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A Community Project To Eliminate VAW

A Community Approach to Eliminate Violence Against Women is community based program that builds the capacity of and empowers communities to reduce incidence and prevalence of VAW through capacity building, support and economic development. Community Advocacy Volunteers CAVs are recruited from traditional community and family based male and female kinship groups and empowered to advocate for women’s rights, mediate and prevent violence and VAW. CAVs are  also used to distribute knowledge, products, services and appropriate technologies that add value to local economies.

A 1998 study by Chris Okemgbo published in the African Journal of Reproductive Health (2001) found that more than 90% of all married women in Imo state had experienced domestic violence and over 70% of all female respondents (married and single) had experienced sexual violence. Imo State and south east Nigeria continue to show a high incidence and prevalence of VAW. A 2007 study of South East Nigeria by Obi and Ozumba (2007 ) found  70% of respondents reported abuse in their family and 8% were men. A more recent study in Imo State by Anolue  and Uzoma (2017) reported 56% incidence.

WCC was founded in 2002 to provide support services to victims and established the first women’s shelter in Owerri Imo State.  During the implementation of the project the beneficiary women said they need economic opportunities and not a shelter to reduce VAW since using a shelter or outside help to mediate DV could be seen as escalating the matter and meet resistance from the extended family.

The extended family system and various male or female kinship groups had responsibility historically to mediate and sanction in domestic violence, sex education and sexual violence. The idea to empower them with modern mediation techniques came after observing that a lot of domestic (and community conflict) was the result of misinformation, poor mediation skills and interpersonal communication that could be easily resolved before escalating. By empowering community elders and these traditional groups to perform their historical functions WCC was able to create reliable male allies and competent female mediators.

Factors that influenced the design of the program include –

  • High incidence and prevalence of violence against women especially domestic and sexual violence among the target populations.
  • High incidence of misinformation, gender stereotyping and cultural practices that disadvantage women and justify VAW.
  • Focus of most VAW prevention and mitigation programs on large urban centres.
  • High incidence of violence in communities due to poor conflict resolution mechanism and skills, economic recession and pressures arising from gendered expectations on men, women and children in the family.
  • The stability, status and influence of traditional kinship groups in Igbo-Nigeria on individuals and families.

 

THE PROBLEM

The problem is endemic VAW. However, VAW is a direct outcome not only of women’s weaker status but also of a generally violent environment. Men and women, aged and young, frequently resort to violence to settle conflict. WCC studies showed one reason for this was because of poor mediation and interpersonal skills among various groups.

Domination by violence has become a way of life in much of Nigeria today. Domestic violence is in the rise and includes woman on woman violence (a unique feature of Igbo-Nigeria that sees daughters attacking wives and vice versa), woman on man violence (also on the rise as more stories emerge in the media daily) and of course man on woman violence.

Therefore to effectively eliminate or reduce VAW the wider culture of systemic violence within society needs to be addressed. DV and VAW are on the rise due to changing family structures, economic pressures, change in men’s women’s role and status in the community and the home. All of these have further led to changes in parenting styles, responsibilities and expectations. Communities are increasingly violent and insecure, poor policing and an over whelmed judiciary contribute to impunity and an over reliance on self help.

Women interviewed by WCC between 20o2 and 2010 recognised that the problem of violence impacts them disproportionately but felt that they are made more vulnerable and their options are limited by their economic dependancy on men. They requested assistance to be more economically self reliant and independent.

Girls interviewed by WCC were mostly victims of sexual violence and exploitation and this led to  teenage pregnancy and in recent years the emergence of ‘baby factories’ where young women are frequently abused. They were also frequently but not exclusively exposed to violence as a result of economic conditions that made it necessary for them to seek part time or full time employment as domestic servants and shop assistants.

Historically women and women’s groups were responsible for the sexual socialisation and protection of young girls and this program strengthens and improves their capacity to provide appropriate guidance, information and education to protect and prevent sexual violence against hong girls as well as older women.

Boys that were interviewed during the planning of the program showed a high level of misinformation about sex and their sexuality. For example one teenage boy thought that if he did not ejaculate after an erection he would die. Such beliefs are necessarily dangerous and seem to create a high risk of rape. Male CAVs will be able to inform and guide them appropriately.

