Women's Empowerment: A Gateway to Peaceful Coexistence
By Monica Agene, Women For Women International - Nigeria
The role of a woman in society places her in a unique position to be a peace builder, who makes sacrifices to provide stability for herself, her family and her community. This is why Women for Women International provides a platform where women attend a 12-month long training program help empower themselves, with emphasis on health and wellbeing, economic and social development, decision making and building support networks.
After graduation, the women are equipped with an understanding of their legal rights, maintaining and sustaining a healthy home and environment, improving their social and economic impact in their communities and developing their skills to advocate for changes in their communities. The four crucial outcomes of this program provide the basis for home and community building, encourages positive societal relationships and accelerates the transition of a conflict affected society into a peaceful one.
We can pool human and material resources together to achieve peace by influencing attitude and behavior through knowledge and information dissemination, personal development and increasing earning capacity to uproot the roots of poverty. However, often times women are relegated to procreative accomplishments and farm work. Issues of gender pay gaps as well as issues of gender based violence have led to a significant barrier for Nigeria to move forward as a nation. Gender gaps in the labor market account for a reported 32% loss in GDP. In addition, in 2016, Plateau state had 446 documented cases of violence against women and girls.
WfWI programs are focused on human development in a bid to improve societies and communities where communal peace and trust have been shattered by conflicts and war. The emphasis on women strongly suggests the importance of creating peace by revitalizing and creating a means of livelihood for families.
Many women in the program are examples of strong women helping to create peaceful homes and society but Ladi, a 45 year old woman from Plateau State is a beautiful example. Ladi is married to a farmer and has nine children. Two of her children had to drop out of school due to insufficient funds to pay their tuition. Instead, her son does menial jobs to make ends meet, while her daughter opted for marriage in a bid to break the family cycle of poverty. Ladi’s husband often drank a local brew called burukutu and so Ladi was saddled with the daily upkeep of the family. Her meagre monthly earnings from her soy bean cheese and peppered meat business could barely meet the needs of the family and they were always forced seek funds elsewhere. Living under severe financial strain and her husband’s frequent binge drinking aggravated their misunderstandings and the couple's relationship deteriorated. Each misunderstanding raised the likelihood of physical violence by more than a notch. But since Ladi joined the WfWI program, there has been a great turnaround in her economic status and the general wellbeing of her family. As a registered active entrepreneur of solar products along with her business in soy bean cheese and peppered meat, Ladi’s monthly earnings have increased tremendously as a result of proper financial management and budgeting. Her improved financial capacity and the general change in demeanor has drawn admiration from her husband and smoothened their frosty relationship. In order to help foster peace in the household, he no longer drinks heavily and is a staunch supporter of Ladi’s business. Her husband is now more receptive to her needs and that of the family.
When women know their rights, first as humans, then as wives and mothers, they better appreciate the effort of creating an ambience of love and peace in the home, and supporting the economic status of the family. Also, when men discover the transformation of their spouses and their resourcefulness in initiating successful ventures and creating economic reserves that benefit the family, they appreciate and respect them better as partners in the family unit. In other words, the realization of peace is not a solitary effort originating from a particular gender but it is the combined resolve of all stakeholders, whether male or female.
The world cannot exist without conflict but our promise in WfWI is to translate conflict to growth and prosperity, using the family as a channel to the society and the world.