Women Leading Change: Empowering Communities in Nigeria

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This two-day retreat has reshaped my perspective, especially regarding leadership and women coming together to support our communities. Coming from Zamfara state, where educational and women empowerment opportunities are limited. The knowledge I’ve gained here will be invaluable in helping others in my community find their voices.

Amina Ibrahim, a participant from Zamfara state

Between the 6th and 7th of March 2024, female participants from our implementing communities in Benue, Kaduna, and Zamfara states gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, for a groundbreaking women’s leadership retreat. This event, marking International Women’s Day, brought together 30 participants from diverse backgrounds, under the auspice of the Protecting our Communities Initiative (POCI) including members of the early warning and early response committees (EWER), community dialogue facilitators, members of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and government representatives.

I learned a lot during this retreat. We shared our experiences and brainstormed solutions to each other’s challenges. It also provided a unique opportunity for us to examine the different roles women play in peacebuilding processes.

Rebecca Sako John, participant from Kaduna state

The reality of many of the participants is the fact that they come from communities affected by clashes between farmers and herders. Having them in the same space provided a unique opportunity to X-ray the issues from their unique perspective. Each of the sessions provided a unique opportunity for solutions to be proffered and also provided a unique platform for each of them to share their experience.

Martha Sambe from Benue State expressed her enthusiasm on the outcome of the engagement: “I look forward to passing on all I’ve learned in this retreat to others in my community in Naka Community.”

A Cross-section of participants displaying their art works from the expressive therapy sessions

It’s been an incredible honor to meet these remarkable participants. Their stories, experiences, and challenges highlight the importance of women’s involvement in peacebuilding. When women realize that their challenges are not unique to them but are shared by others, there is a powerful sense of solidarity and resourcefulness.

Jennifer Hall-Witt, Senior Programme Officer at the Karuna Center for Peace

A key takeaway from the retreat is the fundamental role women play in peacebuilding processes. Their voices, experiences, and resilience are essential for sustainable peace and development.

The retreat emphasized that for any peacebuilding process to succeed, women must be central to its design and implementation. Through initiatives like the Protecting our Communities Initiative, women are not only empowered but also become agents of change within their communities.