In line with the 2023 AU theme of the year “Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” GIMAC hosted its 39th pre-consultative meeting from February 12th to 14th, 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In partnership with the Association of Women Repatriated from Burundi (AFRABU), Women’s International Peace Center together with CORDAID, organized a 3-day mission of study and exchange of experience with Rwandan non-governmental organizations under the leadership of the “Réseau des Femmes Oeuvrant pour le Développement Rural (Réseau des Femmes)”. They were joined by representatives of the Umuhivu w’Imboneza platform in Burundi, which is a collaborative framework for elected women and young people as well as women and young leaders of Civil Society Organizations for the promotion of leadership and the inclusive participation of women and young people at the community level.
This mission aimed to strengthen the Umuhivu w’Imboneza platform through the exchange of experiences between the members of the Platform from the 7 pilot provinces of Bubanza, Bujumburan, Bujumbura Mairies, Bururi, Cibitoke, Mwaro and Rumonge under the Just Future project and the Rwandan non-governmental organizations working on the implementation of resolutions 1325 and 22 50 at the community level.
Starting October 19th, the team visited DORCAS Consolation Family and Urugo Women Opportunity Center in the Eastern Province in Rwamagana and Kayonza. They then proceeded to Duhozanye Organization in the South Province and finally had a meeting with women leaders of public and private institutions in Kigali.
The aim of the exchange visit was to strengthen the Umuhivu alliance on the basis of the exchange of experiences, initiatives, successes, challenges, opportunities, and strategies, between the members of the platform and Rwandan CSOs.
Following the presentations of different organizations’ initiatives and activities, discussions focused on some of the poverty-related challenges that girls and women face including sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, early motherhood as well as school dropouts among others, and how they are combating the issue of poverty among their communities.
It was emphasized therefore that in order to achieve inclusive development, it is necessary to empower women to emerge from poverty which makes them more vulnerable than men.
Kabanyana Ketsia, the founder of the Dorcas Consolation family, explained to participants how the organization works with different stakeholders like schools, local authorities to promote their projects which contribute to poverty alleviation in societies. An example of the projects is the production of sanitary serviette/reusable pads for girls during menstruation which has created employment for marginalized women who are paid every month.
She further highlighted that based on its community approach, Dorcas Consolation Family has also established a health post that receives about 700 people per month, especially women and girls.
At Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center (WOC), participants were introduced to the different income-generating activities the organization runs to fund its education and training activities. These included; accommodation facilities, restaurant and bar, cafe, handicrafts shop, a dairy production unit, and rental space for meetings and events..
Viviane Kayitesi Kayihura, the Executive Director of the organization explained that the organization also provides training in numeracy, business management basics, planning, selling produce in the market, bookkeeping, and management of cooperatives in order to help women earn and save money. She also encouraged participants to work together and support each other to achieve their goals if they want to move ahead in their lives.
“We believe that when a woman is supported by her peers and provided with the right resources and opportunities, even those most affected by conflict, the woman can develop her confidence and necessary skills. to transform his life, his family, and his community.” Mrs Kayihura said.
The final visit was made to Duhozanye Organization, which was launched by 330 widows who decided to collectively address the consequences of the 1994 genocide such as the death of their husbands, children, and family members; physical and moral injuries; loss of property, exclusion and lack of shelter, isolation, fear, poverty and loss of hope to live.
Murungi Jackline, the in charge of programs within DUHOZANYE, presented the current programs and activities which are based on the socio-economic rehabilitation of the widows and orphans of the genocide in order to integrate them into daily life so that they can in particular strive towards autonomy and participate more generally in the development of the countryThe organization also organizes dialogues to help widows and orphans break out of isolation, help widows find housing, provide the means to exploit opportunities for autonomy, promote gender equality and fight against gender-based violence.
In this study visit, it was realized that the problems that hinder the development of girls and women are almost the same in Rwanda as in Burundi.
Therefore, a number of recommendations were suggested to address challenges that women and girls encounter in everyday life. These recommendations included;
Youth inclusion in peacebuilding processes is critical for ensuring sustainable and inclusive peace, as recognised by the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution (SCR) 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.
