In 2002 I received a MacArthur Leadership Development grant to implement ‘A Community Approach to Eliminating Violence Against Women’ and established the Women’s Crisis Centre Owerri where the project was based.
I did everything. Meetings with community leaders introducing ourselves and our mission, focus group discussions with girls and women, boys and men, and eventually training 20 volunteers from existing community groups in conflict resolution skills and gender. They thanked me and told me what they really want is financial resources to trade and grow their business. WCC paid them a modest transport stipend for the first 6 months. Maybe they saved something.
I kept in touch with the volunteers regularly for a few years and then my high flying international development job arrested all my attention and we lost touch. In the years after the training they consistently reported that they used their new skills not only to advocate to end VAW but to successfully mediate and resolve other community disputes like land issues. That was a pleasant surprise and unexpected.
Time for an M&E. Where are they at the 15 year mark? How have their skills helped them? How effective have they been? Why or why not? How can we make them more effective? Can this project be replicated in other communities? Should it be? Could it increase peace and security in a community and have cumulative impact statewide and nationally? Who is out there doing a similar thing? How they doing? What else should we do. What has changed? How?
Earlier this year I planned an art exhibition for 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women as WCC’s first event since 2012. In the course of the year the idea has both crystallised and evolved. What was supposed to be a one day event is now a 16 days of activism project. Watch out for updates. It will be the coolest event of the night.
WCC is scaling up to a national organisation. I want us to be able to work nationally and globally to manifest our vision of peaceful communities that are safe and secure for all girls and women.
You see, I believe –
- that communities and families are best positioned to maintain peace and security internally
- they just need the skills, the knowledge and the incentive to do so
- Igbo-Nigeria institutions such as the women’s groups that traditionally promoted peace and reconciliation in their families and homes can be empowered with best practices, skills and tools to increase their capacity to continue and amplify their role.
- Men and men’s groups (as well as youth and youth groups) need to be empowered too or they won’t be able to keep up with the women
- violence in the home, the community and the violent conflict simmering all over the country are merely degrees and scale of violence and are at least partly the result of poor conflict management
- if you increase conflict resolution skills and tools and their use there will be a decrease in violence in the community
I also believe that if we create more economic opportunity the community will be more peaceful and secure. UNDP’s report ‘Journey to Extremism’ was very clear on the link between overly and extremism. Somehow these two must go together.
Meanwhile, the Abuja Family Law Clinic will be making a return. Watch this space for dates and locations. The Abuja Family Law Clinic is a monthly event with various underserved groups of women where we answer any questions they may have about their legal rights within their marriage and extend other support services as appropriate.