Women roles in peace building
By Opio Jackson
In May 2013, African heads of states and governments gathered in Addis Ababa and adopted the 50th anniversary solemn declaration vowing to silence the guns by 2020.
In the past six decades, the African continent has seen some very severe civil wars like the deadliest conflicts in Nigeria in the 60s and 70s, the Congo Wars, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Ethiopian and Eritrean war in 1999-2000, and The Sudanese war of 1983-2005. Although these wars have come to an end, the trends of conflict in Africa have subsequently changed. The prevailing conflicts in Africa we are witnessing today are intra state wars of regime change, armed robberies, communal conflict and ethnic marginalization. Each of the conflict in African countries such as Mali, DRC and South Sudan has its own root causes but there are some similarities.
Political armed conflict, inter-communal fight have turned out to be the largest challenges facing the continent especially within the pastoral communities.
The conflicts have led to widespread of refugees on the continent with Uganda as the largest refugee-hosting country, with over a million refugees, most of them from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
However, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia are also among the top refugee-hosting countries on the continent.
The huge number of women in refugee and Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) camps, especially within the East Africa countries is enough testimony to confirm that women bare the heaviest brunt of conflict.
On the flipside, it is surprising to see that negotiations and talks to salvage the situations discriminate women and this could be the reason some countries have fallen into the trap of unending cycles of conflict.
Previous male dominated efforts to find peace in countries like South Sudan and Somalia it seems not to be bearing tangible results and it is time to look at some of the successes registered in countries like Rwanda, which engaged women in such and struck the right button.
Women should form an integral part of armed conflict resolution if they are allowed to disseminate peace messages. This will mean processes like disarmament and mopping up of small arms will be successful if women are involved.
Most stable post-conflict democratic countries like Rwanda can attest to the fact that women’s involvement in peace building and conflict resolution is key to finding a sustainable peace.
Therefore, since, children are more obedience to their mothers than fathers. Women can provides a good channel to impact positive virtues of culture of peace in their children and right from childhood because a peaceful society begins with a peaceful home.
This means that women understand the root causes of conflicts and can be peace messengers because they know the aftermaths of violence.
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 building and conflict resolution.
The United Nations as well as other regional blocs are increasingly recognizing the position of women’s leadership in conflict and crises prevention.
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.
For instance, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women and armed conflict as one of its critical areas of concerns, acknowledged the role of women during times of armed conflict and the collapse of communities. The Declaration called for the establishment of an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective when addressing armed and other conflict.
It also emphasized the need to increase the role of women 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.
Repeatedly, issues such as poverty, struggle for scarce resources, and violations of human rights are identified as the root causes of conflict in the society. In this regard, successful strategies for empowering women should be put in place. Informal activities such as peaceful 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.
It is important to note that even as we seek to ensure a lasting peace in Africa, the number of women in decision-making positions should be increased. Peacebuilding is the foundation for creating sustainable human security and equitable development in countries emerging from conflict.
According to United Nation Security Council resolution 1325 recognises that women are disproportionally affected by conflict, and to address this, women should play a key role in achieving lasting peace after conflict.
The incorporation of women in key post-conflict processes is very important.
Women played a role in bridging clan divisions and acting as mediators
The case in Rwanda and Liberia, show some of the different ways in which women have been involved in peace process. In Rwanda, women’s peacebuilding participation included activities like construction of houses skills training, communal farming and group micro-loans that encourage women to collaborate to improve their quality of life.
These ideas need to be copied by countries that have come out or still in conflict like South Sudan and DRC so as to realize the dream of silencing the guns in Africa.
The participation of women in decision-making and community development is also important to reduce inter-communal fight especially in the South Sudan context
In many African countries such as South Sudan and Somalia, traditionally women are often excluded from formal decision-making forums in the community where concern issues are being discussed. Yet, women still played a role in bridging clan divisions and acting as mediators. While the men focused on political power and settlement, women focused on sustainable livelihoods, education, truth and reconciliation
This does not only mean promoting women’s participation in formal settings, but also recognising where they have impact. Many instances, gender inclusivity have come through informal structures, such as the influence women have within their families, which often goes unrecognised.
Through inclusion of women in prevention and response strategies, no doubt women can play an active role towards sustainable peace. As in the case of Rwanda it has shown to us gender mainstreaming can only be effective when accompanied by strong empowerment structures such as having greater voices in the public sphere.
To driving point home, resources should be allocated for peacebuilding projects with an aim to address women’s specific needs and advancing gender equality.