The Peace Centre convened a parallel event at the Virtual 65th Commission on the Status of Women on Monday, 15th March at 3:00 pm EAT. This year, the aim was to hear and reflect on the perspectives of diverse women peace builders including young women, displaced women, women with disabilities, women in rural areas, women peace builders in the local/sub-national governments, religious institutions, the private sector, technology and academia. In an enlightening conversation with diverse women peace builders, we defined the concrete actions necessary for us to see the transformative change associated with our vision of feminist peace over the next 25 years.
At the parallel event we focused on the actions necessary for transformative change in the next 25 years, and as a Catalytic Member of the Generation Equality Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact, we discussed this in the context of a two hour moderated conversation in plenary with speakers making brief
submissions. The discussions included the role of academia in feminist peace building and creating the next
generation of transformational leaders which was led by Dr Angelina Mattijo Bazugbo, from the National Transformational Leadership Institute, University of Juba, South Sudan.
It also included conversation on the game changers necessary for real progress towards feminist peace from
the perspective of young women, refugee women and girls who were represented by, Eunice Pikiyiko, Crown the Woman South Sudan and Elizabeth from Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement respectively. Women peace mediators views were also shared by Aimee Imani Matabaro, Initiative de Lutte contre la Vulnerabilite et de promotion de la Personne humaine (ILVP).
The concrete actions necessary for us to see the transformative change associated with our vision of feminist peace over the next 25 years were discussed as;
The need for continued conversation and advocating for Safe spaces/Plat forms and Mechanisms to protect women peace builders from insecurity, threat of intimidation, revenge/retaliation from combatant behaviors in political institutions; and exhaustion as a result of excessive work of lobbying and advocacy. The need to provide resources to women and organizations to be able to translate WPS agenda and other policies into practice, without leaving out men and boys who remain responsible for preserving the gendered norms in the society.
The conversation in Burundi discussed the need to strengthen the potential influence of women, strengthen the women’s movement, work on social norms, practices and legal systems that block women in peace and security processes, and define a new approach that involves influencing key players at several levels. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it would be better first of all to understand that the various conflicts are due to the natural resources of the country. Women therefore need to be protected especially during the post-conflict period in their direct involvement as actors in all peace processes by granting them substantial means to actualize the solutions to their problems.
The executive director, Helen Kezie closed the conversation by linking to regional and global opportunities for monitoring, accountability and collective action. She asked the participants to think about ways in which we can sustain activism at the individual level and hold state and non-state actors accountable to holding peace. She stressed that we need to mentor young people so that when we leave we have built a critical mass.
The work of The Peace Centre is founded on the progressive principles of feminism acknowledging that the feminist movement has been in existence for long.
The Peace Centre subscribes and its work is guided by the Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists which ring true to the work of amplifying women voices; and belief that anyone labelled as a second-class citizen must be protected without labelling.
The Self-Love Camp is part of the Women’s International Peace Centre’s strategic positioning that prioritizes intentional well-being as one of the areas of engagement that builds sustainable feminist leadership and movements. The Peace Centre believes that there is need for deliberate and intentional investment in self-care and wellness of feminist leaders through specific tailor-made initiatives (such as this camp) and mainstreaming wellness throughout all programmes and interventions. As the new year and new decade begins, we believe it’s time to set new year and new decade goals for feminist leaders and organisations which, also must include wellness goals.
We are a collective of Women Leaders in Uganda; the Stewards of our organisations, collectives and movements – we are Executive Directors, Board Members and Senior Management Team Members. We are here as equals, challenging power and how it is exercised by us, for us and against us within our own spaces and organisations. We are here because we desire to deepen our appreciation, practice of transformative feminist leadership and wellness. We are here because we acknowledge that we are vulnerable and there is power in that. We are here because we believe that we cannot give from an empty cup. We are here because we choose to politicize our individual and collective wellness as an act of transformational feminist leadership. We are here because we decided that our wellness is just as important as our work.
We LOVE ourselves as leaders and prioritized two days to sit back and reflect on feminist leadership and wellbeing. We, the 21 women that participated in the Feminist Leadership and Self-Love Camp are the self-care conspirators that have dared to walk this journey… and we all ask; how did we get here?
What a powerful Feminist Leadership and Self-Love Camp this was! These precious 48 hours were animated with:
We shared our stories of being unwell (physically, mentally, emotionally financially and spiritually), decoded what make us unwell, experiences of how being unwell impacts on transformational leadership. We also shared the contemporary ways that are being employed to enable us to thrive and cope as well as recalled our invaluable cultural ways in which wellbeing was practised in the past/present.
Acknowledging that lack of rest for us as women, the pressure to beat donor deadlines and manage organisations, long working hours and digital-related stress are some of the ways that make us unwell, we took some time to undertake practical ways of sleep therapy. Massage therapy accompanied this, and it worked – we left feeling revived.
Art and Writing Therapy
We delved into our creative and crazy selves – drew, painted, wrote our hearts out, journaled and offloaded. We are lighter!
As a way to deepen our appreciation of each other, our personal politics and who we are; we blind-dated each other and got to know someone better at a ‘Masquerade Blind-Date Dinner’.
Closing Ritual; Celebrating Love
A closing ritual was jointly undertaken where each woman leader was given a rose in acknowledgement of their resilience (just as the thorns on the roses) as well as their vulnerability (as feeble as the petals of the roses). The roses were also in celebration of women leader’s commitment to love themselves and other women. And in celebration of feminist and sisterly love.
As a feminist organization that is committed to the intentional integration of wellness into the ways and practices of organizing for transformational leadership, we developed a training model, “Harnessing Our Power with Soul: Bespoke curriculum for Transformational Leadership and Wellness” with the support of Womankind Worldwide through the “Women’s Advocacy for Voice and Empowerment through inclusive platforms in Uganda” project.
The Bespoke Curriculum contains some practical activities in an attempt to meet the needs of diverse groups at different stages of organizational growth and their varied approaches to learning and ways of sharing knowledge. This allows activists to visualize the experiences of others doing similar work to their own and to see themselves in these experiences.