Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Let's Weave the Web for Peace

Nigeria- On Sunday 16th, 2014, at exactly 6:24 p.m, my friend Jennifer E. who resides in Lagos, called me on phone to inquire about reports on the wanton massacre and destruction of properties which took place in Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State, the previous day. "I am in the dark about about the upheaval". I replied anxiously. Jennifer was completely taken aback by that response, because she was aware of my very close association with communities in Kaura; and how very dear the place is to my heart. "I traveled to Abuja to represent my organization and World Pulse at the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) Nigeria Multi-Stakeholder Forum which held on March 11th, 2014. After the event, I stayed back for a few more days and just returned to my base, yesterday" I explained further. By this time I had become helplessly unsettled within me.

As we ended our conversation, which was dominated by details surrounding the attacks unleashed on communities in the Marwa Chiefdom, I spontaneously dialed Anna Avong's (a community women's leader from a neighboring Chiefdom in Kaura) number but it was switched off. Worry took a better part of me as I fidgeted with my phone while calling her daughter's phone. I became somewhat relieved upon hearing Agatha Sambo's voice at the other end of the call. "Hello, good evening!", she answered with a sensually calm voice that unveiled and conveyed low morale. "Good evening, I hope everyone is fine. How are you, your daughters and your mum?". As she made to respond, I interjected by telling her that I learned there was trouble in Kaura; and hoped that they were not in any way affected.

Only three weeks ago, Agatha had traveled to her late husband's village to visit his mother and relatives. I felt chills run through my spine when she said "My mother in-law was killed in the mayhem!". It has become a daily affair to hear or read about the incessant attacks on farming communities by unknown gun men; among other grave challenges of insecurity currently bedeviling Nigeria. "It could have been anybody", I thought out loudly. Worst case scenarios ran riot in my head, as I recounted various trips I had made to communities in the area in the course of embarking on community development projects; in collaboration with the indigenous women groups across the locality.

My organization, the Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) has over the years maintained close working ties with various women groups around the affected communities, especially through the Attarkar Women Association of Nigeria (AWAN). When peace thrived, every project implementation and partnership opportunity with women groups in the community, was always welcomed and looked forward to with much zeal. It saddens my heart that the story has changed, as the once peaceful region I relish working with has now become a war zone- 'a blood thirsty land'.

Sometime in February, an acquaintance from the United States visited Nigeria in her quest to carry out an investigative report on the linkages between climate change and rising conflicts in parts of Northern Nigeria, especially the Middle Belt Region. Prior to her arrival, we had engaged in very progressive discussions via email exchanges and phone calls. Among other conflict prone and affected areas, we agreed to cover Kaura L.G.A in the research. However, a couple of days after her arrival to Nigeria, she was left with no choice but to limit her scope to Abuja, Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory (FCT), due mainly to associated problems of logistics and issues related to insecurity. Looking back, I certainly have no regrets that the trip to Kaura was cancelled. I sure don't want to imagine a situation where one gets caught up amid any form of bloody conflict, while undertaking the the intended study.

As I reflect over the recurrent attacks on hapless community members who have become environmental refugees in their homelands; I loose sleep. My heart bleeds openly for everyone, particularly the many helpless and highly vulnerable women and children, who are often caught up in the web of the conflict over the rights to grazing lands across North Central Nigeria. It is of significance that these women are numbered among the people for whom WISE envisions a safe and just world. I therefore have no intention to give up on my interests in, as well as commitment towards supporting women in the affected communities; through peace building efforts. Images of the palpable terror and fear that now pervade the air in those communities continues to send strong signals that the search for enduring peace is not negotiable.

I believe it is about time to further strengthen the roles women play in conflict resolution and mitigation; within and beyond their communities. Of course digital and web tools come in handy, when it comes to raising awareness and building women's capacity, particularly when it comes to knowledge and skills development. I have already taken a number of positive steps in this direction including: using web platforms and tools to: create awareness about conflict situations in my community, identify and promote solutions, highlight and support women's roles in peace building, and also explore capacity development opportunities for women who are witnesses, victims or survivors.

Accordingly, my joy knew no bounds when I came across the call for applications for the 2014 Women Peacemakers and Peace Writers Program on the World Pulse website. I did not need any seer or soothsayer to tell me that Anna would be a perfect candidate for the program. I have since informed her about the opening and she is elated at the prospects. I am currently helping her out with the online application process. If selected, Anna will have the opportunity to share first hand experience of what it is like to live in the frontlines of violent conflicts, and will benefit greatly from having her stories documented and disseminated to a global audience. She will also be afforded the prestige of gaining local, national and international recognition as an expert and advocate in, and fellow of the gendered peace building process; which the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego, USA, is advancing.

The Web continues to play a major role in my personal and organization's ability to initiate and deliver life transforming and environmentally friendly programs that effectively engage, equip and empower grassroots women. In contributing towards peaceful resolution of the conflict, reconciliation and coexistence in Attarkar and other affected communities in Nigeria, I also find it timely to deploy one or more web platforms to start a petition and or campaign; calling for an end to the recurrent yet preventable conflicts over natural resources. Our ongoing digital empowerment training for grassroots women will also be used to spur (inspire and motivate) grassroots women to play active roles in peace building, conflict resolution and management.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

Olanike, as always, you have expressed so beautifully the urgent situations you see and experience as you see it through your heart's eye. It does seem that we push and move forward, then are forced to step around or back. Forward, back. Forward, back. And every forward.