Meanwhile men themselves told us that they had a right to defend themselves from female violence and this has been a feature of the traditional society.  Culturally men do NOT see women as a weaker sex that automatically demands protection and gender equity means their concerns be adequately considered and incorporated into the program.  Reports of violence against men within the domestic sphere have increased recently and heightened the sense of alarm and threat experienced by men. The CAVs will collect data to measure how much violence is initiated by women and address violence by women within the domestic sphere that may be directed at men, children and other members of the household.

There are a number of non profit organisations in Nigeria that focus on VAW, domestic violence and sexual violence – Project Alert on VAW (Lagos), Media Concern for Women and Children (Lagos), ACTS Generation GVB (Lagos), Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA, Abuja and Northern Nigeria), Mirable Centre (Lagos) Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) Enugu. Most of them have awareness programs, provide support different types of  services and some of them run shelters for victims.

 

WCC is the only organisation working and focusing on VAW in Imo State and using a model that specifically targets rural and traditional communities versus large urban centres that are the focus of the other organisations mentioned. In addition, WCC is the only organisation that works with existing traditional women’s and men’s groups and specifically builds their capacity to address the problems of violence and VAW themselves (which is the common practice anyway) before seeking intervention from public or private institutions. WCC steps in to provide support where the communities are enable to resolve a matter or where a matter has escalated beyond their capacity to resolve – e.g. where police or legal action is required as in the case of rape, homicide or grievous bodily harm.

How Will WCC Address the Problem?

THE STRATEGY

Violence and VAW are systemic problems and WCC targets changing the beliefs and values of the traditional kinship groups that have been an important part of Igbo-Nigerian social organisation for hundreds of years. Kinship groups exist for kinsmen, kinswomen and married women. These groups have been historically associated with family and community governance and despite the growth of government remain influential and powerful. Introduction of CAVs into these kinship structures will change the how they address and intervene in to resolve violence and VAW.

All stakeholders in Imo State – women and girls, men and boys, police, Ministry for Women Affairs & Social Development, local civil society – were consulted at various meetings, FGDs and one on one interviews and directly contributed to the design and development of this strategy.

  1. Behavioural change  through advocacy by CAVs at community forums and meetings, and interventions by the CAVs in known and identified cases of VAW and conflict.
  2. Front Line Grass Roots Capacity to resolve small conflicts before they become big conflicts. Mediation skills that enable the CAVs resolve disputes and conflict quickly and without the involvement of outside organisations and agencies that may not have the confidence of the people.  During the first phase of the project CAVs used the training in mediation to resolve other community disputes as well.
  3. Economic Development – the some WCC spoke with insisted that violence and VAW will fall as they become financially self reliant and economic prosperity increases within the community. A lot of violence is related to economic pressures and the inability of the men or women of the family to meet the expectations and obligations imposed on them for food, shelter, educational and medical resources. It should be noted that in Igbo-Nigeria historically men provided shelter and land while women were responsible for feeding the family and other household incidentals. Men did not provide food but the land on which women grew the food. Despite changing patterns of consumption and employment this division of responsibility remains in many areas and the women we consulted insist the ability to meet these food and basic needs would greatly reduce domestic conflict.

WCC will replicate and spread this idea through the NGWomen4Peace Alliance a loose confederation of women and women led organisation from every region of the country that are committed to bringing peace to Nigeria. Its zonal and state working committees have already designed a program to build and grow the a network of men and women committed to peace and the rule of law around the country. Through the NGWomen4Peace network other interested communities will be identified and supported to adapt and implement the idea to their local context.

Methodology

  • Recruit and train CAVs in high risk communities using specific criteria to identify male and female leaders with a track record of influence, integrity, entrepreneurial capacity and achievements.
  • Conduct community needs assessment, baseline data and gender analysis using CAVs for data gathering.
  • Monitor and support CAVs at regular intervals with training, resources and value added services.
  • Create, grow and maintain marketing and distribution networks through CAVs to add value to community economic development.
  • Continuous Monitoring & Evaluation.