To achieve an increased number of youth peace advocates with strengthened capacity who are effectively participating and influencing the formal and informal peace building processes, Women’s International Peace Centre conducted a training for twenty (20) youth peace advocates from 21st to 23rd September.
The training aimed at strengthening participants’ capacity in peacebuilding and conflict transformation, increasing their understanding of gender in conflict as well as enabling them to acquire knowledge and skills in mediation, reporting and leadership.
The training model which was based on adult learning approaches included sessions delivered through; in-person workshops, lectures, role play, storytelling and reflection, group work and presentations, brainstorming, and illustrations among others. Topics of discussion focused on transformational leadership skills, feminist digital activism, reporting and communication, gender, conflict and peacebuilding.
Gender was defined as the social construction of economic, social, political, and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being women and men.Participants shared some of the gender roles associated with being a woman or man in society today. The roles mentioned for women included; cleaning, washing clothes, cooking food, being submissive, rearing children while men on the other hand were mentioned to be the managers whose responsibility is to provide for their families.
It was noted that gender roles are influenced by various factors such as society, experience, culture, environment, history, ethnicity, politics and race to mention but a few. As a result, gender roles have pushed women into the informal sector which has led to lack of power to influence, lack of access to opportunities and resources giving more power to men than women.
The facilitator emphasized that peacebuilding helps in preventing outbreak, recurrence and continual armed conflict, violence or social tension. It was defined as the employment of measures to consolidate peaceful relations and create an environment which deters the emergence or escalation of tensions which may lead to conflict.
Participants were also introduced to UNSCR 2250 (2015) on Youth, Peace and Security, a resolution that recognises young people’s role in promoting international peace and security which identifies five key pillars for action: Participation, Protection, Prevention, Partnership and Disengagement and Reintegration.
It was highlighted that youth inclusion in peacebuilding processes is critical for ensuring sustainable and inclusive peace and participants were encouraged to participate in peace processes.
As a major tool of advocacy, participants were introduced to feminist digital activism, a communication form that involves the use of social media tools to put out advocacy messages and advocate for issues affecting their communities.
In conclusion, participants suggested different roles of leadership they could participate in once they got back to their communities. These included; advocacy work, influencing media dialogues for attitude change, stopping youth from participating in violent conflict, organising peace dialogues across lines of conflict and facilitating community dialogues on issues affecting youth in their communities.
The lack of policy guidelines to coordinate peacebuilding and conflict transformation approaches remains a fundamental problem in Uganda. As a result, most actors engage in peacebuilding on an ad hoc basis and in a reactionary manner, duplicating interventions which often results in unhealthy competition and wastage of resources with minimal impact whenever conflicts arise.
The draft Uganda National Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Policy was developed to address gaps as it is intended to provide a mechanism for coordination and synergy among stakeholders involved in peacebuilding and conflict transformation (PBCT). The policy draft has unfortunately not progressed through the approval process since 2015 despite the fact that a number of policy frameworks relevant to peacebuilding have been passed by the government, and the conflict dynamics in Uganda have gone through a series of changes.
It is against this background that the Women’s International Peace Centre and Safer World convened two review meetings to discuss the 2015 draft National Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Policy and a validation meeting with stakeholders drawn from national and selected local governments where the two partners operate. The meetings were convened in two phases as follows;
Phase one: 1st Technical Review Workshop of the draft peace building and conflict transformation policy.
The review process started with an independent peace /policy expert who reviewed, made recommendations and presented findings in a comprehensive technical review workshop from 12th to 13th July 2022 with a total of 38 participants.
The technical review panel consisted of key government entities such as; the Office of the Prime Minister, Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs (policy and planning office, and small arms and light weapons), Ministry of Justice, The Uganda Law Reform Commission, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Uganda Prisons, Uganda Police Force, and Local Government representatives from across Uganda and individuals from Civil Society.
The review panel identified gaps in the NPBCTP and ensured that the policy is representative of the most recent national conflict analysis, the changing dynamics and trends of conflict in the country, as well as evolving government policies. The panel also built consensus on the vision, objectives, and priority action areas for the policy; appraised the adequacy and suitability of the interventions and response mechanisms set out in the policy; and finally, guided on an action plan for strategic advocacy and lobby for the speedy passing of the policy.
