10 detonated a device near the main market in Maiduguri, killing at least 20 people and injuring many more. Teenage girls with AK-47s carry out attacks on communities such as that on Marte LGA on 10th July 2014. A student at the Federal Government Girls’ College in Taraba was found during a routine bed search with two grenades. A 19-year-old girl who escaped from a camp was interviewed on BBC Hausa about attempts to initiate her as a warrior. After they had killed four men, she was asked to kill the fifth. When she was unable to do so, the task was taken over by a woman fighter. Part of the responsibilities of active senior female JAS fighters is to oversee the integration of newly abducted women into camp life.

Not only are women active in JAS but they are also active in fighting against them. Young women and men, filling a vacuum caused by the failure of security forces to adequately protect communities, formed community self help groups, known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF).  The Civilian JTF is not above reproach: there have been a number of incidences of human rights violations, including sexual harassment of young women. People in the North East are worried that there may be a trend towards indiscriminate violence if care is not taken. However, they are also seen as the key factor stopping JAS taking over Maiduguri.

Although young men make up the majority of Civilian JTF members, women are also active due to their personal commitment to act and the outcry against men searching women at checkpoints. A young widow, who witnessed the killing of her relatives by JAS and was threatened with assassination for not wearing the hijab, started the women’s corps. When female JAS members began carrying arms to sustain the insurgency, women started checking fellow women, catching many trying to sneak past checkpoints with arms and ammunition. Women have been active in ferrying people out of occupied territories, including two who were caught and killed in front of other women last year. Women, such as Mai Bintu, the woman chief hunter of Bama, have also led the Civilian JTF on operations against JAS.

JAS has threatened to be particularly violent with female security and intelligence officials: “Whenever we catch any woman spying on us, we would slaughter her like a ram.” In 2013, a video was released of the beheading of a female security official.

Women as negotiators for peace

In addition to women’s roles in fighting on all sides, they are also crucial in keeping families and communities going. They have been finding new ways to ensure access to education despite closure of government schools.

Women’s rights organisations have been working with vulnerable and marginalised groups such as sex workers, hawkers, domestic workers, widows and survivors of sexual violence equipping them with life skills and linking them to microfinance bodies. They have been vocal in pressuring the government and traditional and religious leaders to take action. There have been multiple marches from 2009 onwards calling for peace and justice by women through the streets of Maiduguri in the midst of the conflict and violence.

Women act as interlocutors and negotiators as they are more trusted than men with JAS and security forces alike and due to their contacts. They ensure safe passage for humanitarian and medical agencies to provide emergency care needed. They negotiate for the return of women and girls who have been abducted. Caught between security forces who commit human rights violations and JAS fighters who attack, kill and abduct, these women walk a narrow path to be seen as independent and neutral. As Barrister Aisha Wakil, one of the women trying to negotiate peace, says, ‘I’m just in the middle grasping for peace.’

They draw on a long tradition of women’s active participation in politics and state administration including during the time of the historical Borno Empire. This reality is in stark contrast to stereotypical images of north-eastern Muslim Nigerian women: victims of abuse, married off at an early age, in seclusion with little agency or power.

It’s complicated:  the role of women in the conflict

Despite the active and pivotal roles women are playing as JAS fighters, CJTF members, security officials, to negotiate and build peace and fight for human rights and justice, the conflict is seen as between men. The clash is seen to be between young men in the army, young men in JAS and young male Civilian JTF members, with women only occupying the space of victimhood.

One year after the Chibok abductions focused the eyes of the world onto Nigeria, the epicentre of the international storm has moved elsewhere. Foreign media and politicians no longer talk about the Chibok girls. They are now concerned with Isis, Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Borno, the battles, physical, rhetorical, political and ideological continue to be fought on and over the bodies of women. They suffer violence and its short and long-term impact but victimhood and suffering is not the only story. Women are also active participants in the insurgency, in fighting against it, in resisting violence, helping others cope and in working for peace, justice and rights.

#Bringbackourgirls hasn’t brought back Chibok’s girls, but it has changed Nigeria’s politics

I wrote this for The Guardian on the one year anniversary of the abductions from Chibok that sparked global consciousness (at least for a while). As of today, it’s been 412 days.

The story that emerged from Nigeria this time last year should have read something like this. “Last night, armed men attempted to kidnap more than 200 girls from Chibok government secondary school in Nigeria’s north-east Borno state. Security forces, stationed at the school to protect the girls, foiled their plan. The president, who flew to Chibok this morning to meet the girls and their families, apologised, admitting more precautions should have been taken. In the wake of several such attempts to kidnap women and girls over the past two years by Jama’at Ahlus-Sunnah Lida’awati wal-Jihad , commonly known as Boko Haram, he announced his government would undertake a comprehensive review to make sure this never happened again. The girls and their families will now benefit from comprehensive medical care and counselling offered by the government.”

