The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) began in 1998 as a response to the decade-long civil war in Liberia. WANEP works with grassroots organisations doing peacebuilding work. As an umbrella organisation, WANEP exists to empower local people working on human rights and peacebuilding projects by creating links between community organisations around Liberia and in 13 other West African countries.
With its large network of local groups, WANEP is able to mobilise huge resources to promote peace and development. It is able to help build valuable, lasting partnerships between organisations and strengthen the links between local and national structures. This networked approach ensures limited resources are used effectively, effort is not needlessly duplicated, and projects can be implemented faster.
WANEP-Liberia focuses on three main initiatives: a peace education programme, a conflict early warning and rapid response programme, and the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET). WIPNET is the largest of these programmes.
Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET)
WIPNET was formed in 2002 to energise women in Liberia to come together for peace. WIPNET led mass, non-violent protests in 2003 against the fighting that swept the country at that time. The mass mobilisation of women for peace was successful in urging Charles Taylor's government and the Liberians for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels to cease violence and start negotiations to bring peace back to Liberia for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The success of WIPNET showed that women could be powerful, credible proponents of peace in Liberia, and helped created awareness across West Africa of the important role women could play in peacebuilding and leadership.
Following the end of the violence, and building upon their success and credibility, WIPNET continued its activities to promote peace and reconciliation in Liberia. WIPNET was instrumental in a massive election education mobilisation in the lead-up to the 2005 elections which saw the election of Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. WIPNET continues to train local people in peacebuilding in order to spread the knowledge WIPNET has learned across the country.
Other projects include the ‘Voices of Women’ project – a bi-weekly radio programme, broadcast in seven countries in the region, which gives space for women to talk about, and get recognition for, their contributions to the peace process – and the Rural Women’s Peace Initiative – which operates in nearly all counties in Liberia, focusing on narrowing the gaps between rural and urban women.