You amaze me continually with your leadership within our community here, and I am glad you are walking with Anna through the application and writing process for this opportunity.

My heart bleeds with yours. My heart hopes with yours.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Greengirl's picture

You are awesome Cali gal!!!

Dear sister and friend, I feel very encouraged that you reached out with your words of support and hope. There is really very little one can do and achieve in situations of conflict and or chaos. I wish I could do more to stop the senseless killings that have continued unabated, particularly in rural communities in Northern Nigeria that have become targets of violent attacks. These communities have long been deprived and somewhat marginalized in terms of development, and to think that they now also have to live in perpetual fear of violent attacks is another issue too many.

I share your hope and I will be happier for it if Anna gets selected for the Peacemakers Training Program as it would go a long way to help her and her community.

You are dearly appreciated,
Greengirl

Nabiye Tal's picture

My Heart bleeds

Dear Greengirl,
Hmmmmmm, i don't even know what to say, you've stated it all so loud and clear. It is sad these killings going on and like you said it could be anybody, anyone can get caught up in it. Just this afternoon i was recalling back, like 20 to 15 years back, how anytime i visit my village to see my grannies, i am from the north, i recalled how my family and the fulani people eat, talked, shared stories together, they were a peaceful people and we admired them likewise they us, they would send us fresh cow milk every morning and meat at evenings, i always enjoyed it. But today! How sad that they are the ones killing us and making the country unsafe for everyone. They have no regard anymore for the human life. Even me from the north don't feel safe visiting my place anymore. It is indeed sad! We look forward with a bright hope when all these killings will end! Peace in Nigeria!!!

Nabiye Tal,
Founder/CEO- IEVAWC.
@nabiye, @ievawc

Greengirl's picture

Peace, Peace, Peace!!!!!

Yes compatriot, we need peace in Nigeria. The spate of conflicts and insurgencies is one that has become really very worrisome. Having experienced what life was like during the peaceful days in your village; I can imagine and very much understand your feelings. There is very little one can achieve when there is no peace, and this truth needs to spread far and wide.

We must keep praying and spreading a message of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts my lovely sister.

Greengirl

Greengirl's picture

Peace, Peace, Peace!!!!!

Yes compatriot, we need peace in Nigeria. The spate of conflicts and insurgencies is one that has become really very worrisome. Having experienced what life was like during the peaceful days in your village; I can imagine and very much understand your feelings. There is very little one can achieve when there is no peace, and this truth needs to spread far and wide.

We must keep praying and spreading a message of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts my lovely sister.

Greengirl

Leigh Anne Kranz's picture

Your planet loves you!

Hi Olanike,

This piece has so much heart. And vision.

Your concern for women and children, displaced peoples, and your efforts to create a safe and just world for them is beautiful. Your emphasis on peace-building and the inclusion of women in conflict resolution is wise.

I love that you are actively supporting Anna, with accessing an opportunity to share her stories from the frontlines and make a global impact.

Thank you for all that you do.
Leigh Anne

Greengirl's picture

Thank you so much Leigh Anne

Even when all the challenges around me keep screaming "Stop, you can't solve all the world's problems!"; I just smile and mutter to myself- "I will keeping doing my own bit". I believe every little and big effort we make to create a better world adds up and goes a long way. It will certainly be a dream come true for Anna, her Community and I if she makes it to the Peacemakers Program. I would love to see her speak for herself and her community!

Thank you so much for being there to motivate me.

Much love and respect,
Olanike

lydiagcallano's picture

Horrific change

Thank you, Green Girl for presenting a clear but horrific picture of Nigeria. Your story has educated me on the security aspect of your country. I had an impression that your people in general are happy, intelligent and social beings. I know because the Philippines has been accommodating many foreign students from Nigeria since the 1980s. Moreover, my first love was a Nigerian who hailed from from Cross River.

You said that Kaura was once peaceful but it has now become a place of blood-thirsty people. With armed conflict sprouting anywhere is counter-developmental. How can a people progress when they live in fear?

This is truly depressing and must be ended soon. The challenge can be done by telling the world what is happening with the hope that the war mongers will restrain their next moves because the world is looking at them. And so continue to report any form of inhumanity and resound the voice of the victims. God speed!

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Ma. Lydia,
I would like to reassure you that Nigerians are by nature happy, intelligent and social beings. Please permit me to add resilient. A univerísal study carried out some years back identified Nigerians as the happiest people on earth. Guess why? A typical Nigerian is a survivor, someone who has learned to weather the storms of grave injustices such as poverty in the midst of plenty, segregation and marginalization, gross oppression, corruption, the tactics of divide and rule etc; without giving up. In the midst of all this, we still smile and keep hope alive. You could call it a case of a powerful few oppressing a majority who have become subjugated and helpless. The much many a Nigerian leader has succeeded over the years is sowing the seeds of selfishness, greed, suspicion, division and bitternes. Each of these have become embedded in the political setting. It's all in the news!

