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#Nigeria: Women Want More Involvement in Peace Efforts

By Balarabe Alkassim

Bauchi — Women groups have called for the opportunity to be more involved in peace-building and development in the country.

The women made the call at a meeting of women groups involved in peace advocacy which was held in Bauchi recently.

Tagged 'Networking For Women In Peace', the women said the meeting is part of an effort to synergise operations towards building peace in the society.

The gathering, which drew many faith-based and secular women groups, was organised by Interfaith Mediation Centre to focus on the need for women to be heard in all matters related to peace building.

The director, Intervention of Interfaith Mediation Center, Imam Muhammad Sani, said the initiative taken by the women was borne out of the fact that women and children suffered more when there was no peace.

He said Christianity and Islam had always preached peace, adding that it was only the distortion or non-adherence to their teachings that led to the present crises being witnessed in many parts of the world.

The Interfaith Coordinator on Muslim Matters, Hajiya Ramatu Adamu, said the purpose of the meeting was to enable the women groups to share information and network among themselves as well as discuss the challenges in peace building.

She noted that there was presently less synergy among women groups which needed to be created and sustained in order to achieve the desired goal by providing a unified platform.

While moderating on the perspectives of Islam and Christianity on peace, the Interfaith Coordinator on Christian Matters, Mrs Jane Obi, said emphasis was made on the need for the participants as well as all people to observe religious injunctions on peace as contained in their various religions.

Various representatives from faith-based groups also spoke extensively on the works of their groups in peace building efforts.

Some of the participants also narrated their experiences and efforts in peace building initiatives between Muslims and Christians living together which, according to them, had gone a long way in maintaining peace and stability.

The group, however, observed that there was always bias or ambiguity when it came to complimenting the efforts of women in peace making efforts as their efforts were always overshadowed or relegated to the background.

The women, who decried the incessant religious crises in the country, said women were major stakeholders in peace building as such their opinions should always be sought.

They lamented the plight of women especially widows and the elderly who were forced to fend for themselves and their orphaned children in conflict situations which, they said, added to their already precarious situation of poverty and want.

One of the participants however said a traditional ruler in her area was making effort to see that women were involved in some decision making instead of only playing second fiddle in matters that affect them.

"Some of us are being invited to discuss issues alongside the men after which we will discuss with others to sample their views before final decisions are taken," she said.

She said that was a positive departure from the earlier practice where men gathered and took decisions on behalf of women on matters that affected them.

Another participant, Deputy Ameerat of FOMWAN, Bauchi State Hajiya Hadiza Ladan, said although women were restricted in many instances by religious and cultural norms, their views on issues should always be integrated into resolutions especially in peacemaking efforts.

The Interfaith Chief Technical Advisor, Mrs Brenda Bepeh, called for consciousness of cultural and religious perspectives.

She said that mutual respect among individuals and groups was needed in building a lasting relationship which would ensure peaceful coexistence among various faiths or diverse cultural backgrounds.

She said at the end of the meeting, the groups would come up with a communiqué that would highlight the position reached by the various groups.

The communiqué committee had Amina Aminu, Liatu D. Joseph, Victoria Andrew, Monica Tanko and Fatima Audu D. as members.

Groups that participated in the meeting included FOMWAN, Women Empowerment Initiative, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other faith based groups.