Outputs

  1. 80 trained CAV’s in 20 communities of Imo State
  2. Three easily adaptable and translatable 2 day training modules on gender, mediation and enumeration available for relocation and distribution as needed.
  3. NGWomen4Peace network established across the country ready to adapt training modules to different cultural and language contexts and raise funds for implementation.

 

Expected Outcomes

  1. Peaceful Communities with the capacity to identify, mitigate and mediate early warning signs of conflict and violence especially VAW within the family, the household and the community.
  2. Community women and women’s groups empowered to mediate and resolve conflict and build peace within the family, the household and the community.
  3. Economically self reliant women and girls that are less vulnerable to violence and VAW.

 

IMG-20170928-WA0007

 

Footnotes

  1. Obi, S. N. and B.C. Ozumba (2007) Factors associated with domestic violence in South-East Nigeria. Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology. 27. (1) 75 – 78.
  2. Anolue F. C., Uzoma O.I. (2017)Intimate partner violence: prevalence, contributing factors and spectrum among married couples in Southeast Nigeria. Int J Reprod Contracept Obstet Gynecol 2017;6: 3748 -53

 

General

Durumi IDP Camp in Need of Urgent Assistance #WCC2017

Mallam Idriss Ibrahim Halilu is the Coordinator, Government and Public Affairs at the Durumi Camp. Today he told me about some of the biggest challenges they face. Medical is the biggest. They have a clinic but no drugs what so ever. The last time it was stocked was in late 2015 when a governors wife donated drugs. Since then nothing. There are currently a number of medical crisis on their hands – a toddler that drank poison, a man with severe typhoid, some in need of ante natal care. And – a nine year old girl that was raped so brutally the doctors don’t think she will be able to have children.

They have had no government assistance since 2014 when they were given ten bags of rice and the last time FEMA visited them was in 2015 when, according to Mallam Idriss, they dropped 5 cartons of mosquito coils for them. We can and should do better as a nation and as a people.

They need our help. Right now Mallam Idriss writes a letter to the presidency and the Human Rights Commission begging for help every time there is a medical emergency. Sometimes help comes to late and sometimes not at all. The camp chairman has refused to pen a bank account or adopt best practices that will enable the camp receive assistance and share it equitably to every one.

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Our project assistant and Mallam Idriss

Instead of a food drive we are organising a medical drive on their behalf. Donate medicines and if you are a medical worker please volunteer your time. People are suffering and dying. Remember, this can happen to any of us. War and conflict do not discriminate even while they affect women and children disproportionately.

If you would like to help them get in touch with Mallam Idriss directly on 0809 880 0181 or get in touch with us at Denk Spaces, 13 Uyo Close, Area 11, Garki.

Programs

Through The Eyes of Women From the Durumi IDP Camp in Abuja #WCC2017

The second in our series of art therapy workshops went brilliantly.  The young women had so much fun, we all did. I couldn’t help thinking that’s what they should be doing – having fun. Most of them are teenagers and a few of them are in their early twenties. Instead they are in an IDP camp separated from home and family. Many of the pictures they painted today were of houses. I understood.

They were so excited to share their new hobby with their friends in the camp we are planning to hold another workshop at the camp with our first 20 participants acting as trainers to other young women. Our facilitators were impressed how quickly the girls mastered the techniques and some of the paintings reveal talent that should be nurtured. We’ve promised the young women that we will continue to work with them till they all go home.

Our next workshop is in theatre and performance. The young women are eager and excited at the prospect of sharing their stories through song and dance and I for one can’t wait to  see what they come up with.

While our workshops are primarily therapy for the participants they also empower and enable  them to tell their stories themselves. Don’t look away.

 

Peace & Protection. Not Promises

 

Programs

‘Looking Through Her Eyes’ – An Exhibition of Paintings & Photography #WCC2017

Commissions from the sale of exhibits fund WCCs organisational development. Right now WCC’s primary institutional goals for 2018 are a functional work space, recruiting a stellar team and deepening our understanding of our environment.

We want to make this an annual event to continue to encourage the development of arts, to encourage the use of art therapy for victim support and healing and to use art to end violence against women in Nigeria, Africa and globally.

Next years event will be bigger, better and attract a wider diversity of artists – professional, amateur and beginners. We will announce our theme and make a call for submissions in early July 2018. We will also bring you more women’s stories from the other IDP camps that are in and around Abuja.