On 14th July 2022, the findings from the technical review workshop were presented to a wider stakeholder audience for validation and further scrutiny. The validation forum provided a platform for 107 survivors and members from marginalized communities and civil society, religious and cultural leaders to discuss whether the draft policy satisfactorily addresses their needs and concerns.
Phase Two: 2nd review of the Draft National Peace policy.
For ownership, a concretized outcome, and faster drive, a government expert Commissioner, Policy and Planning, Ministry of Internal Affairs based on his technical expertise in policy and planning conducted the second in-depth technical review of the NPBCT policy. He developed intervention areas that were still missing in the document, checked its conformity with other existing government frameworks, and made a presentation in the second review workshop held from 17th to 19th August 2022 that brought together 16 participants. They included representatives from Civil Society, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Internal Affairs Policy and Planning Department, Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Refugee Law Project. The group thoroughly reviewed and polished the 2nd 2022 Peace policy document which has since been shared with the Ministry of Internal Affairs for review.
The review findings were to inform engagements of the women peace champions with other relevant stakeholders e.g., ministries/departments/agencies, Parliament, and traditional institutions to influence the passing of the policy.
It is the vision of Just Future partners to attain more inclusive policy outcomes with a focus on the youth and Women, Peace, and Security agendas that emphasises political decision making especially in peace processes which is more inclusive of and accountable to the most excluded constituencies.
Against this background, Women’s International Peace Centre in partnership with Cordaid organised a Learning and Networking Exchange for thirty partners from Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Niger, and South Sudan from 8th to 11th August in Kampala.
Through mutual learning and capacity strengthening on lobbying and advocacy among civil society partners and other stakeholders, the practical learning space provided participants with a first-hand account from similar organisations on the Women Peace and Security agenda. It also provided a forum for knowledge exchange and learning of best practices that can be replicated in their home countries.
Presentations were made by a diverse group of experts, scholars and practitioners from the national and international peace and security arena on the localisation, funding, lobbying, emerging trends and other issues regarding the implementation of WPS agenda.
In the keynote’s address from Professor Cheryl Hendricks, the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and a Board Member of the Peace Centre, it was noted that while there has been good progress in integrating the WPS agenda into the peace and security infrastructure which was formerly dominated by patriarchal attitudes, there are still a number of areas where there are deficits including targets for women in peacekeeping units and police forces which remain unattained.
She highlighted the increase in conflicts and the associated gender based violence, the rise in conservatism, militia conflicts, conflict connected to climate change, and rise in the militarisation of societies which continue to cripple the progress of the agenda. In her conclusion, she urged partners to think of more innovative solutions and a rethinking of approaches for implementing the agenda that will get their governments involved and participating.
The meeting also facilitated sessions of engaging regional institutions such as FemWise and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and their role in advancing the Women Peace and Security Agenda. Remarks from Canon Joyce Nima, emphasised that FemWise collaborates with networks in the other regions of the world, especially South to South networks to institutionalise inclusion of women in peace and mediation processes, build the capacity of professional women mediators at all levels, join panels, and facilitate the deployment of women-only mediators in cases where it is called for.
IGAD on the other hand is working in partnership with its eight member states to develop National Action Plans for UNSCR 1325 to fit individual country needs, Rabab Baldo, a panellist from IGAD shared.
Other discussions of the meeting focused on sharing experiences and success stories of implementing WPS at country level, strengthening women’s representation and participation in peace processes and post conflict peace building, trends and emerging needs for new security issues to which the WPS framework should be applied and wellness and wellbeing for development practitioners.
The workshop culminated in the country groups developing lobby and advocacy plans based on what insights they had gleaned from the discussions and experience sharing. They were tasked with taking these drafts back to their countries and making concrete action steps that are feasible to implement.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls matter for nutrition because they have an important bearing on the three underlying determinants of nutrition which include food security, care practices and health. Women play a critical role as producers and enhancing productivity with an implication on food consumption and monitory return at national and household level.