If the story had played out like that, it would never have caught the attention of global politicians, celebrities and the Twitterati. But, of course, the girls were in fact abducted by Boko Haram, and one year later, the majority are still missing.

In all the discussions and news coverage that followed the abductions, the voices of women in the region were rarely heard. But they were the first to speak out, continuing the protests and activism in which they have been engaged since the start of the insurgency. A week after the abductions, Borno women, coordinated by Baobab for Human Rights, called on the government and their president to take action. They warned that the government would be seen as accomplices in the abduction if they failed to rescue the girls. They went to Chibok, lobbied the state government and made links with women and men all over the country and around the world.

Chibok was the not the first abduction, and it hasn’t been the last. It is estimated that at least 2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped since the start of 2014. Boys and young men have also been taken. It was not that this was not known before; a typical sentence in a Nigerian newspaper reporting on an attack would be “56 people were killed, 29 women and girls taken and property burned and destroyed.” Even before the abductions from Chibok, women activists in north-east Nigeria had been trying to raise awareness of what was happening, urge political action and provide services and assistance to those who escaped or were rescued.

This time, the world paid attention. In cities across Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Jos, people went out on the streets, demanding that the government “Bring Back Our Girls”. There were marches and protests across the world. Syrian women in a refugee camp spoke out in solidarity. This increased attention led the government to develop guidelines on gender-based violence, including provision for counselling, mental health services and continued education for girls. Women’s rights activists also drew attention to the fact that Nigeria has no national laws against violence against women and girls, despite numerous attempts and civil society pressure to pass legislation since 2003.

Women’s activism and participation in public life in what is now north-east Nigeria stretches back to the time of the historical Kanem-Bornu empire. In the modern day, women have played a direct role in hostilities – as security officials, Boko Haram fighters and members of community security groups. They walk the line between different sides of the conflict, negotiating for the return of women and girls, for access for humanitarian workers to give medical care, and for the end of the fighting itself. Acting as mediators, they try to negotiate peace between Boko Haram and the government.

Women also support those who have experienced the brunt of the violence. They provide services to survivors of rape and sexual violence and speak out against the stigma and shame they experience. The University of Maiduguri Muslim women’s association is one of many women-led organisations which have provided food and shelter to those who have fled rural areas for the state capital. The Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment, and Tapestry, have set up a support network to address trauma in girls and women, training lay counsellors in communities across the north-eastern states affected by the insurgency. Working together across ethnic and religious lines, women have repeatedly marched and protested in the streets of Maiduguri, against the continued detention of their family members, for human rights, and for peace and justice.

Tomorrow marks one year since the girls were taken from Chibok government secondary school. Although not at the same fever pitch as in May and June last year, and perhaps all but forgotten outside the country, the abductions are still present in people’s minds in Nigeria. Newspapers still carry boxes declaring the number of days it has been since the abductions. Women in Borno carry on supporting women and girls who have managed to escape – and push for human rights, justice and an end to the conflict. Women from the state capital Maiduguri will be in Chibok tomorrow to commemorate, support and comfort families through the anniversary.

The indefatigable Bring Back Our Girls movement continues to hold protests. Rallying people all around the world, they have called for a week of action in solidarity. A man is cycling across west Africa, from Abidjan to Lagos, to raise awareness. The anniversary will see the Empire State building lit up in purple and red. There will be a Global School Girl March, taking place from Tasmania in Australia to Stavanger in Norway, from Santiago in Chile to London in the UK – and, of course, in cities across Nigeria.

This campaigning has been successful in highlighting the plight of the abducted girls, and although it hasn’t led to their safe return yet, it has had an important effect on Nigerian politics. Perceived government inaction in the wake of Chibok abductions was not the only reason Nigerians voted Goodluck Jonathan out of office last month, but insecurity and violence in the north-east was one of the main factors in prompting many to vote for change. In the run up to the presidential elections, people still asked: what has he done to bring back our girls? The Bring Back Our Girls movement was instrumental in mobilising the country in protests and conversations about the abductions, and in doing so, helped remove a Nigerian president from power in what will be the first democratic transition in the country’s history.

The president of Nigeria is set to change on 29 May, but women in the north-east will continue to push for justice, peace, human rights – and the return of women and girls who have been abducted in the past two years. Once in office, the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has to deliver.

 Now that Buhari is in office, I’m looking forward to the steps he will take to ensure genuine, meaningful and sustained peace and security for all – both women and men – in the North East.

feminism and conflict: whose security is it anyway?

I wrote this for The New Left Project back in March.

