Preventing Violence Extremism and Radicalization through Community Inclusion in Nasarawa State.
Protracted clashes between pastoralists and farmers and the resulting unrest have disturbed the peaceful coexistence of communities in Ugya, Umaisha and Gadabuke in Nasarawa state. The conflict has disrupted the lives of many and left young people vulnerable and unable to reach their potential. These communities in Toto Local Government have been living with political instability and their economic activities have been hampered by the violence and insecurity. In 2005, to show how devastating the conflict was, a serving commissioner for women affairs was killed. The tension has also created a severe lack of trust between the concerned communities and has engendered radicalization among young people.
To promote peaceful co-existence, reduce community radicalisation and peace building among young people in Gadabuke, Ugya and Umaisha communities in Toto LGA of Nasarawa state, Education as a Vaccine is expanding its programs to address violent conflict to improve community resilience and the capacity of communities to prevent and respond to conflict. EVA is currently supporting Adolescents Health and Information Projects (AHIP) to implement a program in Nasarawa state to actualize this.
The Peace Education and Community Efforts for Development (PEACED) project funded by GCERF is aimed at engaging local communities, security actors, religious leaders, traditional rulers and local government authority through various community-led initiatives in order to address radicalization to violent extremism among their members and youth.
An advocacy visit paid to the local stakeholders in November 2016 received a warm embrace as they agreed that efforts to counter violent extremism will not be achieved unless the most vulnerable – young people and women are involved by strengthening their participation.
Since then, young people and women in the communities have been engaged in intensive trainings that are designed to create awareness on the dangers of violent extremism and enhance their knowledge and livelihood skills through women’s empowerment, education, creation of economic opportunities, safe spaces, trainings, promotion of interreligious and intercommunity dialogue, value reorientation, financial literacy training, and countering narratives through the use of local media and opinion leaders.
Mohammed Gani, a community leader in Ugya commended the efforts of EVA and thanked them for restoring the hope of young people to go back to school. “Parents are happy with the way out of school young people are being enrolled back to school, especially In Ugya community where 8 young people have been reintegrated back to school and we are glad that you are even doing more by empowering our women. We pledge our total support throughout the implementation of this project”.
Abdullahi Adamu, one of the community leaders also expressed happiness with the positive response gotten from the community in regard to the PEACED project. He also stressed the high number of people who are beginning to change their orientation towards embracing peace and unity. “I think the Fulani people and some of the farthest communities need to be more captured in your program”, he implored.
One of the strategies adopted was social education. This is being implemented through safe spaces- weekly sessions (ten cohorts in three communities) where young people gather to learn and participate in their social, political and economic surroundings by sharing ideas with supervision from trained volunteers.
On what he has gained since the safe space started, Godiya Danlami, 18 recounted, “I learned about goal setting and decision making and I have started making decisions about my life. I never knew I would go to school. I am glad that your organization did this for me by providing all necessary materials and paying my school fees”
According to Jamila Hussaini, 21 “through safe space I understand that respect is reciprocal and now I earned trust from my parents. My self-esteem has been developed because I wanted to go to school of nursing and I felt discouraged but with safe space I can now pursue my dream”.
“Before I join safe space, if my father ask me to go to the farm and help him work, I don’t use to do but with the good lessons I got from our peer educator, am totally convinced and I started going to farm to help my father”, Bala Kabiru said.
On providing livelihood development to young women through the provision of personal asset building, financial literacy training, vocational skills acquisition and linkages to financial institutions, Mr Bem Alugh, Team Leader, Individual and Community Capacity Strengthening at Education as a Vaccine commented, “women can either be change agents or can be vulnerable to being recruited. They can be change agents because they possess a unique ability to recognise early warning signs of radicalization in their children and partners. Therefore, they play a key role in identifying the precursors to violent extremisms and raising alarm for communities to take action. They can be vulnerable because, violent extremists increasingly target women and girls to join them either by cajoling or abducting them. The aim is to mobilize women to support their activities by exploiting their assumptions about men’s and women’s roles in the community”.
By the end of the project, EVA would have contributed greatly to overcoming the threat created by violence extremism with beneficiary communities embracing peace and dialogue, while creating an enabling environment for economic growth and stability.