Zahra Ibrahim: A peacebuilding championess in North Darfur

March 17, 2020

For Zahra, peacemaking is no longer a man’s territory. Women are equally concerned about their community and now possess the necessary tools to broker peace between clashing groups in El Fasher, North Darfur.

Zahra Adam Ibrahim (39 years) is an inspiring peacemaker, women’s rights advocate, community activist, and peace committee member in Kutum; a town 120 kilometres northwest of North Darfur’s state capital, El Fasher.

She is passionate about women’s empowerment and ensuring her community - and others - are safe after years of conflict, and on-going tensions regarding land and natural resources.

While her memories are full of conflict, many of these are matched with successful resolutions.

“Once we had a big dispute between a farmer who owns land which crossing the main road, he used to prevent pastoralists from passing,” said Zahra. “The closure of the road caused many harassments and disputes between the owner, the pastoralists and the public.”

“We went to the owner, and gently succeeded in convincing her to allow access, which resolved the issue permanently. We even went the extra mile to prevent future conflict by opening four new migratory routes around the state.”

In another incident Zahra addressed a tense dispute between two tribes over the killing of a valuable asset, a camel – which threated to escalate into conflict between the tribes – by leading dialogues. It ended with both groups agreeing to forgive and move on.

Zahra is just one of 27 Darfurian women (and 73 men) provided year-long training in conflict resolution as part of the creation of 14 ‘Community Based Reconciliation Mechanisms’ (CBRMs) in El Fasher. Effectively, these are village-level ‘peace committees’ using traditional techniques, like dialogue and negotiation, to resolve conflict.

The trainings and CBRMs creation – supported by the UNDP-managed Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund – provide knowledge and skills for communities to resolve or address conflicts before they turn deadly, and trigger a cascade of violence.

In addition to supporting peace, Zahra credits the programme, training and CBRMs with strengthening the (often unequal) role of women, by making them key figures in the community.

“Women nowadays become key players in promoting peace, mitigating and resolving conflicts, and most of the cases are now being resolved amicably and no longer make its way to the judiciary courts.”

“Nowadays the women have a strong voice, a voice that can reach everywhere, a voice that can resolve conflict and sustain peace,” Zahra added.

Enhancing the role of women in local communities is a key part of the Fund’s work, something it achieves by including them in peace and conflict resolution mechanisms and committees at the state and local level.

For Zahra however, the work didn’t stop there.

In 2018, after further training on mitigating and addressing conflict – particularly the ways ‘peace committees’ can break cycles of violence, and build trust and confidence – Zahra joined other peace-making peers to train more community members, and establish eight new peace committees across North Darfur.

With the efforts of peace champions like Zahra, and the support of international partners, the establishment of peace committees, and reconciliation mechanisms, have contributed to 1,147 resolved cases in Darfur between Jan-June 2019 as part of the Fund’s work.

While there is still much work to be done, with advocates like Zahra, women are proving a powerful force for peace.

Key facts:

  • In the first half of 2019 the 135 DCPSF supported Community Based Reconciliation Mechanisms (CBRMs) handled 1,380 cases in 2019. 1,147 (83%) were resolved, with another 121 (9%) referred to court
  • 71% of community members reported they were satisfied with the CBRMs, and 64% reported a decrease in communal conflicts thanks to their presence
  • DCPSF and its partners directly reached an estimated 26,586 through training, community initiatives, workshops and other events and programs – 54% were women
  • 137 ‘tangible’ community assets (i.e. markets, community centres, classrooms) were repaired or created in 2019 to support community stability.

The work of the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund is made possible by generous contributions from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund. Operating since 2007, in the last two years the Fund has provided USD$16.2 million, and assisted 133,981 people to rebuild and strengthen their communities, recovery and futures, through time-honored methods of mediation, reconciliation, and peaceful settlement.

For further information on DCPSF’s work and impact, see their 2019 Jan-Jun report.

Through the Fund’s work and other programmes, UNDP aims to support peacebuilding and economic recovery in Darfur by promoting the rule of law, creating livelihoods and increasing access to justice which have great impact on people, public services and  the broader economic development in Darfur.