The community advocates that WCC trained in conflict resolution in Owerri in 2002 to keep the domestic peace used their skills to keep the community peace too and we want to test and scale our model as quickly and prepare more women at the community level for participation in peace architecture which is a key demand of the NGWomen4Peace movement.

WCC will also design and manage a communications campaign for NGWomen4Peace to support the movement meet its goal to reach and mobilise a critical mass of women nationally for a march on International Women’s Day in 2018 demanding peace, dialogue and women’s inclusion in national decision making.

We’re super excited about the future. Join us on this journey as we continue to bring peace to women and girls in Nigeria and all over the world. Join is in our 16 Days of Activism to end gender based violence. Speak out against all forms of violence and especially violence against women and girls. Speak up for the victims of gender based violence. Take a stand.

Peace & Protection. Not promises

Programs

#WCC2017 – Welcome to 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you so much for honouring our invitation.

Today is the International day for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women.

We are here to share and reinforce our commitment to ending VAW and ‘leaving no one behind.’

The Women’s Crisis Centre started out in Owerri, Imo State in 2002 as a community based organisation empowering the community to end VAW as part of a MacArthur Fund for Leadership Development Grant. Since then it has grown and has provided legal and counselling services and training to more than 5000 men and women around the world.

In 2002 we set up the first shelter for victims and trained community advocates to mediate domestic conflicts in Owerri, Imo State. In 2010 we ran a series of lectures and a free family law clinic in Abuja that reached hundreds. Since 2011 we have counselled and advised thousands online. In 2012 we set up a women’s legal defence trust fund and contributed to Wasila Umar’s legal defence in 2013 (Wasila Umar was a child bride in Kano accused of murdering her husband and 3 others. She was acquitted.) Earlier this year we successfully evacuated two foreign children caught up in an abusive situation in Nigeria.

Our attention was increasingly drawn to the security situation nation wide and the impact it is likely to have on women and we called on our sisters across the nation to start a movement and speak out as one under the hashtag #NGWomen4Peace.

As our November 25 event drew nearer it became clear that we needed to use the coming 16 Days  of Activism to amplify our message for peace, dialogue and continue to build a critical mass of women’s voices for the movement.

What better way to remind ourselves just how important it is not only to include women’s voices in peace and conflict resolution architecture but also for women as a group to continue to speak up for peaceful resolution of national conflict than to hear the stories of the women currently in IDP camps. So we chose to bring you their work and their stories to be told through photography, painting and performance at our closing ceremony on December 10.

While planning this project and exhibition I was also rather forcibly reminded how important it is for us in the development sector to do more to protect and safeguard the many women from all over the world that work in our sector. Seven years ago I was summarily dismissed as country director for OxfamGB in Nigeria by my line manager who had a three months earlier sexually assaulted me. Oxfam did nothing to protect and restore me then and nothing to punish my assaulter who stills enjoys their patronage till today.

It was a Life Changing Experience. We must ensure that the women whose compassion draws them to this work are just as protected as the women that are the beneficiaries of our work. And we must ensure that sexual predators are made unwelcome among us.

Tonight is not only the marking of the International Day for the Elimination for Violence Against Women. It is also an introduction to and fund raising for WCC’s programs for the next year.

In 2018 WCC intends to

  1. Collaborate with Alliances for Africa to train an additional 100 community peace advocates across 26 communities in Imo State and scale up nationally
  2. Collaborate with AWWAS (A Woman With a Story) and Abuja Literary Society to train and empower an additional 100 young women from the IDP camps in photography, arts and crafts, and performance AND
  3. Continue to collaborate with the #NGWomen4Peace Movement to ensure that women are included in and have an impact on national and local peace building and conflict resolution efforts across the country

Our 16 days advocacy message is ‘Peace & Protection, Not Promises’

Once again, thank you for coming.

Welcome Comments from Lesley Agams, founder of Women’s Crisis Centre at the opening ceremony of  “Women Finding Peace in a Conflicted World” on 25 November 2017 with an Exhibition of paintings, photography and performance titled ‘Looking Through Her Eyes’

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