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Grassroots Women’s Grassy Spots in Conflicts

The human race is continuously in dispute over issues that cut across, natural resource use and control, politics, race, religion and ethnicity; resulting in concerted search for lasting peace. Generally, rural settlements in Nigeria are grossly neglected in terms of basic security; as many of them are in remote locations. In recent years, many villages in certain parts of Northern Nigeria have experienced a wave of deadly hostilities perpetuated by faceless marauders. The deadliest of such wanton rampages were usually carried out in the stillness of the night by which time the entire community would have gone to sleep. These onslaughts which usually leave bloody marks on its trail usually occurred without any meaningful arrests made at the end of it all.

Due to the socio political disadvantages and exclusion experienced by rural dwellers, many remain poor and cannot afford to put sound and effective security measures in place. Their history of shared sense of wellbeing further adds to their slack security practices and measures. Typically their dwellings are usually mud built, thatch roofed huts with very fragile wooden doors that offer rather precarious precautions, which make them very open to uninhibited attacks. In the face of such security lapses, time and time again, directly and indirectly, hapless women continue to find themselves at the receiving end of deadly invasions, especially at night. There are many cases of women and children who have been hacked to death, raped, abducted, harassed or assaulted in very gruesome manners. Their hope of waking up to a future that is full of expectation is suddenly terminated without any prior inkling. Those who survived such orgies by the whiskers, always leave to relive very chilling tales of their encounters.

This brings to mind the account of a woman who watched her husband as he was hacked to death. Like other families in the community, they had retired to sleep in their one-room mud built hut, unsuspecting of an imminent threat to their family’s togetherness as well as community’s extremely mutual coexistence. That night, they were fast asleep when out of the blues, they were awakened by the reverberating sound of gun shots, and the howling of women and children. Confused and disquieted, she ran under their family bed with their little baby whom she had to muffle to keep him from giving them away. She implored her husband to join them but he declined. All too suddenly, their door came crashing down and a group of men charged at her husband who attempted to run out. All at once, they started jabbing their knives into him until he fell down, lying in a pull of his own blood. By this time, she had become ice cold, still had her hands over her baby’s mouth and had become oblivious of the possibility of gagging him. Fate however smiled at her and her baby as the intruders retreated without attempting a search of their unlit miniature apartment.

By the time it was dawn, a number of community members lay dead, many huts that had been touched were still smoldering and wailings from different ends still filled the air just as survivors counted and recounted their losses. Though she was glad that she and her baby survived the ordeal, life has never been the same for her and other members of the community. She remains traumatized and may never come to terms with the rationale behind such unprovoked, unjustifiable and merciless killing and maiming of innocent people. To add salt to her festering injury and pain, her survival was declared questionable by some chauvinists, when her case was mentioned in the course of a formal enquiry into why such occurrences persisted within and around the community. Findings in one quarter held that such attacks were prompted by contention over resources, while another linked to ethnic rivalry.

Today, the government and peace loving people of Nigeria are working round the clock to find lasting solutions to all forms of conflict and violence. No one was therefore surprised about the apt seriousness with which this year’s ‘World Peace Day’ was marked across the country with special focus on the Family and youths as ‘Instruments for Peace and National Development’. Globally, the ‘World Peace Day’ is observed on the 21st of September, every year. This year's theme, "Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future," focuses on the role that natural resources play in financing or fuelling conflict and what is being done to address this issue. Reflecting on the theme of this year’s celebration, I thought to myself that the focus could not have come at a better time considering topical hostilities over natural resources, which have caused a lot of drawbacks in terms of national development; and also continued to threaten peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians. It is consequential to point out that development can only be achieved in an atmosphere of stable peace.

Under a state of acrimony, women have always found themselves in the position of the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight. In war torn zones across the world, women and children account for a vast majority of the sufferers; as they are never spared a taste of the bitter pills and horrors of war. The search for peace may, however, remain vague if women who are the real victims and the most vulnerable to acts of war remain excluded from the processes of mediation, resolution, reconciliation and peace building. In my opinion, Nigeria’s area of attention which bothers on family values is tactical because naturally, we know that every society is made up of family units and these family units are considered to be the base of the community. Imagine a society made up of peace loving families and clans.

