The end of this decade presents a strategic opportunity for women’s rights advocates working towards the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda in the Great Lakes Region to collectively reflect, look ahead, and prepare to take fruitful action. In 2020, the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) by the African Union comes to an end. The same year marks 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The year 2020 will also be the 20th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Within the Great Lakes Region, women’s rights organisations have been monitoring progress and advocating for the implementation of diverse regional and national instruments. While there has been some progress, a significant implementation gap remains and the WPS agenda is yet to be achieved.
It is in this context that Global Fund for Women and the Women’s International Peace Centre co-created a space for regional exchange for three days. From the 12th to the 14th November, 48 women human rights activists and organizations from Burundi, CAR, DRC, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda came to Kampala to convene on peacebuilding, ending sexual and gender-based violence, and combatting the negative impact of the extractive industry on peace and women’s rights. Together, they assessed the progress and gaps in the WPS agenda in the region and defined a creative common vision and agenda for feminist peacebuilding.
The overall objective of the convening was to engage in key conversations and exchanges around how to strengthen our collective capacity to promote women’s leadership in peacebuilding and reconstruction, address sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, and address the impact of the mining and extractive industry on women and girls’ rights and lasting peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
On the first day, an opening session with keynotes on women, peace and security in the Great Lakes Region kicked off the convening. It was followed by a lively discussion. Hereafter, representatives of key regional mechanisms such at the ICGLR Regional Training Facility and Women’s Forum, the African Union FemWise-African Network of Women Mediators and women mediators’ networks in Burundi shared about their work and gave participants the opportunity to ask questions. The day was rounded off by plenary sessions on good practices and strategies in regional advocacy and action as well as about feminist peacebuilding strategies.
The second day started off with three thematic panels. Civil society actors discussed and presented on progress, best practices and lessons learnt on the topics of women’s leadership in peacebuilding, sexual and gender-based violence, and women’s access to and control of natural resources and the impact of the mining and extractive industry on women and girls’ rights and regional peace. The division in break-out groups gave the practitioners the reflective space to assess what has worked and what has not and identify key areas for collective action and advocacy. The day ended with a plenary discussion on emerging security threats and implications for work in the field of women, peace and security and a talk on wellness, self-care, safety and integrated security for women’s rights organisations and women human rights defenders.
The final day of the convening was dedicated to defining a common vision and collective action to advance the WPS Agenda in the Great Lakes Region in 2020 and beyond. Therefore, the participants first discussed key action points in-country groups before presenting their findings to the plenary. They talked about their vision for women in peace and security for the upcoming decade, in which ways the existing instruments could help to promote this vision and which kind of change they would like to see for African women in the area of peace and security. The outcome was a collective roadmap defining windows of opportunity for the WPS Agenda beyond 2020.
On the 26th to 27th September, Women’s International Peace Centre, in partnership with Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) and Eve Organization for Women Development convened a two days Think Tank under the theme; “Reclaiming our Space; Women influencing Multiparty Democracy” for Women in Political leadership to reflect on strategies of enhancing the influence and strategic participation of women in multi-party political dispensation and national development. The Think Tank brought together 15 women politicians from 5 political parties, Ministry of Gender, and CSOs.
In August 2015, following almost 2years of on-and-off peace negotiations mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), parties to the conflict and other stakeholders signed the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The agreement provided for the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and for national elections after two and a half years. It also envisaged broad security sector reform, transitional justice, and a constitutional development process. In December 2017, the High Level Revitalisation Forum commenced resulting in the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in December 2017, the Declaration of Principles in February 2018, the Khartoum Declaration Agreement (KDA) in June 2018 and the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on the 12 September in Khartoum, Sudan. In all these processes, women played key roles as mobilisers, advocates, mediators and negotiators. Organized under the auspices of the South Sudan Women’s Coalition, women pushed for inclusivity and secured space for the technical team to access the negotiation venues in Addis Ababa and Khartoum. They also influenced the peace agreement to Include a provision to have at least 35% affirmative action /women representation in all committees and for the implementation of the agreement and at all levels of decision making.