You need to give us more condoms because ‘you know, we have to use three or four women a day’.

These are the words of a soldier in Plateau State in Nigeria as reported to me by women’s rights activists there. They are telling me of the numbers of girls and young women who are being left pregnant by men in the security forces. The irony of messages around safe sex and HIV prevention being heard, while issues around power and violence against women and girls are not, is not lost to any of us.

Despite the international attention being paid to issues around sexual violence in conflict, and sexual exploitation and abuse by security forces in particular, these issues are not part of mainstream discourse when talking about peace and security. Sexual relationships between young women and men in security forces are well known. Men tend to view these relationships in terms of the material gains the women concerned make. They rarely consider whether genuine and enthusiastic consent to sex can truly exist when it is a man in uniform. Only a few women activists are trying to support the girls and young women concerned. They are not receiving any assistance to do so. Nor are they supported to speak out against what is happening.

Issues of women, peace and security are now on the global agenda in ways never previously seen. The Security Council, due to the activism of women’s rights activists and organisations, including those from conflict affected countries, passed Resolution 1325 in 2000. This was the first time, the organ charged with responsibility for international peace and security talked about women. In the past 13 years, a further 6 Resolutions have specifically looked at women and conflict. The African Union, the Committee on the Elimination of Violence against Women, conflict affected and donor countries are just some of those taking action.

Work is being done to look at sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers and other military men and other forms of sexual violence in conflict. In fact, over the years, we have seen a narrowing of discussion around women, peace and security to issues of violence and an even further focusing to look particularly at sexual violence in conflict. This is conceptualised in a particular way: a militiaman coming across a (civilian) woman and raping or otherwise sexually torturing her. The sexual abuse by security forces that I talk about above fits into this and this reflects the realities for a lot of women. However, the risk is that the international community addresses this alone rather than looks more broadly at all types violence against women and girls that forms a continuum.

Doing so reflects only one aspect and misses the complexities of women’s experiences of conflict, peace and security. Although the most recent Resolution offered a welcome change to this overwhelming focus on sexual violence in conflict by examining women’s roles in peace processes, there is a danger in looking at women only as victims. Crucially, it misses the centrality of issues of women’s empowerment and leadership and does not see women as actors as well as being acted upon. In doing so, ways that experiences and expectations of gender roles change over the course of a conflict and how ideas of ‘what it means to be a woman’ and ‘what it means to be a man’ contribute to conflict, are lost.

Who are the women we are talking about?

The international discourse also tends to characterise all women into a homogenous category of ‘women’ writ large, as opposed to looking at differences between women. As a result, while some of the able-bodied, city-based, educated women may have opportunities, a lot more needs to be done to reach other women such as those who live in rural areas, and women who are of non-dominant ethnicities and religions, or marginalised classes and castes. One significant omission is women with disabilities, who are at least twice as likely to experience violence against them, are less likely to be believed when they report it and find it more difficult to access services and justice. Yet little national or international rhetoric, policy and action around gender based violence looks at this, let alone ensures that women with disabilities are able to take part in peace and security processes and decision-making. There is also little to no examination of homophobia and transphobia, and the ways in which strict policing of sexuality and gender identities drive conflict, how expectations around sexuality and gender identity change during the conflict and what happens to those who do not conform.

Supporting the women who create change

Women are often seen as weak, vulnerable, faceless and voiceless victims rather than as active agents for security and insecurity, while men are seen as strong, aggressors, perpetrators and those who take action. For example, when talking about youth, marginalisation and violence, we may be saying ‘youth’ but what we are really thinking is ‘young men.’ This stereotypes ‘young, angry, disaffected (black*) men’ as ticking time bombs that need defusing quickly. It ignores not only that the vast majority of young men are not violent and some of them actively work for peace, but also that women can be involved in violence too. Women make up 10-30% of armed forces and groups worldwide. In Nepal for example, women are estimated to be 30-40% of the guerrilla force. In addition, young women support militias and government forces (willingly or unwillingly) both directly and indirectly. In fact, while men are socialised into fighting due to dominant forms of violent, militarised masculinity, many women get involved precisely because it is seen as a way of challenging gender norms.

It is often men alone who are seen as those with political consciousness and power, when the reality is that women are also active agents for rights, peace and security. In Riyom, in western Plateau, women with sticks chased out men with guns, saying these soldiers were not providing security and so they did not want them there. Women activists in Plateau also point out that it is the women who are responsible for security for the family a lot of times; they are the ones who lock up the house at the end of an evening and make sure all is well. In terms of financial security too, the myth of the breadwinner is not borne out on examination of who actually provides for the family; women’s money is seen as belonging to families, while men’s money belongs to the men.

