The University of Wisconsin – Madison in partnership
with African researchers, Isis Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange
(Isis-WICCE) and Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) are conducting a research
project that looks at the cost of women’s exclusion and the possibilities for
their inclusion in peace processes, peacebuilding, and politics in countries
affected by war in Africa. The research project also examines the struggle for women’s
rights, legal reform and political representation as one important arena for
stemming the tide of extremism related to violence in Africa. Lessons from
these experiences have policy implications for ongoing conflicts elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. The
research consortium is based at three research centers in the United States of
America (US), Norway and Uganda, including nine experienced researchers. The
research is being carried out in Somalia, Algeria, Northern Nigeria, South
Sudan and Sudan. The three themes of the research include:
- Inclusion and Exclusion in Post-Conflict Governance (Somalia and Algeria),
- Women Activists’ Informal
Peacebuilding Strategies (South Sudan and Northern Nigeria)
- Women’s Legal Rights as a Site of
Contestation in North Africa (Sudan and Algeria).
Conflict in Africa has changed
in nature and has become more intractable
as the causes and solutions are more complex. Today, conflicts manifest further
through activities of terrorist groups and election violence. The rise, for
example, of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia, Ansar Dine in Mali,
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQUIM) in Algeria and Mali, Movement for
Monotheism and Jihad in West Africa in Mali (MUJAO), and other Islamic groups influenced by Salafism and other conservative ideologies, is posing
new challenges to these societies. Women often find themselves at the front lines of war, not only as victims but also as prime
opponents of some of the more extremist trends in affected countries.
The research is being conducted in five countries in Africa that have experienced or are currently experiencing conflict, to examine the role women have played in peacebuilding at the formal and informal levels and also look at the gains of inclusion and costs of their exclusion. The findings will be composed into case studies and overall comparative findings and a book along with other publications and policy briefs. The project will also hold international conferences and a meeting between women activists and stakeholders in participating countries.
The conference convened a consortium of researchers and women activists working on peace building initiatives in Africa; it also involved those who informed the research. The team of women activists and peace builders joined together in sisterhood to learn from each other what has worked in promoting peace and what gaps remain. Uganda was selected to host the conference because of the country’s long experience in conflict and currently hosting over a million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda. Despite the silence of guns, Uganda itself is not yet at peace. The conference centered on the following objectives; Facilitate dialogue and learning around women’s participation and role in Peace building. Provide a platform for cross cultural exchange and learning amongst women peace builders in Africa.