Since independence, Uganda has witnessed tyrannical and dictatorial rule and hand over of power through the gun. The situation has not been helped by emerging conflicts around resources often due to influence from international actors that exacerbate the divide between different national, religious and ethnic groups in the country. Uganda has also experienced conflict as a result of events in the Great Lakes Region as its geographical position places it at a crossroads of armed conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other countries within the region. As a result, women and girls continue to suffer the effects of armed conflict in much of fragile Uganda.
Currently, Uganda is implementing its third National Action Plan (NAP III) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) (2020-2025) under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development. NAP IIIseeks to drive impact in addressing key persisting and new WPS issues such as the influx of refugees, socio-economic and demographic concerns, conflicts over natural resources, climate change and environmental stressors and disasters, transnational threats, organized criminal activities, cultural disputes and many more and despite its existence, awareness on the mechanism has been remarkably low at different levels.
In a similar manner, Uganda started the process of developing a National Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Policy in 2000; which seeks to create a national peace building framework, mainstream gender concerns into peacebuilding efforts, and establish a gender sensitive conflict early warning system. The framework will also guide the development of conflict transformation approaches and systems that will address social, economic, political, cultural and gender related injustices that lead to internal and cross border conflicts. However, since the development of the first draft in 2015, the policy is still in draft form yet conflicts which affect women disproportionately continue to happen.
It is upon this background that the Women’s International Peace Centre in partnership with Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) conducted a two days’ training in Kampala from 5th to 6th July 2022 for 30 national women peace champions. The aim of the training was to increase awareness of the NAP III on the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the National Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Policy while influencing efforts with local and national actors.
The women peace champions selected from a broad spectrum included; women from Civil Society Organizations, private sector, religious and cultural leadership, and young women from media.
Sessions of the trainings emphasized women, peace and security with a specific focus on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, its background, provisions and what it recognizes such as the inclusion of a gender perspective at all levels of decision-making, protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, protection from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), gender perspective in peacekeeping including post-conflict processes, and in the reports of the Secretary General as well as the Security Council., The training also highlighted some of the resolutions related to UNSCR 1325 such as UNSCR1820, UNSCR 1888, UNSCR 1889, UNSCR 1960, UNSCR 2106, and UNSCR 2122.
Our Executive Director, Helen Kezie-Nwoha, facilitated a session on Women, Peace and Security and highlighted that the agenda emphasizes that women are not only victims of conflict and instability but are also active agents in both formal and informal peace-building and recovery processes.
In relation to that, Doreen Bakeiha, the focal person on NAP III at the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development unpacked the National Action Plan with emphasis on its background, relevance, and key components. She also delved into the history of conflicts in Uganda, how women shape peace and security, laws that support participation of women in peace and security, and the role of women and other stakeholders in the implementation of the NAP. She highlighted that for the implementation of the NAP III to be successful, different actors must work together to support and invest in participatory processes, social accountability tools and localization initiatives.
The NAP III priority outcomes were stated as: All forms of violence prevented and conflicts resolved; good governance enhanced at all levels which includes increasing the participation of women in the security sector; natural and human made disasters are prevented and mitigated;and systems and structures for implementation and coordination of NAP III strengthened.
The session on the draft National Peace Building and Conflict Transformational policy was facilitated by Elizabeth Katusiime from the Conflict Early Warning and Early Response Unit, Ministry on Internal Affairs. She unpacked the policy highlighting its history, overall and specific objectives and its relevance.
Other sessions of the training included peacebuilding which enabled participants to; understand conflicts and conflict analysis tools which involved examining conflict dynamics, governance systems and conflict triggers, symptoms and root causes of conflicts; conflict early warning and early response; peacebuilding; as well as negotiation and mediation.
In conclusion, with a focus on strategic advocacy for the National Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Policy, participants collectively strategized on possible ways to prioritise the policy and push for its passing. The following were agreed upon;
Currently, the Women’s International Peace Centre is implementing a project “Building Sustainable Peace: Women, Peace, and Security (2019-2022)” in South Sudan. The project seeks to strengthen the capacity of women in South Sudan to mitigate conflict and sustain peace by enhancing their peace-building skills with a focus on mediation, conflict early warning, monitoring, analysis, and reporting from an engendered perspective.
