African Women Who Build Peace

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African Women Who Build Peace

27th October, 2015. The president of the Women for Africa Foundation (Mujeres por África or MxA), María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, and the president of the Elcano Royal Institute, Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, today inaugurated the round table “African Women Who Build Peace”, which has brought together women with leading roles in peace negotiations, women’s rights activists and women who are experts in matters of peace and security.

These included Oumou Sall Seck, the mayor of the Malian town of Goundam and a participant in Algeria’s peace negotiations; Hibaaq Osman, president of the Karama association supporting women’s rights; Nicole Ndongala, coordinator and intercultural mediator in the Women’s Training Centre in Karibu; and Caddy Adzuba, the Prince of Asturias award winner for Concorde in 2014. They have shared their experience on the ground, the best practices in the matter, and the difficulties that still exist to reach full participation from women in achieving and consolidating effective, lasting peace.

The round table took place coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the United Nations’ historic Resolution 1325 (2000), which recognises the disproportionate and distinct impact caused by conflict on women and girls, as well as the key role of women in preventing and resolving conflicts and in building and consolidating peace. It also coincided with Spain’s period of presidency of the United Nations’ Security Council since it was elected for the two years 2015 and 2016, and whose stated priorities include promoting the agenda for “Women, peace and security”.

Resolution 1325 treats the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women as an international concern related to peace and security. As indicated by UN Women, the exclusion of half of the population when consolidating peace, in addition to being unfair, is also insufficient, since in many contexts women are essential in establishing socially relevant, effective peace agreements and to ensure social inclusion and a fair distribution of the dividends of peace.

The outcome of Resolution 1325, according to reports carried out by the United Nations and organisations from civil society, has clearly been insufficient and seen inconsistent progress depending on the country. Women continue to suffer from sexual violence in armed conflicts repeatedly and systematically (as in Ivory Coast, Mali, Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and they endure new forms of violence (as perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria). Furthermore, they are still underrepresented in peace-building and in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Some figures back these disappointing results:

  • Out of a total of 585 peace agreements signed from 1990 to 2010, only 92 contain any reference to women.
  • From 1992 to 2011, only 9% of the negotiators at the table for peace negotiations were women.
  • Women head only 19% of all the United Nations’ missions in the field.

The high-level examination of compliance with the goals set by Resolution 1325, held last 13th October, has underlined the urgency and need for firmer commitment to the “Women, peace and security” agenda in order to help overcome the obstacles to progress that still exist. In Spain’s position as holder of the presidency, together with other member states it has called for the approval of a new resolution from the Security Council (Resolution 2242), which aims to strengthen the United Nations’ commitment to this agenda. It also urges the member states to implement additional measures to ensure protection for the human rights of women and girls in conflicts, their full presence in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, and their participation in building and consolidating peace. In order for this resolution to be effective and have a positive impact on women and girls, the commitments taken on must have human and financial means as well as mechanisms for accountability and evaluation.

Before closing the “African Women who Build Peace" event, the chair of the round table, Nicole Ndongala, read out the following conclusions:

“Firstly, the resolutions highlight the importance of women’s role and their contribution to peace, from Resolution 1325 until Resolution 2244, approved only days ago, and are valuable instruments. However, they are insufficient and above all not sufficiently implemented.

It has become clear here that we need a change of strategy. Specific measures are needed. Action needs to be taken with clear activities that have a direct impact on women’s situations and which are truly able to improve their lives. This has not happened so far.

It has also been stated that women should be present in sufficient numbers throughout the peace-building process, as of the prevention of conflicts up to the negotiations, management and supervision of the peace processes.

Moreover, it has been said that it is not enough simply to have women participating. There has been insistence upon the need for these women to be people who are committed to women’s rights. They must be women capable of bringing women's agenda into national, regional and global political agendas.

This is why we need leadership. We need women who are leaders and therefore we need instruments to train them so that they are able to manage, organise and raise awareness among other women and among society in general in order to fight violence in general and the violence perpetrated against women.

Another of the proposals heard here today is closely linked to the previous one: that there should be particularly severe punishment of those who perpetrate violence – often resulting in death – against women who fight for peace and for women’s rights.

It is a question of preventing impunity. It means dealing with those who harm women leaders, but also those who use violence against women as a weapon of war, so that they are truly prosecuted as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

It also means, of course, that the women who are victims of these atrocious crimes must be compensated. They should receive not only moral but also economic compensation that will enable them to rebuild their lives.

In order to carry out ongoing monitoring of the practical progress of the international resolutions;

in order to deal with and manage the activities as regards the problems affecting women in processes for peace and against violence;

in order to get financial backing to train women leaders so as to support women's groups that fight for peace;  

in order for governments and national and international institutions to comply with their responsibilities and commitments;

in summary, in order for women’s enormous potential for peace to no longer be wasted,

the creation of an independent International Commission of African Women has been put forward, made up of women proposed by women’s organisations in the countries in conflict. This Committee would be completely independent but would also have the backing of the United Nations.

All of this has been considered by the women leaders that have taken part in this round table today, though I am sure we agree that it will only be effective if we continue to fight every day with ever more tenacity against the inequality and discrimination suffered by women.

Let us fight for equality and we shall be fighting for peace.

Based on these conclusions, we shall draw up a declaration that we shall soon be able to show to you all.”

 

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