When Nusiaba heard rumblings of an armed group, she immediately feared for the safety of her community. She thought of those who were newly-arrived, having already fled homes in other places and were now trying to rebuild lives in the Tuban district of Lahj. She thought of the young people, prepared to protect their homes at any cost. “I knew I had to do something for the people I lived with,” she says with resolve. “Our home cannot be a battleground.”
Gathering female community members around her – particularly the most senior and influential – she and the others marched to where the armed group had stationed themselves amid combat vehicles. “We told them that we want a safe environment for our families and people.” Seemingly surprised, the group explained that they had been ordered to do so and requested that the women wait to speak directly to their decision-maker.
They waited several hours, during which they nominated a senior member of the group to lead the negotiation. When the commander of the armed group arrived, the female appointee explained their concerns and repeated their request that the armed group leave the area, which is home to civilians and vulnerable groups who are not interested in conflict.
“They listened and agreed with our request,’’ says Nusiaba. The armed group was ordered to stay away from the area and – more importantly, refrain from any interaction with youth. It was a great success, she says. But not an easy one.
“At the beginning,” she says, “we faced strong objection from the youth who viewed our actions as shameful and undermining of male members in the area. Also, as females, we were not allowed to pass through a local market while heading to where the armed group stationed.” So, she explains, “The group nominated a widely respected and influential female, to negotiate with the community elder for our passage and to explain and justify our action – an action for the peace of our area. Finally, they agreed and we had their full support.
“This experience gave me confidence and I knew that I need to further polish any skills on negotiation and mediation.”
Since the 2015 incident, Nusiaba has participated in various trainings and workshop not only to equip herself with enhanced skills and knowledge, but also share her experience and insights with others. Through the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen project, Nusiaba attended the Advanced Training of Trainers on Conflict Resolution and Mediation. Jointly conducted by UNDP Yemen and Partners Yemen in the Lahj governorate, Nusiaba delivered training to 33 mediators in the district.
The Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) joint programme is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Food Programme (WFP) in the Yemeni governorates of Hajjah, Hodeidah, Lahj and Abyan. The three-year programme aims to enhance the resilience and self-reliance of crisis-affected rural communities through support to livelihoods stabilization, food security, local governance, social cohesion and improved access to sustainable energy. UNDP works in partnership with the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF).