WOMEN IN ARMED CONFLICTS AND PEACE BUILDING PROCEDURES IN NIGERIA
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Women living in northern Nigeria face a herculean challenge of overcoming direct and indirect violence. These include domestic violence, political instability, social inequality, and the threat of Boko Haram. Boko Haram is an extremist militant group that has been known to kidnap, rape, and torture women and young girls as means of terrorizing the Nigerian community. Northern Nigerian women have also faced challenges within their own community as they are barred from participating in public activities, are underrepresented in government, forced into early marriages, and are often victims of domestic violence. This study examines the lived experiences of women peacebuilders living in northern Nigeria as they negotiate regional conflicts and manage the peacebuilding process. Seven northern Nigerian females between the ages of 30 to 60 were recruited to participate in this study. All came from diverse backgrounds but shared a commonality of peace building and conflict management within their respective communities. The goal of this study was to better understand the meaning of these experiences and to uncover how these women handle these daily challenges. Feminist standpoint and structural violence theories provide the theoretical framework to dissect the essence of their experiences. The study adopted Clark Moustaka’s approach towards conducting transcendental phenomenological research methods and procedure. The results of the study will inform project design and policy formulation and serve as a source for future research and interventions by development agencies and other stakeholders interested in peace within the region.
1.1 Background and Context
In a world of continuing instability and violence, the implementation of cooperative approaches to peace and security is urgently needed. Therefore, the equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts to the prevention and resolution of conflicts are essential for maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Women in the world, with a special spotlight on North Central Nigeria have been bedeviled by all sorts of conflicts affecting their; socio-political and economic advancement. Africa and indeed North Central Nigeria had and ever have still maintained some cultural practices that place women in a dangerous and unprivileged manner.
Surveys undertaken in 2012 and 2013 indicated that around 30% of women in Nigeria had experienced some form of physical, sexual or emotional domestic violence during their lifetime. Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is endemic in Nigeria, varying only in type and extent by geographical, cultural and conflict context. This violence takes many forms, from genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) and domestic violence to sexual violence, kidnap and rape and forced early marriage. In the southeast over 50% of women have experienced FGM/C, whilst the figure in the south west is higher at nearly 61%. Nearly half the women in the north are married by 16 and expected to have a child within a year. Certain groups of women and girls are more likely to experience violence. A study of girl hawkers in Anambra state found that 70% had experienced sexual abuse. Research in Plateau State found women and girls with disabilities more likely to experience violence but less likely to escape, be believed and access services. High levels of VAWG in Nigeria are perpetuated by a lack of legislation -the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill (VAPP) was only recently passed after 14 years- and a widespread and deep-rooted culture of silence and acceptance of VAWG.
The Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) Annual Perception Survey data (APS) highlights differences in levels of VAWG across NSRP states. In the 2017 APS, domestic violence was a cited cause of violence amongst 34% of respondents (spontaneous and prompted). In prompted responses it was cited as joint first (along with violent crime and terrorism). The data also highlights significant differences across states, Delta (38%), Kaduna (52%) and Bayelsa (74%) are above the average by a significant margin. In Nigeria, as in other contexts, levels of VAWG are exacerbated by violent conflict. Nigeria is experiencing rising, persistent and worsening violent conflict. Conflict affects women and girls differently to men and boys. The women of Nigeria have paid a heavy price for violent conflict: experiencing displacement, sexual violence, torture, kidnapping, sex trafficking and trauma. Abductions and forced marriage to Boko Haram fighters has become a feature of the north east, with at least 2,000 women and girls kidnapped between January 2014 and April 2015 alone. Violent conflict may also aggravate existing trends, for example around early and forced marriage. There are reports of men coming to camps for internally displaced persons in Maiduguri to choose wives from among the girls present. A range of evidence exists on the impact of armed conflict on VAWG, not only in terms of its use as a weapon of war, but also on Intimate Partner Violence, and other forms of violence.
