November was an important month for women. The insecurity in South Sudan, Sudan, and Central African Republic has lead women to mobilize and take action towards establishing peace. However, there are missed opportunities and concerns with the current initiatives that can be and should be rectified.
In Sudan, as investigations continue into the allegations of mass rape of 200 women in Tabit, North Darfur, African Union/United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) organized “Global Open Day forum bringing together more than 140 women representing the five states of Darfur to discuss the role of women in peace”. It was meant to reinvigorate efforts at implementing Resolution 1325. However, an important part of the resolution, which stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, seems to have been largely ignored.
Although over past two decades great strides have been made to include women in international, political, and security affairs, recent statistics demonstrate a lot of work still needs to be done. In 2012, UN Women published a report “Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence”, which demonstrates how little women have been engaged in the examined 31 peace processes from 1992 to 20011. It found that in all of these peace processes “only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 per cent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators” were women. In only five cases, the percentage of female negotiators was above 10 per cent.
Even years after the adoption of Resolutions 1325 in 2000, women are still excluded from peace processes. Indeed, several recent peace processes from 2008 to 2011 (Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen) did not include any women at all. Considering the prevalence of violence against women in these countries, the exclusion of women is a major failure. Their input would have been instrumental in helping to address the effects of the conflicts on women and in devising the most effective ways of including women in the subsequent peacebuilding efforts. Indeed, the lack of women representation in peace processes is a major issue since they map out the way peacebuilding will unfold in post-conflict era. Without an input from women, it is unlikely that women’s concerns will be addressed or their strengths will be properly drawn upon. This is unfortunate because women have much to contribute to the peace processes and subsequent peacebuilding efforts.
In her journal article “A Country of their Own: Women and Peacebuilding”, Theodora-Ismene Gizelis states that “the social roles of women for nurturing interpersonal relationships make them effective peacebuilders”. An examination of women’s contributions to peacebuilding and peace processes shows that Gizelis is correct to make such a claim. Indeed, the Accord Insight documented many roles that women performed in peacebuilding in several countries such Cambodia, Sierra Leone, northern Uganda, Papua New Guinea–Bougainville, Northern Ireland, Angola, Sudan, Indonesia–Aceh, and Somalia. In these countries, women have greatly contributed to peacebuilding by: “promoting consensus and inclusion as a key strategy, advancing broader issues of social justice, and building peace beyond the negotiating table”. At the negotiating table, they broadened the agenda by including issues such as, equality, access to land, and reconciliation. These issues are not of importance to the armed parties that are typically present at the negotiation table, but the solution to them is vital for achieving long-lasting peace. For instance, women in northern Uganda helped to prepare communities for the reconciliation and integration of ex-combatants by using prayer meetings and peace education. Moreover, the Northern Ireland’s Women’s Coalition (NIWIC) ensured that issues of victims’ rights and reconciliation were included in the Belfast agreement. Furthermore, in Somaliland in 1993 and in 1996, women lobbied elders to intervene to end the conflicts and mobilized funds for the peace meetings. Therefore, women have an important part to play in peacebuilding, but the discussion about their potential contribution should being at peace negotiations with proper input from the women themselves.
Margaryta Yakovenko is a recent graduate from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. She specializes in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and security sector reform. She is currently interning with Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada.
WPSN-C member, Anna Snyder, conducted conflict resolution training for political parties, NGOs and civil society in Burma/Myanmar in December 2013.
Anna Snyder is an Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies at Menno Simons College at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba. In December 2013, she co-hosted conflict resolution training for Burma’s political parties, NGOs and civil society. The following is a summary of this event.
Report on seminar and workshop on conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Myanmar
Dr. Anna Snyder and Dr. Stephanie Stobbe were key facilitators in the seminar and workshop on “Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding in Myanmar,” that took place in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar, December 16-20, 2013. The seminar and workshop were organized by Zaceu Lian, Director of the Council for Democracy in Burma (and University of Winnipeg alumnus) and funded by Canadian business leaders, including the DeFehr Foundation. Events focused on top and mid-level political leaders.
Political leaders and members of 23 political parties and 28 media groups attended the opening ceremony on the 16th the first day of the seminar; the total number of participants over the 5 days was 133. The event served to bring together members of political parties who had not previously had the opportunity to work together. 88 Generation movement leaders, Ko Ko Kyi and Min Ko Naing, who are nationally recognized political leaders, were among the distinguished speakers. Council for Democracy in Burma’s (CDB) board member, Dr. Lian Sakhong, has been instrumental in negotiating the nationwide ceasefire between the government and armed groups and as such CBD has strong connections in Burmese/Myanmar political circles. Myanmar is in transition from an authoritarian military government to a democratic society and the government is negotiating a nationwide ceasefire with 16 different armed groups after first negotiating 16 separate ceasefires. Our seminar and workshop came at an important time.