Riyom is not an isolated incident. All over the world women take action to deal with threats to the security of the community, promote rights and to mobilise for peace. In many cases, women are at the forefront of activism for democracy and human rights. In others, women take the lead in negotiating with (government and non government) militia groups as to what takes place in their communities during conflict. How the women of Liberia mobilised to end its civil war is probably the most well known example of this but there are countless others at community, national and regional levels that continue to be overlooked and unknown from Afghanistan and Palestine/ Israel to Nepal and beyond.

In Afghanisan, women in Shah Rahim in Balkh Province, with the support of men, negotiated projects that have provided access to water, irrigation systems, and a community centre. They also mediate community problems and help reduce corruption. In Nepal, Women For Human Rights ensured that the rights of widows was recognised in the interim Nepali Constitution and continue to raise awareness to change societal attitudes and assist widows to bring cases of violence to authorities. Activists from Palestine and Israel formed the International Women’s Commission after the breakdown of the Oslo Process. They are asked to brief the EU, UN and other stakeholders but are excluded from taking part in peace conferences themselves and told to continue to do what they do best: ‘whispering in the ears of decision-makers.’

Women make up only 1 in 40 signatories to peace agreements. Of the agreements signed between 1990 and 2010, only 16% even mention ‘women’ – and when they do, it is often to restrict their rights.

Not only do women continue to be marginalised from decision making but women’s rights activists also continue to lack resources and support. Only 1.3% of development funds for gender equality went to women’s rights organisations or women’s ministries in 2010. This means that 98.7% of money for gender equality is not going to activists or government departments concerned with achievement of women’s rights. Where is it going? What proportion of this 1.3% is actually going to activists as opposed to ministries? If this is the case for gender equality money, does any non-gender specific money go at all to women’s rights activists? It seems not. A global survey of 1, 119 women’s organisations from over 140 countries in 2011 found that only 1 in 10 of them received funding from national governments, international NGOs or foreign governments. Women’s rights organisations working on particular rights may receive even less. In 2010, groups empowering LGBTQI people received less than 0.01% of total aid donated by major government donors.

After all, whose peace and security are we talking about?

The prevalence of violence against women and girls should force us to rethink what is ‘conflict’ and what is ‘peace’. If women do not feel safe, this is not peace. Research shows that what is meant by peace can vary sharply between women and men. A study by ActionAid, Institute of Development Studies and Womankind Worldwide found that while women are more likely to see peace as including education, healthcare and freedom from violence, men have a greater tendency to look at the absence of formal conflict and the stability of government institutions and infrastructure.

In Plateau, one of the causes of violence is conflict over natural resources, particularly over control and use of land, between those who farm and those who herd. There is unclear demarcation of farming and grazing lands and, as a result, cows destroy crops, ruining the livelihood of famers, and herders do not have areas for their livestock to graze. Young men have set themselves up as ‘vanguards’ that protect and safeguard the land, the community and the women, against threats of violence and encroachment. However, the actions of these vanguards do not necessarily serve to reassure and make people feel safe but rather sometimes generate fear and conflict. Many women in particular feel unsafe walking alone, at night and/ or in secluded areas out of fear of harassment or other forms of violence from these male vanguards.

A key reason why these young men form these groups is because of practices of land ownership and inheritance. Despite provisions in the draft gender policy for Plateau State, women do not inherit land. They marry into other communities and so are seen as having no claims to either their natal or marital land. In contrast, young men are brought up to see the land as theirs and so act to defend what is seen as their inheritance. As such, ideas of masculinity and ownership are mobilised in ways that drive conflict. But of course, in a lot of communities it is women, not men, who actually work the land and they are the ones who collect the water for household needs. Due to gender norms around inheritance, however, women do not have rights over land that they work. Furthermore, due to harassment by vanguards, they are afraid when doing that work and caring for the family.

Young men appointing themselves as ‘community protectors’ is not ‘an African problem.’ During the recent riots in the UK, ‘community protectors’, largely men who came out to protect their property, were lauded as heroes. Information as to the violence with which some of them were behaving did not really reach the media. A friend of mine saw a group severely beat a young man who they thought was a rioter.  There is also a rich history of these self-appointed ‘protectors’ monitoring the behaviour of women and threatening them. Women’s sexuality and freedom are often policed to ensure adherence to ossified ideals of ‘tradition’ and culture’ in the name of ‘protecting community values’.

The Way Forward

In the past 15 years, gender and conflict has been taken increasingly more seriously. Given where we started from, this is a huge achievement in and of itself. It falls far short, however, of what is needed.  We are still at the ‘sometimes add women and stir’ stage rather than anything truly meaningful and transformatory. This is despite the overwhelming evidence of the roles that women play in making and building peace. Moreover, gender inequality is both cause and consequence of violent conflict – and a form of violence in and of itself. As restated recently in Sex and World Peace, gender inequality is, more than national wealth, level of democracy or issues of ethnicity and religion, the best predictor for whether a state will engage in inter or intra state conflict. Given these empirical facts, it is astounding that more is not done to redress unequal power relations between women and men.

