[International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen] Women As Peace Agents in the Niger Delta- Profile of Mrs Blessing Orijos

[International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen] — Women As Peace Agents in the Niger Delta. Profile of Mrs Mfon Edidiong Esua
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[International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen] Women As Peace Agents in the Niger Delta- Profile of Ms Emem J. Okon
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Violent Conflict in Rumuekpe: Women to the Rescue

 Biodata of Peace Agent:

Mrs Blessing Orijos is a 33 year old woman who hails from the Rumunkita family, Ovelle, Nvakpohia, Rumuekpe, Emuoha LGA of Rivers State. She is the leader of the Rumuekpe Women Prayer Warriors.

 Context: Rumuekpe, an oil producing community in Rivers State plays host to several international oil companies – Agip, SHELL, TOTAL ELF and the Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR). In 2005, a violent conflict arose as a result of an internal leadership tussle and disagreement over disbursement of funds provided by the oil companies. This led to a split in the leadership and two factions emerged. The conflict deepened over time and key players began to kill one another. According to Mrs Orijos, “People were dying everyday. Many people were killed and the community was deserted…everyone left. They even came to Port Harcourt and killed some people in their houses. My brother was also killed.”

What did the Peace Agent do?

  1. She formed an organized group with a clear vision to address the Rumuekpe crisis – the Rumuekpe Women Prayer Warriors in collaboration with two other women – Mrs Queen Omamono and Mrs Happinness Obio. According to her, “it was a rescue mission”. We started by organizing prayer meeting at the Elele Alumunini.
  2. Her vision attracted collaborators – “other women started joining the three of us…the number started increasing – even youth, men and everybody started joining us to pray for the community”. A band-wagon effect was created.
  • The group staged peaceful protests – On several occasions, the group staged protests at the LGA secretariat and State Government House in Port Harcourt. One of the traditional methods used was having half-clad women take to the streets.

Results –

  1. On 14th November 2010, the women’s group entered the community. The peaceful protests touched the conscience of some of the perpetrators of violence and they dropped their weapons and joined the peace movement. According to Mrs Orijos, “when we entered, the boys came out from their hideouts confessing and surrendering.”
  2. Peace has since been restored to Rumuekpe.

Peace Agent’s demands –

Community members, especially women remain impoverished in Rumuekpe. Mrs Orijos calls for support (economic empowerment) for the women of Rumuekpe and for capacity building of her women’s group (now a community-based organization) for sustained action.

The International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen is a series that highlight key women, who through their actions and work, have created a peaceful environment that has led to more economic opportunities for women and men in their local communities.

 

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