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West African Group Urges Role for Women in Conflict Resolution

To mark International Women’s Day, the West African Network for Peacebuilding, or WANEP, is encouraging civil society groups throughout the region to protest on behalf of Togolese women. WANEP spokeswoman Ecoma Alaga says traditionally, they have been discouraged from taking part in politics, and that is the case even now, when many in Togo are protesting for democratization.

WANEP is also marking the day by arranging for women to join rebels or soldiers at militarized check points in an effort to spread the word about peace and democracy.

Ms. Alaga is also the regional coordinator for WANEP’s Women in Peacebuilding Network, which promotes women’s participation in politics throughout the region. For example, she told English to Africa reporter William Eagle her group translates all international documents promoting the well being of women into local languages, such as Hausa, Creole, and Bambara. It also helps train women in local peacemaking efforts.

In a move to help develop an early warning system against conflict, the Women in Peacebuilding Network trains women to monitor arms build-ups in their communities; in Nigeria’s oil producing Niger Delta, women act to keep grievances between local communities and oil companies from turning violent. Meanwhile, in northern Nigeria, the network trains Muslim and Christian women in peacebuilding efforts in a region known for religious and ethnic tensions.