This Week, UNIFEM, the UN Development Fund for Women, called on the international community to “recognize women’s efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.” It also says women should be “full and equal participants in formal peace processes.” The comments came at a UN conference on Civil Society.
Among those speaking at the conference is Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, UNIFEM’s regional director for East and Horn of Africa. From New York, she spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about women and the peace process.
She says, “Although we have Security Council Resolution 1325, which has really galvanized public commitment for women’s participation and their inclusion, there is a high level of awareness around the need for women’s involvement. And there are also a few countries like Somalia and DR-Congo where you find that there has been some measure of women’s inclusion. However, we still find that there is a lot of spaces where women could be participating, but where they are not. For instance, the ongoing peace process for Darfur, which is led by the African Union, there is no participation of women. And we’re also looking at the peace processes going for Cote d’Ivoire. The level of women’s participation there is also very negligible.”
Is it better anywhere else? “In the East Africa region,” she says, “ we find that maybe it’s only in Uganda where you hear people like Betty Bigombe being peace negotiators. But primarily there’s a predominance of men. So, we still feel there is a strong need to implement the issues of women’s involvement and leadership.”
Asked what women can contribute to the peace process, Ms. Gumbonzvanda says, “Women bring in their particular perspective based on their experiences. And the experiences of women is first how they experience the conflict itself. We know that it’s mostly women who are displaced…We also know that women experience sexual violence or gender based violence in situations of conflict and also that women participate in the whole architecture of war, taking responsibilities, which at times is an extension of their reproductive roles. And these are issues which don’t find expression at the peace table.”