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Bring women to the table to build peace in Africa, say gender experts
Women bear the brunt of conflict and for peace building to be successful they must be involved in conflict resolution and reconstruction at every stage, said gender experts at the 2019 Global Gender Summit in Kigali on Tuesday.
Speakers at a plenary session on peacebuilding called for home-grown solutions to conflict and the participation of women in policy and decision making at local, national and regional levels.
“Africa needs to silence the guns. We need to develop our own action plans, not waiting for donor organizations and development partners,” said Bineta Diop, the African Union’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. “Most of the time we don’t look at what fuels the conflicts. We need to invite women to the table of discussions and negotiations.”
The Senegalese women’s rights activist noted that Africa is home to one third of the global refugee population, the majority of them women and children. Frameworks on peace and conflict resolution need to be urgently implemented, she said.
“The African Union is leading with initiatives in this regard, but we require everyone one board,” Diop said, noting the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), initiative.
The African Development Bank and the government of Rwanda are hosting the Global Gender Summit from 25 to 27 November in Kigali. The Summit, held for the first time in Africa, is being organized by the Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDBs) Working Group on gender.
Government representatives from Côte d'Ivoire and Rwanda shared insights into how they incorporated women into post-conflict peace processes.
Euphrasie Kouassi Yao, special advisor on gender to Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, said women’s empowerment and inclusion were critical to the peace process following civil conflicts in her country.
“If we want Africa to be at peace, women must be empowered. And as we move towards elections next year, we are preparing women to be ambassadors of peace. It is about getting all women involved and empowered, from rural, urban, and even those in the diaspora,” Kouassi Yao said.
She said Cote d’Ivoire was the first African country to develop a conflict resolution plan independent of donor agencies.
“From our experience, for sustainable peace to happen, women should be at [the centre of] decision making. Women must be involved in peace planning, implementation, and reconstruction,” she said. “The peace process and mechanism must be home grown and not led by donors.”
Goretti Mwenzangu, the Director of Gender Promotion at the Rwanda National Police told the session: “When women are in decision making, you experience peace.”
The police officer, who is also the coordinator of Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Centre for gender-based violence, said Rwanda was willing to share knowledge and experience after the 1994 genocide in the country.
“Getting women from crisis to leading the process of peace is critical,” Mwenzangu said.
The Coordinator of the G5 Sahel women's platform, Justine Coulidiati-Kielem, said without women onboard, it is difficult to achieve peace in any context.
“Women are constantly killed and targeted during conflicts. The challenges of women in peace building requires inclusion,” said Coulidiati-Kielem. “More than ever before, women have to be at the forefront of peace building.”
She also called on African countries to support each other in peace and development initiatives, with the multilateral organizations such as the African Development Bank at the forefront.
“We need to find a holistic solution to conflicts, with women in the lead, and we need to move very fast. The bus needs to move faster towards results,” Coulidiati-Kielem added.
After conflict, it is often women who pick up the pieces, said Fatima Zohra Karadja of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
“Women end up taking up the responsibility of coming up with strategies to rebuild what has been destroyed. We just need society to recognize this and enshrine it,” she said.