The need for the full involvement and participation of women in peace processes has led to the adoption of Gender Mainstreaming in the Armed Forces of Nigeria, ENE OSHABA writes.
The work of security institutions, especially in Nigeria, has largely been considered as an exclusive preserve of the male folk.
The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women Peace and Security in the year 2000 marked a watershed in gender equality and empowerment of women in peace and security.
It also calls for a comprehensive assessment on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, role of women in peace building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution, and recognises the importance of women participation and the inclusion of gender perspectives in peace negotiations, humanitarian planning, peacekeeping operations, post-conflict peace-building and governance for the attainment of sustainable peace.
Stakeholders at different levels and fora have continuously emphasised the need for Nigeria to fully domesticate the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
This is believed would amplify the voices of women on peace and security issues, in decision making at all levels.
Taking the lead in this advocacy, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has launched a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UNSCR in Nigeria, while stressing the benefits of the active involvement of women in conflict, peace and security in the country.
The NAP noted that the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency and farmers/herdsmen clashes, especially in the North-east and North-central regions, and other zones demonstrate clearly the high level of abuse against women and children who are soft targets for abduction, sexual and gender based violence, suicide bombings, among other forms of human rights violation.
Other commitments to finding lasting solutions to the security challenges especially as it affects women is the launch of the National Gender Policy (2006), a derivative of extant conventions such as Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), yet the goal of UNSCR 1325 has remained a mirage.
Amidst various efforts to ensure implementation, women’s voices are still unheard. It is a known fact that women and children bear the brunt of violent conflict in the country: they are often excluded in conflict prevention and peace building processes hence the call by gender advocates for inclusion of women in peace talks.
The minister further noted that the first and second NAP on UNSCR 1325 emphasized the increased participation (in numbers and seniority) of women in security sector institutions, as well as the importance of strengthening protection and prevention measures by all actors, including the security sector.
“In particular, the first NAP indicated that the target for women’s participation should be 35 [er cent, in line with the National Gender Policy (2016),” she said.
While disclosing the current process in developing a third National Action Plan, she restated
the significance of inclusive, responsive, and accountable security sector institutions and personnel, adding that in Nigeria particularly where the sector is engaged in multiple conflict fronts alongside regular law and order functions, more action towards the protection of women and girls cannot be overemphasized.
“I am happy to note the improvement of military civil relations which we intend to sustain as exemplified at the First Annual Forum on Women in the Security Sector in Nigeria convened by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in partnership with the Defence Headquarters and supported by UN Women in November 2020.”
AFN adopts gender policy
It is in response to this call that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) recently adopted the gender policy for the armed forces in line with the global call for full gender mainstreaming in all government sectors both at the federal, state and local government, as well as within Armed Forces and other security institutions.
According to the Commandant, National Defence College (NDC), Rear Admiral O. B. Daji, it became imperative for security institutions to lead the process of educating others and helping them to understand the differential impact of armed conflict on men and women; protect women and girls from violence and attack when called upon; and identify the special needs of women and the roles they can play in decision-making processes towards conflict resolution and prevention.
Daji, while welcoming guests and participants to the gender training workshop for security institutions which recently held at the NDC in Abuja, said that the changing nature of conflict in recent times has brought out the important roles women are increasingly playing in both conflict management and post conflict peace building.
He said it was heart warming that gender mainstreaming now occupies a prime place both at the governmental level and within AFN.
This, he said was evident in the recently adopted Gender Policy for the Armed Forces of Nigeria, adding that there were efforts by various security institutions in implementing gender mainstreaming policies for operational efficiency, including establishment of Gender Focal Points, Gender Advisers as well as the formulation of Gender Policies.
“There is the need for an avenue for interaction and cross-breeding of ideas that will result in proffering answers to the questions bordering on the place of women and men in peace and security management.
“Creating awareness on the importance of gender equality, as well as the gap created by low representation of women at policy and decision-making levels is very important.
“There is also the need for inadequate multi-stakeholder engagement, low representation of women at operational units, lack of awareness of the existing Government policies and, limited capacity and knowledge of security personnel on relevant legal instruments and working documents relating to Women Peace and Security to be addressed,” he maintained.
UN Women lauds AFN
In tandem with various advocacies on the need for full Inclusion of women in security, peace processes, the United Nations Women (UN Women) said it is necessary for security personnel from across the institutional spectrum to convene; share experiences, lessons, good practice; and learn the practicalities of gender mainstreaming within security institutions at strategic and operational levels, in various operational contexts.
The UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Comfort Lamptey, expressed concerns that Nigeria is witnessing both the intensification of security challenges as well as processes to drive security and defence reform.
She emphasised that gender responsive security must be at the centre of security and defence reform and approaches to addressing insecurity in the country.
“For several years, UN Women has pursued various ad-hoc interventions to sensitize security personnel in its project target states on gender, gender mainstreaming and UNSCR 1325.
“For UN Women, a key strategic focus is advancing the women peace and security agenda, with a key pillar being security sector reform and support.
“This is done through normative, coordination, and programmatic interventions, from policy development, implementation, and dialogue, to support to national and civil society actors,” she said.
Lamptey said that a gender training manual had been developed by UN Women and validated by the security sector gender reference group launched last year by the Minister of Women Affairs, with a view to provide a comprehensive but accessible manual for all security institutions within Nigeria, regardless of their specific mandates.
“It envisions reinforcing the capacity of a critical mass of mid to senior level personnel within the security establishment that can champion gender mainstreaming within their institutions and as part of operational planning and conduct.
“It reinforces the existing work of these various institutions in putting in place necessary policies and procedures, as well as the necessary institutional structures to anchor this work on,” she added.
The International Vice President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Professor Joy Onyesoh, has said most women get involved in peace processes consciously or unconsciously.
She said the involvement of women in peace processes draws from their traditional roles as care givers, value moulders, bridge builders and wives, adding that aside the fact that women bear the brunt of the violence during conflict, they are invaluable actors of transformative change.
She also said women’s traditional identities as women, implies that they have certain influence on the society and as such use the opportunities presented by these identities to forge and build peace.
“Women should therefore play the role of value moulders, bridge builders, decision makers and positive models of emulation.
“Strategic actions are very important and the inclusion of women at all levels is critical building peace. Women play a very important role in peace building at community and national level,” she stressed.
Mainstreaming gender into conflict resolution
Also, Professor Patricia Ori Donli of Gender, Equality, Peace and Development Center (GEPaDC) noted that the UNSC recognised that the national implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions is an important mechanism for furthering the women, peace and security agenda.
Donli lauded the adoption of the gender policy by the AFN as well as the training of security personnel on gender mainstreaming, describing the move as special measures to ensure the participation of women at all levels of peace process.
Consequently, she called on stakeholders to develop “robust transitional justice programme in Nigeria to ensure Peaceful communities, also to ensure gender is mainstreamed into conflict resolution, security and peace-building at all levels. Increased women participation in conflict management planning and processes, Increased provision for women’s needs/concerns before, during and after peace negotiations and post conflict management.”
Concluding her remarks at the opening ceremony, Dame Tallen expressed hope for a safer Nigeria for all especially women and girls.
“I am happy to note the improvement of military civil relations which we intend to sustain as exemplified at the First Annual Forum on Women in the Security Sector in Nigeria convened by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in partnership with the Defence Headquarters and supported by UN Women in November 2020. I look forward to seeing a female commandant soon,” she posited