From 20th to 25th June 2022, The Peace Centre conducted a training for 41 young women leaders from Wau, Yei, and Juba in South Sudan under the theme: “Young Women as Champions of Peace Building”, including youth leaders in the informal sector, young women leaders with disabilities, Civil Society youth leaders, political parties, academia, and female journalists.
Major topics of discussion included; Understanding peace and security in South Sudan, climate change and its dimensions in S.Sudan, documenting, reporting from a gender and women, peace and security lens, sexual reproductive health, and understanding feminist digital activism as an advocacy action plan.
During the training, participants were guided to share on the status of WPS in their communities. Key issues raised included increased gang violence, rape that is perpetuated by soldiers, weak laws on Gender Based Violence and the economic situation causing frustration in people among others.
Participants were also introduced to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which emphasises the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building initiatives
It was noted that South Sudan is subject to International, continental and domestic frameworks such as; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on Rights of women in Africa (MAPUTO Protocol), AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, Intergovernmental Authority of Development to mention but a few whose commitments she needed to respect. This however has not been the case as evidenced by the level of insecurity in the country.
The training also highlighted climate change and its impacts such as food insecurity and famine, displacements, excercabation of poverty as major causes of instability in the country thus solutions had to be found to combat the escalating problem.
Other topics of discussion included leadership skills, financial literacy skills, wellness and self-care sessions.
From the training, the young women developed action plans focusing on addressing issues of early child pregnancies/marriages; Child labor and street children, and inaccessibility of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights for women living with disabilities which were to be implemented in their various communities based on the knowledge acquired.
Countries in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) such as DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan have been prone to conflict for several decades, and have witnessed some of the worst conflicts on the African continent. Among these are the genocide in Rwanda, civil war in Burundi and South Sudan, conflict in Sudan (Darfur), cross-border conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and, more recently, sectarian conflict in Central African Republic (CAR).
Based on the recognition that political instability and conflicts in these countries have a considerable regional dimension and thus require a concerted effort in order to promote sustainable peace and development, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region was established.
Women’s International Peace Centre has been implementing a project Leading voices; strengthening capacities for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence prevention and peace building in Uganda with funding from the Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) in partnership with the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative and received technical support from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
The project strengthened the leadership capacity and influence of local women leaders and women groups across refugee settlements and host communities at Sub County level in Adjumani district. It aimed at bringing them to work together to address gender-based violence, women’s specific peace and security concerns as well as effectively influence peace building and decision-making processes to advance gender equality in humanitarian settings using SASA Together methodology.
As the programme comes to an end, the Peace Centre convened a one-day multi-stakeholders dialogue under the theme “Refugee women at the forefront of peacebuilding” on 2nd June 2022 with a total of 47 stakeholders (35 females and 12 males) in Kampala.
The dialogue sought to share insights on best practices, discuss emerging priorities, and take stock of achievements in the previous years as well as highlight key Women Peace and Security issues from the host communities and refugee/humanitarian contexts.
The meeting facilitated learning among the Community Activistsas they shared experiences of handling GBV and identified areas of synergy & partnership among key actors including; representatives from Adjumani refugees and host communities; Adjumani District Local Government, urban refugees from Kampala national level stakeholders, Office of the Prime Minister and CSOs working in humanitarian settings.
According to Ms Isabella Bwire from the Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund, women also strengthen the economy when they play an active role in the resolution of conflicts.
“Women enhance the impact of humanitarian support and reduce extremism and its spread,” She said, “However even when their role in peace processes is recognised, they receive very little recognition and financial resources for their work.” Bwire added.
She, therefore, encouraged the formation of partnerships that support programmes which ensure commitments to Women, Peace and Security; advocate for gender equality, and influence peace and security processes through multi-stakeholder coordination, monitoring and accountability frameworks. This way, there will be increased meaningful participation, leadership and protection of women in peace and security as well as strengthened gender-responsive institutional capacity in peacebuilding, peace-making, peacekeeping, and prevention of conflict.
By the close of the meeting, policy recommendations were put forward for follow-up/adoption by different stakeholders. These included the expansion and support of policy programmes and strategies that promote gender equality and social norms to address the root causes of Gender Based Violence by all stakeholders.