Yagana Ibrahim never expected to have her fair say in community decisions. A mother of four, Yagana hails from Banki in Bama Local Government Area Borno State, Nigeria. Banki is one of many communities damaged by the conflict in North-east Nigeria since 2009. Now, with effective humanitarian and development support, the community is starting to rebuild in hopes of returning to normalcy.
One important initiative is the Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF) led by the Government of Nigeria working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported by generous contributions from the European Union, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These efforts focus on restoring security and basic services, as well as giving residents access to livelihood opportunities, thereby helping to restart the local economy.
One feature of the RSF approach is the setting-up of local ‘stabilization committees’, a forum where community members, representing different groups, come together to help resolve important issues.
Yagana is an active member of the committee in Banki, acting as a voice for women and girls. For the first time in her life, she can raise in a public space specific issues faced by females in the community and suggest solutions for improvement.
“Before the committee, we couldn’t speak up about issues impacting us women. We couldn’t report issues to the military or any other security people. We did not trust them, and we were afraid of what would happen if we spoke out. We lived in silence with these challenges over the years”.
These stabilization committees bring together traditional rulers, religious leaders, young people, community security actors like the military and police as well as female representatives to talk things through and explore ways to settle disputes fairly and safely:
“This committee is very welcomed by women and girls in the community. We boldly raise and report our issues and press committee members to find adequate solutions for justice”.
Yagana says that her committee has transformed the relationship between the community, government and security personnel. By having a formal mechanism for community dialogue and action, the committee has helped to rebuild trust:
“The community now feels confident to report suspicious activity immediately to the committee – they’ve seen how the committee works hard to address and find solutions to important issues, so we now trust them.”
The stabilization committee is working. Recently some community members complained about security around the borehole and toilets areas at night due to lack of lighting. It was brought to the attention of the committee and they proposed to the RSF team on the illumination of these areas, and it is being implemented.
UNDP is pleased to be supporting the Banki committee and other committees in the region. Yagana confirms that they’re making a real difference: “It has restored hope and trust. We all now working together to rebuild Banki back to the beloved place it used to be.”