Seeing the full complexity of what happens and what is meant by peace and security provides new insights and ways forward. We need to reconfigure our understanding of security to look at issues of concern to both women and men and counter how gender norms influence and perpetuate insecurity. This would mean dealing with threats to security that women mostly face, such as from security forces themselves; looking at ‘traditional’ security issues, such as land conflict, and seeing what is happening to women; and thinking about how stereotypes, roles and norms of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man, such as inheritance, influence and add to conflict dynamics.

We should not lionise all women as noble and brave, struggling and providing or stereotype all men as feckless, concerned only for themselves and a good time and living off the hard work of women. Black men get a hard enough time as it is; racialised as ‘perpetrators’ from which ‘their women’ need ‘saving’. Makua Matua critiques the savages – victims – saviours triad of international human rights: black men are seen as savages who perpetrate acts of violence against black women victims, who are rescued by white people saviours. As Gayathri Spivak writes, white men will not save brown women from brown men. There are many good men who work for human rights (including the rights of women), who resist toxic forms of militarised violent masculinity and act for peace. We need to be careful not to feed into racist perceptions of black men while also speaking out against gender inequalities. This is the classic dilemma of the black and Third World feminist.

We need to look at what is actually happening, contextualize and allow for nuance, rather than deal in broad-based gendered generalisations. There is a difference between what women and men are expected to do and what their realities and experiences actually are. It is true that men are supposed to provide security – both physical and economic – for their families and communities and that they may suffer when they are seen as not being able to do so, with their masculinity called into question. It is also true that women’s experiences and realities are complex. Women fulfill traditional gender roles, perpetrate violence and abuse and protect and defend rights and peace. Sometimes the same woman even does all three.

For peace and security to be fully achieved, it needs to be truly meaningful for both women and men. Without a feminist analysis, not only does what happens to women and girls get left out of the conflict narrative and what happens in response, but the root causes of conflict and how they are intertwined with gendered expectations of women and men are never addressed. Conflict analysis and peacebuilding work that is gender sensitive is both good for the achievement of the rights of women and girls and absolutely essential for the achievement of a genuine, meaningful and sustainable peace.

* I use black in the political sense of the term. It denotes strength and solidarity in the shared past and continuing experiences of imperialism, slavery, resource extraction, inequality and power imbalance of all those descended (through one or both parents) from Africa, Asia (i.e. the Middle East to China, including the Pacific nations), Latin America, the original inhabitants of Australasia, North America and the islands of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It does so while acknowledging and celebrating our difference and diversity.

 

Launching the #NigeriaNAP

On 27th August, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development of the Government of Nigeria launched its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