I am not an advocate of blame trading. All I desire and seek is a safe and just world where everyone can aspire and thrive. The fact that those who have fallen victim and still falling victim are not on the majority, is no excuse for the reign of terror to continue. There is a way out of the turmoil and that is dialogue, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. As diverse as some may want to view Nigeria and the world in general, I cannot but agree that the very things that we share in common far exceed our differences.

It may interest you to know that a National Conference is ongoing in Nigeria, and a major issue on the debate table is the spate of conflicts and insurgences. I trust that sanity will prevail and all Nigerians will embrace and tread the path of peace for all time.

Thank you for sharing your encouuraging experience about Nigeria.

Regards,
Greengirl

lydiagcallano's picture

Glad to know

Greengirl, thank you very much for reassuring me that Nigerians in general have remained a happy people. True, there is always an exception to the rule. While majority are civil, peace-loving, God fearing, gentle, and so on, there will be individuals who will instigate violence, fear and hatred among the population. Yes, I remember despotic generals who grab power, rule with an iron hand and siphon the resources of their own countries. Some were not military generals but caused general problems in the land. The Philippines had.plenty of them.

I really admire how you present ideas. You are very articulate and logical. I wish I can write as well as you do. But I believe that by reading your pieces I can unconsciously pick up your style.

Thanks again and God bless!

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Greengirl's picture

You too!

Thank you so much for your illuminating and very thoughtful comments. I have also learned a lot from everything you shared. I am touched by your acknowledgement and feel very encouraged to know about what you think of my writing.You sure beat me to it and took those words right out of my mouth before I could utter those same words to you, may be more. Aha! Well, I still find it important to let you know that your style of writing is unique and also very impressive. I could shout it to the roof top- Ma. Lydia, you write well!

I look forward to reading your posts. Together we can talk the walk and walk the talk!

Much appreciation,
Olanike (Greengirl)

susa's picture

Horrors and hope

Dear Olanike,

Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking and horrifying story -- and for combining it with the hope you bring with your work and your mentoring of people like Anna. These are such bright spots in a very dark picture. Through your work you can spread messages of empowerment and peace, and counter these brutal, senseless acts that take over when desperate people seem desperate to destroy the world. Your work to include women in the essential work of conflict resolution is so important. I hope you will stay courageous in these times for your work gives hope to those who otherwise might have none.

Gratefully,
Susa

Greengirl's picture

Oh Susa!

I found your words very soothing and lifting. To loose or give up hope in the midst of so much horror and despair would mean handing control to those who are given to destruction. Thank you so much for affirming the importance of involving women in conflict resolution. We must contoinue to spread the message of peace. Together we can!

Warmly,
Olanike

...said already by one of the excellent commenters before me! You certainly are articulate, and your love, concern and passion for women, your people and your country are so beautifully expressed in your writing. I saw your President presiding on a hearing at the UN no TV yesterday and was so impressed by her demeanor. My heart reaches out in concern for the people of Nigeria, and I know that, with women in positions of power and working in communities as you are, a just resolution to the violence in Nigeria is possible. I hope it is also close to happening, for the sake of the lives that would be saved and the contentment of the land itself. Bloodshed is so hard on the other beings that live near humans, too. It is all heartbreaking, but I sense that you are flexible and alert, so you will not be broken, you will only continue to do everything you can for peace, so that life can continue in a more productive way in your beautiful country. I wish you and Anna the very best in all your efforts!
God Bless you and your work,
Hannah

Greengirl's picture

Glad to hear from you!

I am so glad to hear from you super mum! Yes, my country is a beautiful one, so much that we are blessed with an abundance of human and natural resources. It is really a matter of urgent concern that peaceful coexistence in Nigeria has become elusive in the recent past. However, I am hopeful that sanity will prevail sooner than later.

Thank you so much for your motivating words of encouragement.

Much respect,
Greengirl.

hanasazi's picture

Thank you!

Although I do get sweet compliments from my kids, I don't get called super mum very often! Thank you so much, Greengirl.

As you said, it's just so difficult to get anything progressive done when there is conflict and violence happening around you. I admire your efforts to help the environment there; it's a tough job when your country is rich in resources - everyone wants to get their hands on them at any expense, including the lives of the people who live there and the future contentment and usefulness of the land. You will have a lot of work to do once peace is restored! I will join the women who are praying for peace in your country so you can resume your work to effect change in all the areas in which you are passionate to see improving conditions...Soon! Meanwhile, keep up the great work as much as you can and help keep everyone unified. ♥ Hannah

Greengirl's picture

It feels good........

It feels good to know that you care and that we are in your prayers. You are a great source of encourage and I feel like I have been connected to you way back.

You are a super mum and a super woman!

Hugs to you from Nigeria,
Greengirl

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

womenspace's picture

CAMBODIA: Ordinary Women Can Make a Difference

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative