The Women in Peacebuilding Program, WIPNET, of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, WANEP was initiated in 2001 with the broad goal to elevate women from their state of obscurity to the fore to enable them play key roles alongside men in building peace. This was based on the realization that ‘gender and peacebuilding’ did not adequately respond to the existing gap between men and women and that men and women cannot attain equal opportunities espoused in the gender equality definition if women are absent from the scene altogether. In the course of regional and national consultations with women groups across West Africa, WIPNET realized that aside from the fact that women are excluded by design or default from peace processes by male establishment, women also suffer from lack of awareness and skills in peace making and also lack the confidence, exposure and opportunity to get involved.
WIPNET Liberia, Sierra Leone
WIPNET aims to mobilize women, build their capacity and encourage collaboration to build lasting peace and promote human security in West Africa. WIPNET works for the integration of women’s concerns and their participation in policy formulation and the implementation of policy related to peace and security issues in the sub-region.
WIPNET Nigeria was launched in 2002, as a part of the regional WIPNET initiated in 2001 on WANEP’s belief “Building women, building peace”. WIPNET provides a platform for women ‘s groups and associations working and living in conflict situations to form strong alliances aimed at ensuring women’s involvement in peacebuilding at all levels.
Her objectives include to mainstream gender and in particular women issues in international, regional and national mechanisms on peace and security; Create a platform for rural women engagement in peace and security and Bridge policy and practice (engender policy and practice) in the area of peace and security.
Strategies used include creating a women’s only space; providing a connection or holistic sisterhood in building relationships and peace to achieve common peace; making a link between what women face at war and conflict time and in the society everyday; Believing that the systematic and engendered forms of violence against women are expressions of a deeper disregard and discrimination against women in the society; therefore WIPNET does not only address the physical forms of violence in war and conflict times, but also the structural forms violence within the society; she provides a platform for addressing these systemic issues; thus WIPNET strengthen coalition of women in peacebuilding organizations, mobilize them to act collectively and mutually support each another on peace and security issues. Build the capacity of women to participate in formal peace process and peace building initiatives, policy analysis and advocacy and improve local women’s access to basic skills and knowledge of community peacebuilding by translating existing training methodology into indigenous Nigerian languages. WIPNET has also translated the UNSCR 1325 into local languages of Ibo, Tiv and Ijaw (http://www.peacewomen.org).
WIPNET-Nigeria is leading a process where women and women groups are given opportunity to participate and contribute effectively to peace initiatives across communities in Nigeria as well as work towards the eventual domestication of the UNSCR 1325 as a legal instrument that mandates a space for women recognition and inclusion to conflict transformation, peacebuilding and development in Nigeria. The WIPNET program has brought to fore the positive role women can play in peacebuilding within Nigeria which was highly underexposed prior to the commencement of the program in 2004. This has also led to a wider appreciation of the role of women in social cohesion, and community management which is key in conflict transformation, management and peacebuilding. Beneficiaries across Nigeria have acquired better understanding of conflict situations in their community and discovered ways to respond to the conflict situations.
The various levels of training have led to the strengthening of the capacities of over 400 women’ organizations and groups in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria from the initial 50 women groups prior to the commencement of the project in 2004. This ensures that competent female interveners are available to support gender based interventions as complements to holistic conflict transformation and peace processes in affected communities.
Another novel success of the project is its provision of platforms for rural women engagement in peacebuilding in Nigeria. The local women’s access to basic skills and knowledge of community peace building has been enhanced through the translation of existing training methodology into five indigenous Nigerian languages followed by capacity building training workshop to key women leaders and representatives of women’s organizations to further replicate the knowledge gained. Rural women engagement is also further reinforced by their participation to the Voices of Women community radio program which ensured that women’s interests and concerns are widely heard.
International instruments such as the UNSC Resolution 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 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.