Given the opportunity, women can help find innovative and enduring ways to local and global peace through the family unit, especially because women are the base and backbone of the family and the onus of meeting basic survival needs of the family lies with them. In the drive towards sustainable peace, women must be well represented and given a place of pride at the negotiating table. Our leaders should as a matter of urgency put in place, institutional mechanisms and frameworks; which will strengthen women’s involvement, and also recognize their contributions to local and global peace. With greater integration, more balanced representation and support in the peace deals, women can help reduce and or resolve the many challenges associated with peace and development. To this end, I submit that communal and global peace processes/efforts should strategically engage women.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Hi Olanike,

I wish I did not have to say excellent reporting of a problem such as this. I feel helpless that there is such a problem. But your picture speaks volumes. That picture really says so much about your article. Excellent choice of a photo which I wish we were not even having this conversation about. The report is excellent. And your command of the English language and way of expressing yourself is extraordinary.

Keep up your wonderful, professional reporting.

Ubuntu my friend,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Always there, Thank you!

Dearest Wendy,

The sad truth, however is that as the United Nation's theme for the World Peace Day was declared on the 21st of September, my heart could not help but reach out to the many victims of hostilities in my dear country.

I actually put my thoughts together in writing on the World Peace Day but held back the post because I needed to search out an appropriate picture to drive home the message.

Many may never really understand the pain I had in my heart as I wrote the piece. In search for an appropriate picture, my heart actually bled and I wept within me as I looked through some of the very gory pictures of one of the massacres. I actually had a couple sent to me around the time the bloodbath took place. They were so horrible that I had to delete the email message as well as the pictures.It hurts the soul to witness such heights of man's inhumanity to man.

I pray that the world over, solution(s) would be found to man's beastly tendencies, especially those perpetuated against women and children.

Never mind I understand, I understand why you were very your careful with your choice of words; considering the sensitive nature of the story.

Thank you so much for always being there for me.

Thoughtfully,

Olanike

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hello Okanike

Thank you for your email. It means a lot and it is wonderful that you are sharing to so many the problems so that we are aware and can begin in some small way to help.

You are the best.

DO not be concerned if you cannot answer right away. I know you are busy.

Again, your article and picture are very authentic and touching and makes us all realize we must learn more and do much more.

Love,

wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

I am encouraged

Dearest Wendy,

You've always been supportive and I really appreciate you. I am learning a lot from you by the day and I am motivated to do much more.

Thank you for being there, I know I can always count on you.

Much love and hugs,

Olanike

Mukut's picture

Great

A great article Olanike. You have always highlighted the most pressing issues, which need immediate attention from world over.

Thank you so much for sharing this. Hope there is peace and prosperity in the region and people are not killed aimlessly.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Thank you so much Mukut

Your words are really strengthening and I am joyful that you read the article and even made out time to post a comment.
It would be my greatest joy to see peace reign in my country and the world over. Conflicts only cause draw backs in terms of development and I hope that, that globally, people come to that realization and embrace dialogue and peace above confrontation and violence.

Together, we can make our world a better place. Thank you for your solidarity!

Hugs,

Olanike

workworkwork's picture

Olanike,Thank you for such

Olanike,

Thank you for such accurate reporting and exemplary summary of what is, a very complex and ongoing problem. The picture you included speaks volumes. It denotes a horrifying account of what takes place as almost an every day occurrence across countless villages in your country as women and children are used as pawns in a war between men. I completely agree that it is vital to include women in any peace promoting strategies as their voices are the ones that should be heard. Thanks again for being spot on about this tragic issue. Keep up the good reporting.

Greengirl's picture

Many thanks to you too

I appreciate you for making out time to read the piece.

It is really of great concern that women often find themselves in very precarious situations in and out of war. We just must keep speaking out in hope that our voices will be heard.

Thank you for standing in solidarity.

Warmly,

Olanike.

cassie_levy's picture

Great story. It is inspiring

Great story. It is inspiring and motivating. I only wish there were more women in the world like you. I especially am moved by your last paragraph. I believe that it is important to not just highlight the injustices in the world, but to provide a solution or a step in overcoming these injustices. Keep up the good work!

