[International Women’s Day #MakeItHappen] — Women As Peace Agents in the Niger Delta. Profile of Mrs Mfon Edidiong Esua

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Mitigating Conflict in Ikot Ambon: From Early Warning to Early Action

Biodata of Peace Agent:

Mrs. Mfon Edidiong Esua, the Executive Director of Dynamic Youth Development Organization, Uyo is 35 years old and a native of Akai Atti Udesi community in Mbo L.G.A of Akwa Ibom State. She holds an HND in Business Administration/ Management and has taken courses in Monitoring and Evaluation; Data Quality Management and Conflict Mitigation and Management among others. She has been a Social Worker for 7 years and has been involved in several peace building efforts. One of her success stories is related below.

 Context: Ikot Ambon is a poor, rural farming community in Ibesikpo Asutan LGA. As part of its corporate social responsibility, a certain construction company offered to provide income generation opportunities for members of the community. Disagreements arose over selection of beneficiaries. The youth alleged that the community leaders displayed nepotism/favouritism in selecting these beneficiaries and in the process excluded the most vulnerable. Thus, the youth were pitched against the community leaders.

The Dynamic Youth Development Organization had, at the time of the brewing conflict, concluded plans to carry out community entry events in Ikot Ambon including an initial sensitization event. This was marred by protests by the youth. Mrs Esua then led the team to hold consultations and make enquiries to unravel the cause of the brewing conflict. According to Mrs Esua,

“the men wanted to allocate slots to who they knew especially family members who were not qualified for the slots, and to those who offered them bribe and to the children of their peers and party members. The youths disagreed vehemently to such ideas and kept on saying the slots were for less privileged and the vulnerable. This led to a misunderstanding between the community leaders and youth who protested in the community and at the local government council.”

 In addition to the fact that the youth were aggrieved, some of the early warning signs of imminent conflict were palpable: unemployment rate and poverty levels were high, there were allegations of corruption among leaders and discrimination against the poor and most vulnerable. Conflict was imminent.

 What did the Peace Agent do?

  1. Through intelligence gathering, the peace agent and her team were able to pick up early warning signs of an imminent conflict;
  2. Sensitization of women and youth representatives on the need to utilize peaceful methods (negotiations; dialogue, etc) to resolve conflicts.
  3. Sensitization of traditional and religious leaders on the need to use democratic and transparent methods to select beneficiaries.
  4. Advocacy with community leaders on the need for affirmative action for the most vulnerable.

 Results:

  1. Community leaders and youth embraced dialogue and transparently selected trainees; “the names of those selected were read to the hearing of all at a community forum and all agreed”.
  2. The intervention (training) commenced at the local government council and lasted for 6 Months after which a graduation ceremony was held. Conflict was nipped in the bud.  According to Mrs Esua, “I am proud that I have been able to mitigate a conflict which would have resulted in war between families and heads of the community and that I have been listened to by men not regarding the fact that I am a woman.”

Key lessons:

  1. A response to conflict is likely to be more effective in its early stages.
  2. Local NGOs and women are well positioned to pick up early warning signs of conflict; their active participation in community affairs can help prevent or mitigate conflict.

Peace Agent’s demands:

  • Community Leaders – “Interventions should be carried out at community levels. The women should know that they are change carriers and innovators and should be allowed to participate and become members of village Councils and part of family heads so that their issues can be heard and acted upon.”
  • LGA Chairpersons – Support small civil society organizations with grants to help them represent the interests of the most vulnerable, especially women.
  • State Governments – Enact policies that support women as change drivers and motivators
  • Federal Government – “Thuggery against women should be abolished, violence against women should be stopped, child marriage should be stopped, girls/women right to inheritance and Education should be strengthened and enforced .This will make women know that their rights are respected, their views applied and their voices heard.”

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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