Recent conflict statistics show the increasing rate of civil based conflicts with women not only affected in more ways than men but are often targets for violent expression because of their gender. Also the continually reinforced patriarchal system means that the traumatic impact of violence and abuse on affected women are not adequately addressed as their needs and interests are often relegated to the background. Inadequate judicial structure means that often, a balanced reconciliation or restorative process is not followed.
As violent conflicts metamorphose and spread in Nigeria, it has become clear that the State institutions cannot sufficiently cope with the intervention alone. Women as key stakeholders in conflict prevention and peacebuilding have been underutilized and undermined. This is due to the fact that conflict and peace are highly gendered activities. Women and men not only have different access to power structures and material resources before, during and after the escalation of a conflict; they also experience the pre-conflict phase, the open conflict, and the post-conflict situation in rather different ways. Violent conflicts in Nigeria communities as elsewhere in Africa illuminate masculinity and subjugate feminine expression. This situation has created a hierarchy where men are relied upon to develop frameworks and strategies for preventing conflict and rebuild violence torn societies. In a bid to ensure that their interests are duly considered, women groups have been working to promote gender equality and partnership with men in all areas, including peace and security, bearing in mind their roles in community harmonization, mobilization and rehabilitation.
International instruments such as the UNSC Resolution 1325, and the other seven supporting resolutions- 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, 2242 have broadened the discourse on issues of peace and security. This has strengthened the normative framework for women’s participation in decision-making, conflict prevention and peacebuilding; protection of women and girls’ rights; and prevention of sexual violence in conflict. However, the women, peace and security agenda mandating women’s active participation and involvement in peace and security at all levels and sectors both formal and informal as well as emphasising issues of sexual violence in armed conflict and sanctioning perpetrators important for engendering peacebuilding are largely unknown.
Bridget Osakwe is National Network Cordinator of West African Network for peace building (WANEP), Nigeria