GEM in Hard Times: Sectarian violence in Nigeria can be beaten

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By John Dada for APCNews

KAFANCHAN, Nigeria, 12 March 2010

APC and the Fantsuam Foundation first came into contact when Fantsuam won the 2001 APC Africa Hafkin Prize for women-centred communication and technology initiatives. At the time, Fantsuam ran a small micro-credit scheme and had introduced computer training for their borrowers – though Kazanka Comfort who ran the foundation told us that her dream was to eventually see women in all the local communities in Jos linked up by email so that when there were outbreaks of sectarian violence the women could email each other and get help or diffuse the violence. Women of JosWomen of Jos
Since 2001 Fantsuam has taken technology far in their efforts to alleviate poverty – in an area where car batteries are typically used to run anything electrical. They’ve set up a high tech training academy, a huge local wireless network and provided internet to thousands of people. Since 2004 Fantsuam has been using APC’s GEM —Gender Evaluation Methodology— to evaluate the extent to which they are changing the lives of women in their communities. But in the new outbreak of violence, Fantsuam has had to help bury 287 dead – and they were almost all women and children. Women are culturally respected as the givers of life and Fantsuam’s John Dada blames deepening poverty and economic alienation for the cultural reversal. He sees the extension of GEM into the larger community as a potential solution.

KAFANCHAN, NIGERIA Thursday March 11 (John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation for APC) – Within a space of two months, from January, sectarian strife has ripped through our communities in Jos, Plateau State. The first violence was city-based and left hundreds of persons maimed or killed and livelihoods and homes destroyed. Then reprisal killings took over in the midnight hours of March 7 2010 attacking three rural communities. A mass burial took place the day before yesterday and body counts are close to three hundred with over 80% of them women and children.

It is ironic that in this month of the Celebration of Women’s Day, such atrocities are being visited on innocent women and children.

We had a GEM story of change [stories which illustrate the impact GEM has had on a particular person or community] to share about a young woman of 21, Zugwai, and how she finally found the courage to use an existing grievance procedure to challenge sexual harassment in her place of work (the grievance procedure itself was an outcome of a GEM process in her organisation). Her courage was an eye opener for her colleagues and she reports that she has felt safer and more confident in her work since the issues were resolved, and that her male colleagues too had expressed appreciation to her for helping to stamp out a near-cultural acceptability of sexual harassment.

The recent violence visited on our communities however has challenged Fantsuam Foundation to re-examine Zugwai’s story of change and contextualise it.

Zugwai’s victory pales in significance when viewed through the prism of the expression of disdain, hostility and utter disrespect for women as seen in the recent massacres in Jos.

It has been a global experience that in war situations, the greatest casualties are always women and children: this was starkly brought home to us this week. In the midst of the anguish, weeping and wailing, I had the privilege of seeing the resilience of the women folk when a pregnant mother began to experience birth spasms. The women quickly mobilised and within a couple of hours a new baby was born in the Fantsuam compound, and the mother was well enough to go back home.

The tragedy of the recent killings in Plateau State runs deep, exposing a dying cultural value of the sacredness of human life and especially of the respect for women as givers of life. When a cultural reversal occurs as a result of deepening poverty, and economic alienation to the extent that the fabrics of communal sanity are destroyed, GEM takes on a deeper meaning.

GEM is a tool whose ultimate meaning is the preservation of human life and dignity. A community that loses that sense of sanctity of human life is clearly on a suicide slope. When women who are culturally regarded and respected as sources of life are brutally murdered along with young children, the future of entire communities and nation is truncated.

To espouse GEM principles therefore demands a re-examination of the basic values of equitable living. No community can thrive on inequity for long; when traditional values that enhance equity are jettisoned, there are no winners and the entire nation suffers irreparable damage to its psyche and its corporate existence.

It is no longer sufficient for Fantsuam Foundation to be satisfied that it has mainstreamed gender, and have individual stories of change to share, we have to take a long and hard look at the social milieu in which we operate.

Given the socio-cultural realities of our host communities, we are now asking how can we get GEM fast-tracked and deployed in the larger communities? GEM has become for us a lifeline, a distant ray at the end of the tunnel, to get our communities out of this quagmire.

Nigerian survivors recall Jos massacre (BBC News)

John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation talks about GEM
Email: johndada@fantsuam.org
Mobile: 234 (0) 802-782-0332

Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_Evaluation_Methodology
http://www.apc.org/en/projects/gem

GEM is an evaluation methodology that integrates a gender analysis into evaluations of initiatives that use information and communication technologies (ICTs) for social change. It provides a means for determining whether ICTs are worsening or really improving women’s lives and gender relations, as well as for promoting positive change at the individual, institutional, community and broader social levels.

Fantsuam Foundation

Photo by MikeBlyth used with permission under Creative Content licence 3.0

(END/2010)

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