  1. With @Ollee11 @ChineduAnarado @NSRProgramme at the launch of the #NigeriaNAP – looking forward to discussing implementation
  2. Lyrics of the women’s anthem we are going to sing at the end of the #NigeriaNAP launch twitter.com/chitranagarajan…
  3. At d launch of d #NigeriaNAP with d Minister 4 Women Affairs & Social Devt. #NationalNAP sees 2 d inclusion of women in peace-building
  4. @chitranagarajan the #NigeriaNAP ensure women are part of peace and security initiative. It caters to the needs of women and girls!
  5. Just spoke at #NigeriaNAP launch on behalf of @NSRProgramme – stressed ‘good for women and girls’ AND ‘good for peace and security’
  6. Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs, practicalised what it means to mainstream gender – is doing so in every area of life #NigeriaNAP
  7. Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs – women are major stakeholders in peace and conflict resolution #NigeriaNAP
  8. UNSCR 1325 was a watershed UN evolution of women’s rights and security issues says Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs #NigeriaNAP
  9. Crucial link between peace, women’s participation in decision making & recognition of women’s life experiences in conflict #NigeriaNAP
  10. Conflict changes traditional roles of men and women in society – Zainab Maina, Minister of Women’s Affairs #NigeriaNAP
  11. Still insufficient opportunity given to women to participate in decision making processes that affect their lives #NigeriaNAP
  12. The #NigeriaNAP serves as roadmap to guide implementation SCR 1325 – gives women opp to partake in decision making on peace & security
  13. We at @NSRProgramme get commended for making production and launch of #NigeriaNAP possible by Zainab Maina, Minster for Women’s Affairs
  14. Role of women in our society is unquantifiable -when you train a woman, you are building a great & viable nation – Zainab Maina #NigeriaNAP
  15. Hajia Maina thanks UNwomen and @NSRProgramme for helping with the publishing and dissemination of #NigeriaNAP
  16. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu – Nigerian women are tired of being on the menu, am I right? asks Lydia Umar YES! #NigeriaNAP
  17. This #NigeriaNAP is not just good for our Nigerian women and girls but also our men and boys says Lydia Umar, one of its drafters
  18. When there is conflict, war & crisis, the gun does not recognise if you are a woman but total exclusion of women #NigeriaNAP
  19. Women are not just victims but essential in ensuring a culture of peace – this has not been recognised; Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  20. Security Council observed lack of women’s participation & impunity for gender based violence – took decisive action in 2000 #NigeriaNAP
  21. Changing nature of conflict – before only involved men but now evolution with civilians being targeted – Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  22. Why do women need to be critical stakeholders? Experiences of women and men different #NigeriaNAP
  23. Lydia Umar – need to take into account role of gender equality & conflict prevention, & protect women’s human rights #NigeriaNAP
  24. When we spoke with women during the Kaduna conflict, were concerned about lack of bread – men did not experience that #NigeriaNAP
  25. I observed that 85-90% of those in displacement camps are women – where are the men? – Lydia Umar #NigeriaNAP
  26. Even if not in formal negotiations, play critical role in keeping families & communities together, via marriage cross divide #NigeriaNAP
  27. Undervalued & underrecognised contributions of women, disprop impact of conflict, impt of women’s participation recognised #NigeriaNAP
  28. Why is 1325 significant to Nigeria? Current security challenges facing enough reason for Nigeria to key into #NigeriaNAP
  29. Need to go away from being reactive to proactive to conflict – paradigm shift if #NigeriaNAP implementation
  30. If think of impact of 1325 on Nigeria, think of the impact of conflict on women – so much to say, not enough time #NigeriaNAP
  31. Just exchanged ‘namaste’s with Zainab Maina, the Minister for Women’s Affairs while we unveiled the #NigeriaNAP – well, that was unexpected
  32. 1% military women, 4% in UN police, women not in peace discussions in DRC & Burudi, only 2 special reps of UN Secretary General #NigeriaNAP
  33. Want to see female ex-combatants mainstreamed into process of demobilisation and reintegration, not marginalised #NigeriaNAP
  34. Need to integrate discussion of human rights – including that of women – into peace negotiations says Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  35. If we do not know laws and policies, we do not know how to demand for our rights – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  36. This #NigeriaNAP will not be meaningful if our sisters at grassroots do not know – need to sensitise & develop personal action plans
  37. We must promote the culture of peace – from our homes onwards; must include women in peacebuilding – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  38. We must train women and girls as mediators, conciliators so when you’re at the table, can speak in the jargon they understand #NigeriaNAP
  39. We need to think of women and what they need when looking at post conflict says Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  40. Must intensify advocacy against traditional and cultural practices that prevent women participating – Bilkisu Yusuf #NigeriaNAP
  41. Bilkisu Yusuf strongly advocating for a strong transitional justice mechanism to address crimes committed during conflict #NigeriaNAP
  42. I’m fanatical about #NigeriaNAP. I am coming to your communities to see what you have done and what the people say – Bilkisu Yusuf <love her
  43. The #NigeriaNAP is not UN property, not federal property – you & I are owners of NAP; all are stakeholders in peace so NAP is our business
  44. Is it too much to ask for peace? Must put money where our mouth is so need to fund the #NigeriaNAP – Bilkisu Yusuf <YES!
  45. Successful implementation will depend on funding and political will; #NigeriaNAP should not be a beautiful document that is not implemented
  46. Nigeria contributes more troops than any other in West Africa to UN missions; exporting peace but not investing in it at home #NigeriaNAP
  47. When we bellyfull now, we give away AND we are one humanity ie need to fund peace in Nigeria AND contribute externally #NigeriaNAP
  48. @ProfLizKelly it’s the launch of the National Action Plan on women, peace and security – Bilkisu Yusuf & Lydia Umar are amazing #NigeriaNAP
  49. #NigeriaNAP needs to be implemented so women can have development, peace and equality – Bilkisu Yusuf
  50. OH ‘I’m tired of being on the menu, I want to be at the table’ women talking about decision making #NigeriaNAP #yay
  51. Do you gender at work/outside and surrender at home? #NigeriaNAP. Time to think again. Send your email for a soft copy of the NAP Document
  52. Contact nsrp.comms@ng.britishcouncil.org for a copy of the NAP.

mediation, violence against women and girls and gender roles in Plateau state

Between 13th and 16th August, the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme held training in Jos in Plateau state. The first 2 days was a training of trainers session for 20 participants. On Thursday, 20 young people joined us and our trainers had a chance to put their training into action.

