Nigeria-based Catholic Entity Highlights Plight of Women in Conflict-Ridden Kaduna Region

Logo of the Kukah Centre (TKC) in Nigeria. the leadership of TKC has highlighted the plight of women caught up in the conflict in the Southern Kaduna. Credit: The Kukah Centre (TKC)/ Facebook

The leadership of a Catholic-based policy research institute in Nigeria has, in an interview, highlighted the plight of women who are victims of the violent conflict bedeviling the Southern part of the territory of the Archdiocese of Kaduna.

In the Thursday, April 22 interview with ACI Africa, the Project Coordinator of The Kukah Centre (TKC), Hajara Vicham Waziri said, “Women and girls in Kaduna continue to be affected by wider conflict trends in the state more than any other gender or group. They are left as widows and forced to take on traditional roles that have increased the level of burden on them.”

“The conflict has disrupted the livelihood activities of female farmers, many of whom have abandoned their farms due to the fear of being attacked. Farmlands across Kaduna state have become unsafe,” Ms. Waziri noted, and added, “In socially conservative rural settings like Kaduna state, the loss of a husband creates a vacuum, which often thrusts women into the position of head of the family.”

She quotes evidence from the Nigeria Watch data, which indicates that the “conflicts are responsible for nearly 95% of reported lethal incidents involving women and girls. Women have been economically deprived.”

She further says referencing women, “They are left as widows to cater for orphaned children. They are the least educated and the means and opportunities for jobs are unavailable. Besides, women and girls are constantly raped, sexually assaulted and abused in intercommunal attacks perpetrated by different conflict actors.”


In these conflicts, the Project Coordinator of the Centre founded by the Bishop of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, says, “women farmers lose their lands, and in some cases, they are the first to be evicted from lands by relatives after husbands or brothers are killed or have lost their farms in attacks.”

She noted, however, that widows are the most affected as they “are frequently evicted from their farmlands because, in some communities, the rights of women are still dictated to by culture, tradition, and religion. This economic and social disenfranchisement renders them, and their families, more vulnerable.”

Located in Northwestern Nigeria, Kaduna State has “experienced various forms of conflict since the early 1970s leading to division along religious, ethnic, socio-cultural and regional lines,” the TKC official says in the April 22 interview.

“Southern Kaduna has become the threshold for violent and massive killings especially in the years 1987, 1992, 2000, 2011, and 2016 to 2020. Analytically, violence erupted in the College of Education Kafanchan between Christians and Muslims over alleged misrepresentation of the Qur’an in the year 1987,” she said.

In the assessment of the TKC official who holds a Master of Arts in Diplomacy Law and Global Change, “Ethnic minority tensions and conflicts in Southern Kaduna have probably engendered far more serious violence than any other forms of communal instability in recent Nigerian history.”

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Analysis done by officials of the Centre, which has offices in Kaduna and Abuja States, indicates that the conflicts have, over the years, spread to other towns and cities in the region, with the “most recent violent conflict in Southern Kaduna (particularly remote villages) being the clash between herders and farmers over land contestation.”

“Whatever the factors may be, evidence suggests that these conflicts have combined to reinforce the divide between Christians and Muslims with gross impact on their livelihood and social wellbeing,” Ms. Waziri told ACI Africa April 22.

She added, “The conflicts have also led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people, including forced displacements and the destruction of homes, communities, and means of livelihood.”

Amid these conflicts, vulnerable women and girls “remain at high risk to gender-based and sexual violence especially if they lose their husband or a male figure in the family and in most cases losing their social of livelihood, for instance, their farming lands renders them vulnerable,” TKC’s Project Coordinator said.

She noted that gender-based violence (GBV) is “prevalent in internally displaced person (IDP) camps” with a report by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre noting that the Farmer-Pastoralist Conflict in Kaduna state has contributed to the displacement of about 23,000 people from January-June 2019.


According to the Nigeria-based official, in the IDP camps characterized by “poor perimeter security combined with sleeping spaces that are not segregated and high levels of overcrowding,” women, who are increasingly reliant on handouts for sustenance and survival, become sexually exploited.

“A substantial number of women in Southern Kaduna who suffer these are Christian women,” she said, adding that the victims have long-term reminders of the ordeals such as pregnancies, mental trauma, and long-term physical injuries.

In a bid to support the widows who are victims of the conflicts, the leadership of TKC, which aspires towards the attainment of a more humane, democratic, and free society where citizens can live in real and true freedom, is running the “Building the Resilience of Christian Women Victims of Violent Conflict in Kaduna State.”

Conceptualized by TKC and supported by The Fountain of Life Church (TFOLC) Lagos, Nigeria, the project “aims at building the economic and social capacity of widows who have been badly affected by the conflict in Southern Kaduna and have had to take up caregiving roles in their families as a result of the conflict.”

The six-month project set to run until July will see 25 Christian widows who are victims of the conflict undergo training in soap and beads making, skills which are expected to enable them to support their livelihoods, Ms. Waziri told ACI Africa in the April 22 interview.

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The project is also set to make available start-ups either in cash or equipment to support the widows’ engagement in economic activities after the program ends and “to provide minimal training on peacebuilding and psychology to build the resilience of women,” she added.

According to the Project Coordinator, the desire of the Centre to support the women is in line with its core program areas of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding, which pay “particular attention to the role of women and the support they can offer in facilitating peace initiatives.”

As TKC officials strive to promote peace in Southern Kaduna and support the victims of the conflict, they are concerned about “an increasing culture of impunity where there is complete lack of accountability for perpetrators of the conflict. This has to do with the justice sector reform,” Ms. Waziri told ACI Africa.

That there is “a growing economy of conflict, which is sustaining the conflict with different levels of beneficiaries” is another concern for the officials of the Nigeria-based Catholic entity whose program areas also include good governance and leadership development.

“(The) government response to the conflict neglects and undermines community initiatives and engagement. Key stakeholders in the community are never engaged nor consulted,” the TKC official said, highlighting another concern, adding “Peacebuilding initiatives provide little or no space for women to contribute or get involved.”

The leadership of the policy research institute appeals to the parties in the conflict to consider changing the military approach in resolving the crisis, as it is a “continuous failure” and instead consider a “soft approach.”

“It is time to change the strategy. A soft approach that should not involve the military or the use of force. There should be some form of structural approach that provides jobs and discourages young people from joining militant gangs,” Ms. Waziri said.

She added, “Stakeholders should create platforms for dialogue and reconciliation between and among warring parties and non-governmental organizations and private companies/individuals to take charge of this process. This should be built on the premise that survivors of this conflict have lost trust and hope in the government.”

She goes on to appeal to major stakeholders in Nigeria’s Kaduna State and the country at large “to shift attention to providing interventions that support women and girls who have been deeply affected by the conflict”

The interventions targeting women would help them “set up businesses that will provide social and economic sustainability as they are saddled with more responsibilities as a result of the conflict,” Ms. Waziri told ACI Africa in the April 22 interview.