Our Key objective was to strengthen debate on women’s participation and influence in
Protecting women’s space in politics is especially important in the conflict resolution area. Despite women’s longstanding role in informal dispute resolution, their near absence from peace talks and similar international security processes & mechanisms requires particular attention.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced a series of conflicts since gaining independence in the 1960s with an impact on the governance and livelihoods of the citizens and spill-over to the neighbouring countries of the Great Lakes Region. A number of dialogues have been initiated through the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region; the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework for DRC and others. The DRC has launched its second-generation NAP and has been upfront in providing relevant frameworks to promote the women, peace and security agenda. DRC is also emerging from an electoral process held on 30th December 2018 that has brought in new leadership at different levels. Women have played a significant role in all these peacebuilding and governance processes.
In this regard, The Centre has in partnership with Karibu Jeunesse Nouvelle Association des Femmes Des Medias and the Ministry of Gender,Family and Children conducted a five-day leadership institute from 20th to 26th June, bringing together 20 women leaders from political parties and the civil society on the topic “Women’s Political Participation for Peace and Security”. The training aimed to strengthen the capacity of women leaders to engage in and influence post-conflict decision-making and governance as well as to demand accountability from policymakers towards realising the meaningful inclusion of women in governance and decision-making in Democratic Republic of Congo -.
Participants looked at the background and context of Women, peace and security Participants looked at Transformative Leadership, Feminist Leadership, Communication in Leadership, training on UNSCR 1325, and coaching in Women’s Participation in leadership.
As one of the leading actors on Women, Peace and Security, Women’s International Peace Centre prioritises strengthening and re-igniting women’s leadership potential to build peace because women and girls bear the burden of armed conflict and war. The periods of transition from conflict to peace offer opportunities for women to participate in the rebuilding and reshaping of societies. However, to enable women maintain the momentum required in the different spaces of engagement, they require specialized skills and a support network. The 2019 5-day WIPC Leadership Institute focused on 20 vibrant women leaders from South Sudan, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) including refugee women leaders living in Uganda. These countries assented to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and have developed National Action Plans for its implementation.
The training focused on three modules; Feminism, Peace and Security, understanding peace building processes and personal wellness and selfcare.
1. Feminism, Peace and Security facilitated by Dr. Tabitha Mulyampiti focused on the gender and feminist analysis of conflict and peace building and introduced feminist conflict analysis tools that enabled the participants to apply feminist principles to particular conflict situations at personal, community and government levels. Participants were introduced to ‘gender’ as an integral concept that shapes the understanding of peace/war making connections between gender, conflict, peace and security. Participants reflected on their experiences of being gendered as women and how this has shaped their experiences of ‘peace’/safety/security.
2. Understanding Peace Building Processes; This module was facilitated by Helen Kezie-Nwoha who introduced participants to informal peace processes, advocacy providing participants with skills to engage and influence peace processes at national, regional, and global level.
3. Personal Wellness and Self-care
Leadership in contexts of conflict and peace negotiation processes is often challenging and can result to burnout and fatigue. During the training, It was important that these vibrant women understand that their passion for peacebuilding, Leadership and activism should not be at the expense of their personal health and fun. Sessions of Wellness and Self Care were practiced throughout the training. Our wellness facilitator Solome Nakaweesi provided Participants with simple tools they can use for their own self-care such as wellness journaling. A beautiful and strong web of sisterhood was weaved during the 5 days
After the 5 days training, participants developed action plans that they would implement in their home countries.Our role is to ensure that women are at the center and the provisions of the agreement and the mandated structures work towards the desired peace in South Sudan, DRC, Burundi and Uganda
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This documentation provides an opportunity to illuminate covert and overt voices and actions of women political actors that most times get silenced in patriarchal political settings. Two cases of women political leaders are selected from Uganda and Zimbabwe respectively, with a specific intent of learning from their historical experiences particularly of those who participated in liberation struggles of the two countries as well as a new breed of women leaders that emerged in post-conflict political leadership thereof.