  1.  
     
     
    Am in Jos now for mediation training for Trainers organised by National Stability and Recounciliation Program Nigeria @NSRP
  2.  
     
     
    It can be amazing when we take time to share the meaning of the names we bear…names are powerful!! @NSRProgramme #Mediation Training!
  3.  
     
     
    @Smaguire12 talks about equality of all persons and the place of respect.@NSRProgramme
  4.  
     
     
    NSRP supports initiatives aimed at better management of conflict and reduction of the impact of violent conflict in Nigeria.
  5.  
     
     
    Talking about stereotypes and prejudice. People with disabilities seen as not being able to do anything. This makes us angry. #nsrp
  6.  
     
     
    I am an Islamic teacher – people think I train terrorists/ jihadis. I am the one to tell you who I am am, not the other way around. #nsrp
     
  7.  
     
     
    .@ibeabuchiii talks about perceptions of not seeing disabled women as sexual beings and that they are more vulnerable to rape #nsrp
  8.  
     
     
    #Communication is vital for #Conflict prevention-@NSRPProgramme on #Mediation training
  9.  
     
     
    Working closely w/#youth is vital for #Conflict prevention in #Communities-@NSRPProgramme training on #Mediation
  10.  
     
     
    Now talking about negotiating land use between farmers and pastoralists in the Plateau and potential for conflict #nsrp
  11.  
     
     
    For Fulani man, anything green belongs to animals – doesn’t go down well with farmers! Says Amina re pastoralists/ farmers dispute #nsrp
  12. Just got a mentee @NSRProgramme on #Mediation….connection has been amazing! @ChitraNagarajan pic.twitter.com/TeNnxBvx10
     
  13. We watched the amazing Daughters of the Niger Delta: http://www.daughtersofthenigerdelta.org/
  14.  
     
     
    1 out of 7 children in Niger #delta estimated to die before age of five – far outnumber casualties of reported violence & kidnappings #nsrp
  15.  
     
     
    Maternal mortality rate in the core Niger #Delta is the second highest in the world #nsrp
  16. A participant @NSRProgramme facilitating a session..well done #nsrp for including persons w/ #Disabilities!! pic.twitter.com/j9Idn1zRok
     
  17.  
     
     
    Women most affected as do river fishing & men do ocean fishing and rivers are more polluted than oceans #delta #nsrp
  18.  
     
     
    Nigeria flares more natural gas than any other country – toxic particles carried and fall as rainwater #delta #nsrp
  19.  
     
     
    Women have to alternate livelihoods as can no longer fish b/c pollution; instead buy imported fish to sell – less sustainable #nsrp #delta
     
  20.  
     
     
    Now hearing of woman who got all As at university but got 3rd class degree b/c wouldn’t sleep w lecturer – now can’t find job #nsrp #delta
  21.  
     
     
    Since 1960s and first extraction, more than 3x oil spilt in #delta than that spilt into Gulf of Mexico in 2010 #nsrp
  22.  
     
     
    If a woman at uni tells me her lecturer is sexually harassing her, I advise her to leave – b/c you can’t fight; nobody listens #nsrp #delta
  23.  
     
     
    Cash crops eg yam are easier to produce than labour intensive ones eg cassava but women don’t have start up capital to grow #nsrp #delta
  24.  
     
     
    Most women not able to build up savings so little to fall back upon if lose husbands & property allocated to them by tradition #nsrp #delta
  25.  
     
     
    Only very few men will go far in assisting women – want to sit at the table & be served & wait for wife or kids to clear plates #nsrp #delta
  26.  
     
     
    Why can men whose wife dies marry & woman whose husband dies not marry? have to leave all children & money if you want to marry #nsrp #delta
  27.  
     
     
    Women have not been part of decision making in communities – men sit there and make all the decisions #nsrp #delta
  28.  
     
     
    If come together to prioritise needs, women want healthcare & water but men want buildings that give aesthetic beauty #nsrp #delta
  29.  
     
     
    Fragile peace will not be sustainable without protecting people’s right to food, water and healthy environment #nsrp #delta
  30.  
     
     
    Women gather and go to chiefs and pastors to ask them to do something about widowhood rites so we can get our freedom #nsrp #delta
  31.  
     
     
    Nothing is done about sexual harassment & since nobody does anything to discipline, nobody (girls) wants to learn #nsrp #delta
  32.  
     
     
    @chitranagarajan I agree with u, sexual harrasment is on the increase in our communities and so is the silence. #nsrp #delta
  33. What’s the cause of women’s oppression? asks the facilitator <wow, big question #patriarchy #poverty #nsrp #delta pic.twitter.com/2grO5J8UEo
     
  34.  
     
