Women for peace: Hajjiya, Nigeria

To mark International Women's Day 2016, for which the official theme is #PledgeForParity, we are profiling some of our female peacebuilders around the world and asking them: What does gender parity mean for peace?

You can read all of their featured stories here.

Hajjiya, Nigeria

Hajjiya Hamsatu Allamin is a Project Manager for the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), whose mission is to support civil society activism in promoting women’s rights, peace and human security in countries affected by conflict. ICAN have funded Alert’s recent projects in Nigeria.

Hajjiya is part of Alert's Reducing stigma against those affected by Boko Haram project.

Please describe your professional background and the project you are working on.

I am from Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC), the Capital of Borno State in North East Nigeria. As well as working at ICAN, I am a Conflict Analyst for the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP).

I earned my Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English and History respectively from the University of Maiduguri and in 1985 I began a career as a civil servant at the Borno State Ministry of Education. I have also undertaken special trainings in peacebuilding, gender and management, among other topics, helping me to provide leadership to African women and youth. I spend a great deal of time mentoring others on peacebuilding and conflict resolution issues.

What have you learned through your current project?

The ICAN project I manage works to support communities to rebuild themselves after they have been torn apart by violence, and to reduce stigma against those who escape Boko Haram. It supports widows and orphans in one community called Kawar Maila, and it also supports Islamic leaders to counter the narratives around Western education as purported by Boko Haram.

I was initially sceptical that the community would want to open up and buy into the idea of the project, but it has taught me a few lessons. Survivors and their families really are yearning to talk about their ordeals; and this helps to relieve them of the traumas they have suffered. Engaging communities to listen properly to victims' concerns can help to ease tensions and pave the way for their reintegration.

What does peace in Nigeria mean for you?

I believe that peace in Nigeria is a state where leaders are selfless, ruling us in fairness, equity and justice, free from the endemic corruptions and all vices that brought us to our current situation. Peace is where the voiceless masses, particularly women and youth, are empowered to be part of governance, and equipped with skills to be self-reliant. It is where state agencies desist from political propaganda and deceit, and assume their responsibilities with sincerity of purpose and commitment. It is where governance is not left in the hands of uninformed politicians who loot our treasures, engage in acts of barbarism and turn our youth into criminals.

Which women inspire you and why?

The late Hajiya Bilkisu is a woman who introduced me to development and voluntary work. She was an ardent follower of religion and experienced journalist. Her life and works really inspire me.

Will you be celebrating Women’s Day this year? How?

Unfortunately this is not a celebration I feel comfortable partaking in, given the depravity facing my fellow women and girls who are dying daily from hunger and starvation in inaccessible villages. Over 1,000 girls remain in captivity, and the number of those being abducted isn’t even being accounted for. We need to address these things first before celebrating International Women’s Day.