In an address delivered on her behalf by the Ecowas director for Gender, Dr Sintiki Ugbe, the commissioner said the workshop was part of the contribution of the Ecowas commission and partners to enhance the engagement of women in Nigeria in the process through effective mediation and dialogue. She stated that the forthcoming election in Nigeria provides an important avenue for women’s inclusion in the peace processes in the north-east of the country.
Dr Ugbe on behalf of the commissioner, also read a three-page Declaration by Ecowas ministers for Women Affairs and Gender at their meeting in Dakar on 17 January 2015, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the Chibok school girls and other kidnapped persons in Nigeria.
In her keynote statement, Nigeria’s minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina described the meeting as ‘timely’, coming in the wake of ‘a series of conflicts and increased terrorism threats and actions in Nigeria’, most especially in the north eastern part of the country. The statement which was read on her behalf by the director of Women and Gender Affairs, Mrs Iran Ajufo, said women are a powerful force for change who often bridge divides between groups, and with unique understanding of societal needs. She added that the purpose of the training ‘is to ensure women’s full participation in all activities in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict recovery processes at all levels of governance’.
The executive director of the West African Network for Peace building, Mr Chukwuemeka Ezeh, said Ecowas member states have a responsibility to incentivise qualified women to come forward as candidates for high-level mediating positions. He said all relevant institutions should also ensure that adequate training is provided and to strive for greater equality in the appointment of mediators. “With this kind of training that targets women from conflict zones, Ecowas is taking valuable steps in this direction,” he added.
In her goodwill message, the UN Women country representative, Dr Grace Ongile commented: “There was a growing recognition that women in conflict situations must not be viewed only as victims, but as powerful agents for peace and security in their communities, since women bear a heavy burden in conflict and post-conflict societies, and reconstruct destroyed communities. In a successful negotiation, everyone wins. The objective should be agreement, not victory.” UN official, who was represented by Mr Peter Mancha, said women have a key leadership role to play in negotiation, reconciliation, mediation, conflict resolution and peace-building.
Professor Oshita Oshita, the director general of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja who was represented by Ms Grace Awodu, commended the Ecowas commission, the federal ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and WANEP for the training initiative.
The training, part of a series funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and implemented in collaboration with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and WANEP, is expected to come up with sustainable solutions for peace and conflict management in Nigeria as a whole, and the north-east of the country in particular. Participants at the four-day meeting, include women representatives of states in Nigeria’s north eastern geopolitical zone, conflict prevention and management experts, development partners and Ecowas member states and the commission officials.]]>