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IDRC awards on women, peace and security support research on conflict-related sexual violence


Gender-based violence remains alarmingly prevalent worldwide and especially in regions grappling with armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, climate insecurity and political instability. In particular, the devastating impacts of conflict-related sexual violence underscore the urgent need to address these grave violations of human rights that disproportionately affect women and girls. Two IDRC awards are funding research to understand the present-day challenges of women survivors of wartime sexual violence in Liberia and the dynamics of survivor inclusion in transitional justice processes in Nigeria’s North East zone.

The research is made possible through the Women, Peace and Security Awards program supported by IDRC and Global Affairs Canada. These annual awards aim to strengthen the implementation of the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Launched in 2021 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this resolution, the awards program supports excellence in research and recognizes civil society leadership to advance the WPS agenda.

Recipients of the Women, Peace and Security Research Award

  • Amelia M. Cooper and Heather Tasker, for research examining the ongoing vulnerabilities of women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in post-conflict Liberia. 
  • Lawan Gana Balami and Chika Maduakolam for research on how survivors of conflict-related sexual violence can participate in transitional justice and peacebuilding processes, in the North East zone of Nigeria. 

The 2023 Women, Peace and Security Research Awards

IDRC is funding two groundbreaking research projects in Liberia and Nigeria on conflict-related sexual violence. 

Amelia M. Cooper and Heather Tasker are examining the ongoing complexities of conflict-related sexual violence in post-conflict Liberia. Despite having transitioned from widespread conflict to relative peace, Liberia continues to grapple with alarming rates of sexual and gender-based violence. The aftermath of the war that ended in 2003 has left survivors vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation, with limited access to justice and support services.

The researchers bring their extensive expertise to implement a survivor-centred approach. They will hold workshops and focus-group discussions with survivors to understand their experiences, needs and priorities. Together, they will explore how women survivors of wartime gender violence perceive their situation in the post-conflict era and identify opportunities for building a positive peace.

By amplifying the voices of survivors and centering their perspectives on justice and peacebuilding, Cooper and Tasker seek to inform policy and advocacy efforts that promote sustainable and inclusive peace for all individuals affected by conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. 

Photo of Amelia M. Cooper and Heather Tasker

As founder and executive director of the Aiding Abused Women and Girls Association, Cooper provides leadership, guidance, direction and support for organizational growth and progress. She is a social worker with more than 19 years of professional expertise in advocating for disadvantaged and traumatized women and girls. Tasker is a post-doctoral fellow at Queen’s University, Canada. She works on collaborative research projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Nigeria, where she explores the gendered impacts of war, the unique harms arising from different forms of sexual and gender-based violence and opportunities for survivors to access justice.

Lawan Gana Balami and Chika Maduakolam are studying the participation of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in transitional justice and peacebuilding processes in the North East zone of Nigeria. This region has endured years of conflict and warfare, primarily due to the Boko Haram insurgency that began in 2009. The insurgency has led to widespread destruction and displacement, with over 22,000 cases of conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls.

Balami and Maduakolam are surveying and interviewing displaced women survivors of sexual violence who are over 18 years of age and live in camps for displaced persons or host communities in Borno state, as well as the leaders of survivor networks. The research will identify the social, cultural and economic factors that enable or hinder survivors and their networks from taking on leadership roles in transitional justice and assess how their inclusion can enhance peacebuilding. The researchers will also find out how existing policies and legal frameworks support survivors’ participation in these processes and how they can be improved. 

The goal is to contribute to plans for a state-led transitional justice approach with knowledge on the dynamics of survivor inclusion and effective justice mechanisms to address conflict-related sexual violence. 

Photo of Lawan Gana Balami and Chika Maduakolam

Balami is the founder of Explore Aid Nigeria and implements several research and humanitarian projects related to conflict-related sexual violence and transitional justice with survivors, including children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups. He was the Nigeria country coordinator for the five-year multi-country Conjugal Slavery in War research project, supported by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Maduakolam is engaged in doctoral research on sexual and gender-based violence against men and boys in conflict, at York University, Canada. She has collaborated with interdisciplinary research teams on conflict-related sexual violence and transitional justice projects to identify barriers that prevent conflict-related sexual violence survivors from accessing justice.

The Women, Peace and Security Civil Society Leadership Awards

As part of the same initiative, Global Affairs Canada is bestowing a civil society leadership award. This award recognizes the work of individuals, civil society organizations or networks active at the grassroots level who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the women, peace and security agenda in fragile or conflict-affected states or in Canada.

This year, the international Civil Society Leadership Award recipient is Sister Kahsa Hagos, a health worker who established a safe house for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, caring for over 400 survivors. The Canadian recipient is the National Association of Women and the Law, an organization working on feminist law reform to address gender-based violence. 

Awards ceremony  

Global Affairs Canada and IDRC held an online awards ceremony on May 2, 2024, moderated by Ulric Shannon, director general, Peace and Stabilization Operations at Global Affairs Canada, and with remarks from Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Lisa Hepfner, and IDRC President Julie Delahanty.

Visit the Women, Peace and Security Awards Program page on the Global Affairs Canada website for more details.  

Learn about past recipients of the Women, Peace and Security Research Awards