     
    So, my #nsrp #delta tweets are of event that is part of my work at @nsrprogramme – have been doing mediation life skills training all week
  35. We then go on to talking about what is expected of girls/ young women and boys/ young men
  36.  
     
     
    @ChitraNagarajan is facilitating a session on societal roles and perceptions in communities @NSRProgramme #Mediation training in #Jos
     
  37.  
     
     
    Being a boy in Plateau – you are expected to provide security and defend the family and loved ones, be strong physically #nsrp
  38.  
     
     
    Boys in Plateau are expected to be responsible, educated, hard working and protect the family #nsrp
     
  39.  
     
     
    Boy in plateau state thinks he is the leader of the house and can do whatever he wants says one of our young girls #nsrp
  40. Boys in Plateau work but tend to be quite wasteful with money – drink etc > talking about masculinities #nsrp pic.twitter.com/38qBsG57lR
     
  41.  
     
     
    Being a boy in Plateau mean that you go to school more than girls as their lives are curtailed as seen as going to another house #nsrp
  42.  
     
     
    Women w/ disabilities have to rely on caregivers and often when caregivers get angry, they threaten to abandon them says @ibeabuchiii #nsrp
  43.  
     
     
    Girls expected to be fragile, home-makers, supposed to be at home crying & praying to meet guys, a sex machine, denied right to edu #nsrp
  44. War is cause of disability, affects us greatly. We can contribute to its resolution but overlooked says Grace #nsrp pic.twitter.com/z2in7qOBQG
     
  45.  
     
     
    #women w/#Disabilities are often physically less capable of defending themselves in cases of #Violence and #rape @UNWomenWatch @UN_Women
  46.  
     
     
    Talking about women with hearing difficulties not able to hear dangers around them when they go to the stream to get water #nsrp
  47.  
     
     
    #Violence against #women w/ #Disabilities has similiarities with violence against other women bt has unique dimensions as well @UNWomenWatch
  48.  
     
     
    Don’t look at your 16 yo daughter as 3 yo you are taking to the park – says attendee after hearing story of girl abused by boyfriend #nsrp
  49.  
     
     
    #women w/#Disabilities usually have less #access to information about how to protect themselves against#Violence and #rape@UNWomenWatch
  50.  
     
     
    Talking about barter system at IDP camps whereby disabled women are forced to have sex in return for being helped #nsrp
  51.  
     
     
    More vulnerable women, more likely to experience violence & less likely to be helped – who listens to girl w/ mental health issues? #nsrp
  52. Wow, me & @smaguire12 are blown away by @ibeabuchiii – we have found a superb gender trainer #nsrp pic.twitter.com/PxrCIbJM9c
     
  53.  
     
     
    Talking about importance of realising correlation between women’s ability to participate in peacebuilding & violence they experience #nsrp
  54.  
     
     
    #women can play important roles in conflict resolution.They need space, Visibility and space for action-@NSRProgramme #Mediation training
  55.  
     
     
    In 2013, we can sit together in a mixed group and talk re HIV, she was wounded in her vagina & domestic violence. That is progress #nsrp
     
  56.  
     
     
    The ongoing#Mediation training organised by @NSRprogramme has provided platform for networking & action.
  57. Now talking about different forms of gender based violence against women #nsrp #vaw pic.twitter.com/VqbTf3yPQK
     
  58.  
     
     
    To break the silence on #vaw, need to create awareness, involve women in decision making, men need to challenge other men #nsrp
  59. Young people deep in discussion with mentors of case studies on #vaw #nsrp instagram.com/p/dEj2kDTZnu/
  60.  
     
     
    ‘When you throw stone in market, don’t know whose head it will fall on’ – Hausa saying used to explain why ppl should work together #nsrp
  61.  
     
     
    #youths help to build bridges across communities, helping address the root causes and outcomes of insecurity @NSRProgramme
  62.  
     
     
    #youths are on the frontline of most #Conflicts, making them vital stakeholders in #peacebuilding efforts @NSRProgramme
  63.  
     
     
    There is a new generation of #Peace builders emerging from #Nigeria;they are raising their voices & making impacts daily @NSRProgramme
  64.  
     
     
    So proud of our young trainees on NSRP mediation course – youth says he was perpetrator but now knows he must stop abusing girls.

aid, violence against women and girls and the UK

On 12th March 2013, I appeared as a witness before the International Development Select Committee to give evidence for their inquiry into  the work of the Department for International Development on violence against women and girls.  I had written the submission of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security on which I based my comments in the evidence session.

You can watch a video recording of the session here.

For a full report of the Select Committee’s findings and recommendations, published in June 2013, please see here.