Celebrating the Power of Women

It’s a well-known fact worth repeating: Peace agreements are more successful, and last longer, when women are involved in the negotiations! Early warning indicators of violence are often identified sooner as well, when women are engaged. Across all sectors of society, peacefulness and cooperation generally improve when women lead.   

This week, our Senior Program Manager, Jennifer Hall-Witt, came together with women from across our jointly-led Protecting Our Communities Initiative to co-facilitate a 2-day Women’s Leadership Retreat (photos above and below) in Abuja, Nigeria.

The workshop was the first time the project’s grassroots women peace leaders sat down with women leaders from farmers’ and herders’ associations and community-based organizations from across three states. Farmer-herder clashes are a major driver of conflict in the region, so these women-to-women alliances can have a lifesaving impact on peace and stability.

Members of Early Warning-Early Response committees in their communities discuss ideas for sustaining their work.

At the retreat, the group identified the social barriers they face as women, including the limits they put on themselves—and how to unite for women’s advancement across ethnic and and religious lines. They learned new skills together for improving communication, strengthening leadership, stopping sexual harassment, and building resilience.

They also shared stories from their work in our project, like this example Jennifer relayed:

One community dialogue facilitator talked about a land dispute between two communities. She led a series of dialogues between traditional leaders and religious leaders from the two communities, as well as dialogues between the women, but it wasn’t leading to a resolution. Finally, the women from both towns decided to tell their husbands that they were leaving to go live with relatives until the dispute was resolved, and that turned out to be a powerful incentive and the conflict was soon resolved.

During a session she led about participants’ ideas for next steps in sustaining the project, Jennifer noted that “their resourcefulness was stunning.” Women who attended from herder communities even developed strategies for a new cooperative organization among themselves.

The retreat was organized by our partners at Neem Foundation together with our community-based partners Elohim Development Foundation, Voluntary Aid Initiative, and Hope for the Village Child.

We are proud to partner with all of these women and support their common goals. What seems impossible can become real when women unite!

More photos from the retreat:

(1) Talking about how mothers can teach their daughters in ways to empower them; (2) a communications game—navigating obstacles with only few words; (3) women from Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) talking about how to sustain the work once the funding ends; (4) women from All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) talking about the same challenge; (5, 6) art made during a session on self-care and resilience, with messages for International Women’s day; (7) community dialogue facilitators discussing how to sustain the project

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