This evidence demonstrates the complexity of the inter-relationship between conflict and VAWG. Despite making up half the population and experiencing violence in their households and communities in a very gendered way, women and girls have very limited participation in peace building and conflict management in Nigeria. Women are crucial in easing tensions, promoting dialogue for peace and rebuilding the country; yet they are consistently excluded in formal peace and governance processes at every level. Nigerian women are all too often absent in dialogue on violence reduction and peacebuilding. There is limited, if any, high level political leadership prepared to argue the case for redressing pervasive gender inequalities. Norms of seclusion in some parts of Northern Nigeria deny the majority of adolescent girls and women opportunity to meet with other women, discuss their needs and priorities and learn about available services and their rights. Women’s CSOs exist and are keen to do more, but have lacked the capacity and funding to reach out to secluded poor women and to represent their views.
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
Written work produced within mainstream scholarship in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and women’s studies and by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations (UN) has increased global awareness about the effects of armed conflict upon women. Consequently, women’s stories are being told more often than in the past and increased international attention is given and action organized on their behalf. We now have a greater understanding of the ways that armed conflict is gender-specific and recognize that women and girls are clearly targeted in tactics of war. In particular, sexual violence toward women has become the focus of much attention on the part of human rights organizations and women’s advocacy groups. The increased focus on gender is not limited to effects of armed conflict but advocates for the development of women’s capacities by involving them in negotiations to end fighting, in the development of peace accords and judicial processes, and in reconstructing communities as well as building peace and effecting reconciliation (e.g., Ferris, 1993; McKay, in press; United Nations, 1995)
The purpose of this article is to highlight and integrate the various effects of armed conflict on girls and women: What are the gender-specific effects of armed conflict on girls and women? We shall describe sections of the study that are gender-specific, identify psychosocial implications, and extend the Study’s discussion. Because psychology has not demonstrated much interest in the effects of armed conflict upon girls and women, supporting literature is derived from public health, feminist, legal, governmental and NGO sources. There does, however, exist a body of knowledge about the psychosocial effects of violence on women, predominately about violence in the home (e.g., Comas-Diaz & Jansen, 1995; Herman, 1992). Consistent with the Machel Study’s definition of the term child, we refer to a female child under the age of 18 years as a girl, although this cut-off point varies cross-culturally.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What are the impacts and effects of armed conflicts on girls and women in Nigeria?
2. Has the UN Resolution 1325 for more women in decision-making positions, a gendered perspective to be “mainstreamed” across peacekeeping and for more women to participate in field operations in military roles as police and as human rights observers been met in Nigeria and Africa at large?
3. What is the connection between armed conflict, failed states, and violence against women? Is a strong state needed to ensure that women’s rights are protected?
1.4 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
– to highlight the impacts of armed conflicts on girls and women in Nigeria and Africa
– to discuss the need for gender inclusion in peacebuilding and peacekeeping processes
– to question the nexus between developed institutions and gender balance vis-à-vis fragile states and gender imbalance.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
In 2003 and 2004, African heads of state adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (“the Women’s Protocol”) and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) which endorse the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000 on Women Peace and Security, the two documents call for the presence of women in conflict prevention and peace building activities in order to reverse their marginalization and abuse of human rights. Building on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the Gender Policy of the African Union (2009) equally calls for the effective participation of women in peace support operations, conflict prevention, mitigation and post conflict reconstruction and development efforts, as well as for an increase in women participation in all processes aimed at maintaining peace and security and avoiding relapse into conflict.
 Gender in Nigeria DFID and the British Council 2012: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/566193?CIG-Nigeria-Women.pdf
 See for example Herbert, S (2014) Links between gender-based violence and outbreaks of violent conflict. GSDRC Helpdesk report; Horn et al (2015) ‘Women’s perceptions of effects of war on intimate partner violence and gender roles in two post-conflict West African Countries: consequences and unexpected opportunities’ http://conflictandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1752-1505-8-12 and Hossain et al (2014) ‘Men’s and women’s experiences of violence and traumatic events in rural Côte d’Ivoire before, during and after a period of armed conflict’ http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e003644
 Ladbury, S. (2011) ‘Religion, exclusion and violence in northern Nigeria’. Report for DFID Nigeria.