Role of women in conflict mitigation
By Paul Jimbo
Women form a very crucial and integral part of any society’s fabric and so can never be ignored in matters that affect any population.
In South Sudan, the high number of women and children in Internally Displaced People’s camps is enough confirmation that women bear the brunt of any conflict.
Fast forward, evidence has shown that lasting peace can only be realised when women play pivotal roles in conflict mitigation.
It means that women are better placed to explain and understand some of the major causes of conflicts and suggest possible lasting solutions.
Most stable post-conflict democracies like Rwanda can attest to the fact that women’s involvement in peace and conflict resolution is key to finding lasting peace.
While men have been blamed and branded perpetrators of conflicts and all manner of conflicts, my school of thought informs me that women are strategically the best change influencers going by their approaches to peace and conflict resolution.
Peace is said to be a state of calm characterized by the lack of violent conflict, commonly understood as the absence of hostility.
In other word peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships and prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare.
The absence of peace leads to conflict. Conflict is more than a mere disagreement – it is a situation in which people perceive a threat to their well-being be it physical, emotional or social.
Generally, formal peace process includes early warning, preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention.
Our mothers by nature are closer to their children, and thus possess these peace process strategies more than anybody.
However, prevailing assumptions about the women’s appropriate roles in a society, particularly in relation to decision-making and conventional assumptions about their areas of expertise, have been used to exclude them from informal or formal and all other peace processes.
In some peace talks, for example, some male delegates question the presence of women, seeing their wish to be involved as interference in the process.
Nevertheless, it is happy to note that the United Nations as well as other regional bodies are increasingly recognizing the position of women’s leadership in the prevention and resolution of conflict and crises.
For instance, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action acknowledged the crucial role of women during times of armed conflict and the collapse of communities and called for the establishment of an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective when addressing armed and other conflict.
In fact more than a decade ago, on 31 October 2000 the United Nations took the first step in identifying the important position women hold in preventing and resolving.
Conflict with the passage of a resolution which stressed the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts of the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
It also emphasized the need to increase their role in decision making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution.
The impact of this resolution was further solidified by the establishment of national action plans by 24 nations, confirming government support at the national level for the inclusion of women in conflict resolutions.
Women therefore have a role in ensuring a peaceful and healthy society. They can do this by inculcating sound moral instruction into the younger generation.
Naturally, children tend to endure more to their mothers than fathers. This provides a good channel for mothers to impact positive virtues of peace to their children and ward right from childhood because a peaceful society begins with a peaceful home.
In South Sudan, the fact that the constitution recognizes affirmative action is itself enough evidence we are on the right track to women empowerment.
Many of the conflict enveloping the globe emanate from the family to community and like a spark of fire spreads across a state and its environs.
Often times, issues such as poverty, struggle for scarce resources, and lack of infrastructures and violations of human rights are identified as the root causes of conflict in the society.
Though poverty continues to conspire with low literacy levels to deny the South Sudanese women a chance to full and equal representation, some lobbying is currently going on during the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
In this regard, successful strategies for empowering women should be put in place. Informal activities such as peace marches and protests, intergroup dialogue, the promotion of inter-cultural tolerance should be encouraged to be spearheaded by our women.
Women on their part should be mindful of the power that lies inside them and use it positively amidst numerous challenges to positively change the world.
To sum it all, it is important to note that even as we seek to ensure a lasting peace in South Sudan, women and girls are equally affected in a fragile environment where social services they once depended on degrade or disappear.