Nigerian Women and the National Security Discourse
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
In a heterogeneous society like Nigeria, where security threats are rising on a daily basis, the vital role of women in contributing to peace and security ought to be recognised and harnessed effectively.
Women are often viewed as victims of conflict. But this view masks the important roles women play as leaders, especially in helping end conflict, developing post-conflict reintegration efforts and economic life, and even in leading the organization of camps for internally displaced persons.
Recognizing that sustainable security is not possible without the involvement of women, the United Nations in October 2000 passed Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution calls for increased representation of women at peace negotiations and at all levels of decision making regarding security; inclusion of women in post-conflict reconstruction efforts and in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration efforts; increased protection from sexual violence; and an end to impunity for crimes affecting women.
Additionally, in his words, Lene Espersen, Denmark’s minister of foreign affairs “We are fortunate that the unique role of women as key contributors to peace and security is growing and we already possess substantial knowledge about the critical importance of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in post-conflict reconciliation and reintegration.”
That UN resolution was the first that recognized the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, acknowledged their contributions to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding and highlighted the importance of their equal and full participation, as active agents in peace and security.
Security pundits noted that the key areas in which women could foster security include: peace decision making and peacekeeping; reconciliation, reintegration, and rule of law; and economic development. Therefore, the government of every country should recognize them with these roles and create an enabling environment for them to participate.
A report by the UN Secretary-General shows that across regions there are a growing number of inspiring examples of women, peace and security in action but overall progress remains slow and uneven.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, history revealed that a lot of women had made remarkable security impacts in their desire to provide stability to their respective societies. Notable among include; Inkpi, the Princess of Igala royal family who buried herself alive to save the Igalas from the stronghold of the Junkuns, Moremi of Ile Ife who allowed herself to be captured by the Igbos during a clash with the Yorubas. In addition, Queen Amina who became the Queen of Zazzau in 1576 not because there were no strong contenders but she emerged as the most suitable successor to the office. She proved herself a capable leader both on the home front and on the battlefield.
Under gender sensitivity and security, the National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019), a policy document designed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to coordinate national security, the roles of women in national security were captured.
“Nigeria recognises that development is endangered if it is not engendered. Therefore, gender sensitivity and security will be mainstreamed into public policy to create opportunities for the advancement of women and children’s rights as well as gender equality.
“It is imperative to engage women as agents of development to ensure social inclusion, sustainable peace and the security of all segments of the society.”
Subject to that, the country has already made a move by setting plan of actions towards incorporating women into participation in preventing and resolving conflicts, peace negotiations,
and humanitarian response among others.
“Nigeria developed a National Action Plan (NAP) built on five important pillars; prevention, participation, protection, promotion and prosecution. These are important pillars that would strengthen gender responsive conflict management and prevention frameworks in Nigeria,” the NSS stated.
The reality however is that women are largely excluded from many formal peace processes. In the terrorism affected states, women and children constitute the largest internally displaced persons and refugees across the border.
Also, it is noted that women are not just victims of war; they are also agents of peace. Thus, it was stated in the NSS 2019 that appropriate legislation will be adopted to enhance gender security with a view to promoting inclusiveness across various sectors of the economy.
On its part, the United Nations has identified priority areas to “accelerate progress” on the Women, Peace and Security (“WPS”) Agenda. These include “increasing the number of women in uniformed services in peacekeeping missions and national security services.” The inclusion of these priority areas signals an important shift towards recognizing that advancing women in national security services, in addition to peacekeeping operations, is critical to the broader WPS mission. To accomplish the goal of closing the women’s participation gap in uniformed and non-uniformed national security efforts, new policy planning must begin with a conversation with girls as to how they understand, define and interpret security.
It is an established fact that women are the bedrock of every society, as they are involved actively in food security, economic security and political security. Thus, there should be a change in attitudes and behaviour and individuals should learn that women are effective and they should be incorporated fully and equally into participation at every level of decision making in positions having to do with peace and security issues. Mainstreaming should be integrated in a whole-of-government approach to justice and security sector reform.
Mukhtar is a Staff Writer with Emergency Digest
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