Greengirl's picture

Thank you so, so much!

Your words are also inspiring and motivating. It encourages me to commit to doing more in my own little way to make this world a better place.

Gratefully,

Olanike.

Dear Olanike,

I actually read your piece twice. One time to grasp the suffering of people going through everyday in many parts of the world like the examples you gave about your country and second time to think about your core solutions based on family and women empowerment which I strongly believe in. Not to talk too much because you said it all but in the first reading I was filled with emotions of sorrow and the second reading, I smiled because of the inspirational woman you are.To sum it up, you gave both reality and hope my sister.

Sending vibes of peace,
Aya,

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

Greengirl's picture

Dearest Aya

I am touched by your words and perfectly understand your feelings!

To tell you the truth, I still experience pain in my heart and have tears welled up in my eyes each time I take a look at the picture I used in the article, to drive my point home. It is really a sad reminder of how women and children are mauled during uprisings. They are always at the receiving end and suffer most.

Humanity just must come to the realization that peace must be embraced by all.

Thank you so much for reaching out!

Warm thoughts, Hugs and Love,

Olanike

Aya Chebbi's picture

Dear sister, I've lived the

Dear sister,

I've lived the past two years in the uprising in my country and I know definitely what you are talking about. All what we need is to be united and have as many inspirational women as you. Let's always look at the candle in the darkness and hold the positive energy to make the change in Nigeria, Africa and world wide.

Keep up writing and inspiring

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

Greengirl's picture

Desired Change!

Yes Aya, it's important to forge ahead in hope that our collective positive energy will win for us a much desired positive change in our individual countries, Africa and the world at large.

Speaking of the uprisings experienced in your country, I have no doubt that a strong personality such as you can make a difference in your own seemingly little way. Little drops of water can in a short while become an ocean and I dare say that your efforts will make a significant difference.

No price is too much to pay for peace and I am certain that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

You are admired!

Olanike

Lehner's picture

Dear Olanike, You have

Dear Olanike,

You have brilliantly articulated the extremely important role of women in the peace process. You constructed an essay that captivates the reader through stating the issues and then illustrating them with a heart wrenching specific story that happened in a family's home in a small village. If there is one thing we mothers from all over the world want for our children is a safe, peaceful environment so our children can grow up to be healthy, educated and contributing members of their communities and their country.

Your conclusion which discusses World Peace Day and the essential role all women play in their homes and communities in the building of world peace leaves the reader feeling like there is a place to start in engaging women around the world in the peace process.

Thank you for sharing this well written piece!

All the best in your future endeavors,

Monica

Greengirl's picture

Dear Monica

Please accept my apologies for my delayed response. It is very unlike me. Would you believe that the last time I got online was 18th of October. By the time I got online, there was power outage at my end. Worst still, my laptop battery was running out, such that it left me with very little time to respond to your comment. Of course, it meant a lot to me and I didn't want to rush over the reply.

Imagine that we've not had power supply since that day until about an hour ago! But guess what, your words have stayed with me all through the period and I've so much longed to get back to you.

It still beats my imagination as to why women's voices remain under represented in peace deals in spite of the very strategic roles that they can play. We can only hope that those who call the shots will embrace that reality sooner than later. For now, we just must keep speaking in hope that our voices will be heard.

To me, your words are an exposition of the article and I really appreciate every single word which you used to capture your opinion. I am motivated!

Blessings and much love,

Olanike.
.

SSD's picture

Thank you !

Dear Olanike,

I am utterly speechless after reading your post....have lost all sense to articulate my angst for what injustice plagues around us.

Thank you for sharing your ink here....

In solidarity,
Shaheen

Greengirl's picture

Dear Shaheen

Yes, the world is full of so much injustice and we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. We must keep speaking out and never loose sight of the just world we all yearn for.
Thank you so much for sparing time to read the post, going an extra mile to share your thoughts and also expressing your support. It is motivating for me and I deeply appreciate you.

In warm embrace,

Olanike

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