Editorial

Involve women in the search for peace

Odongo Odoyo

Commentary

By Paul Jimbo

Whenever conflict happens, women and children bear the most brunt because they are the most vulnerable groups in any society.

In South Sudan, conflicts have never spared the South Sudanese women whose livelihoods have been drastically destroyed.

To prove this, majority of those pushed to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), refugee camps or returnees camps.

Women suffer more during conflicts in the sense that they become easy targets for violence of all sorts of forms including sexual and Gender Based Violence.

In most cases women have been raped, molested, children have been defiled while the elderly have also been on the receiving end.

Since women understand the dynamics of conflicts it is only important to involve them in the search for a lasting peace.

The signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement on September 12th, 2018 was in itself a major milestone in restoring hopes to women and children who have been victims of conflicts.

The peace deal signalled the dawn of a new era of peace process in South Sudan. It provided an opportunity for South Sudanese to sit down and reason together by revisiting their previous missteps.

It provides an opportunity to learn from past our mistakes including failed peace deals and begin a journey of reconciliation.

Women can be either victims of conflict or agents of peace building. Many a time, women have averted conflicts and have been responsible for resolving conflicts.

Peace building needs the involvement of women. During violent conflicts and wars women are forced to assume new roles as heads of families, providers, combatants, and freedom fighters.

Women’s roles in peace building across conflict areas, in the last decade, highlight the importance of moving women beyond the “humanitarian front of the story.”

They have and can continue to influence peacebuilding processes so that they go beyond defining peace as the absence of violent conflict and focuses on the principles of inclusion, good governance and justice.

Women need to be present to discuss issues such as genocide, impunity and security if a just and enduring peace is to be built.

Their involvement in peacebuilding is as old as their experience of violence. Women are not “naturally” peaceful.

Women have played a variety of roles throughout history that support war and other forms of violence, from warriors to supportive wives and mothers calling men to the battlefield.

However, their gender identities allow them to do some forms peacebuilding that men cannot do. In addition, some women have found it advantageous to draw on skills, assets, and capacities that are available to them in oppressive patriarchal systems and harness these for productive use in peacebuilding.

However, communities that use all the talents, experience, and wisdom of both men and women are more able to address the needs of their members.

If women are excluded from participating in community decisions and leadership, or are so busy with household responsibilities that they do not have time to go to community meetings, then the talents, experiences, and wisdom of half of the population will not contribute to community life.

In 1995, the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on women held in Beijing, China created a rippling of new ideas and conversations among women involved in civil society around the world.

The civil-society campaign on women in peacebuilding led to the October 2000 signing of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.

Resolution 1325, recognizes that civilians – particularly women and children – are the worst affected by conflict, and that this is a threat to peace and security.

Resolution 1325 includes calls for women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution initiatives; the integration of gender perspectives in peacebuilding and peacekeeping missions; and the protection of women in regions of armed conflict.

Resolution 1325 has further mobilized women around the world to recognize the important roles women play in peacebuilding and to “mainstream gender in peacebuilding.”

According to the United Nations, mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes.

It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally.

It would be naïve to assert that all women respond in a similar manner in a given situation or that women are “natural peacebuilders.” Gender identity is performed differently in different cultural contexts.

Sex and gender identity must always be viewed in relationship with an individual’s other identities such as his or her race, class, age, nation, region, education, religion, etc.

There are different expectations for men and women in the home, marketplace, or government office.

Gender roles also shift along with social upheaval. In times of violent conflict, men and women face new roles and changing gender expectations. Both biological and sociological differences affect violence and peacebuilding.

 


 

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