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Women are a major factor in peace negotiations

22.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
In a continent like Africa and in many Arab countries, women have highly been relegated and confined to the house with domestic chores. The story is gradually changing as women are becoming more and more emancipated and their role is becoming pronounced in the world’s activities. The birth of women advocates in Africa and the global world is gradually defeating the huge inequality gap between men and women. More and more women are joining the world’s governing bodies, politics, among others. However, there is still one very crucial aspect of peacekeeping and peace negotiation, where women’s role and capability are still undermined.

According to UN statistics, between 1990 and 2017, women made up just two per cent of intermediaries, 8 per cent of envoys, and 5 per cent of witnesses and guarantors in all major peace processes. The trend is, however, gaining grounds as a significant number of women are becoming more involved in peace talks. Over the years, women have significantly contributed to peacefully negotiating a ceasefire in countries that have been plagued by civil war, post-electoral violence and armed conflicts.

This has overwhelmed the myth that only men are viable when it comes to crisis management and peace negotiations. It is very unhealthy to think that women are limited beings and fit only for domestic chores.  A UN female advocate has argued that even though women, girls and children are the most vulnerable in times of war, their role in peace talks and conflict management is often neglected.

UN Chief advocates for more women participation in conflict management

A significant number of countries became susceptible in the past years. According to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, the year 2016 recorded an upswell or upsurge in the number of conflicts than the world had witnessed in thirty years (30). With reports that peace negotiations are more likely to succeed and have a greater impact when women are directly involved, the UN chief noted that it was imperative to engage more women in conflict resolution and peace talks. As per studies, when women groups and civil society organizations are incorporated in peace talks, there is a probability of a 35 per cent durability of at least fifteen years.

How women culminated the war in Liberia

Liberia, a country in West Africa is one of those nations on the continent that experienced turbulence in the past decades. The civil unrest that emanated from ethnic division, abuse of political power, economic woes among other things tore the state apart. Liberia was restive and recorded two deadly civil unrests (Liberia first and second civil wars) from 1989 until 1997 and 1999 to 2003 respectively. Notwithstanding, that remains history in today’s world as Liberia has made commendable strides in restoring democracy and good leadership in the country.

It won’t be so exaggerating to say that Liberia is one of Africa’s most stable nations after the resignation of Charles Taylor.  Bemoaned by the adverse effects of the civil unrest, Liberian women including former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf saw their way into the negotiation table in Accra-Ghana under the platform of “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace”.

The plight of Liberian women was to see that the West African state enjoyed its lost glory. In one accord, more than 3,000 Liberian women, Muslim and Christians staged a nonviolent protest in Accra calling for an end to the war in the country. Looking at how sympathetic the women were, they succeeded in cajoling the warring factions into accepting a ceasefire, and that brought an end to the mayhem in Liberia.

Women were able to attain their objective of bringing peace to Liberia after 14 years of internal strife.  A new nation was born with then-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ascending the throne of leadership as Africa’s first female president. Without overstating, the coming of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fondly referred to as ‘’Ma Ellen’’ brought peace and tranquility to the West African country. President Sirleaf successfully and democratically transferred power to the incumbent leader George Manneh Weah.

2016 Gambia peace talks

The 2016 peace talks or mediation in Gambia was led by then Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under the ECOWAS Platform. The Gambia fell out after the last presidential elections when then-president Yaya Jammeh refused to concede defeat. Serving President Adama Barrow was proclaimed the winner of the polls that saw a regime change in The Gambia. It took the smartness and braveness of the West African bloc ECOWAS to bring Jammeh and Barrow to the negotiation table. Spearheaded by Mrs Sirleaf, the bloc was able to solve the post-election violence without bloodshed and the country has remained peaceful till today.

Even in Nigeria, the ‘’Bring Back Our Girls’’ campaign was championed by women. This actually pushed the federal government into intensifying the search for the Chibok girls. Some of them were actually located and brought back to their families. This is just to demonstrate that women also have expertise when it comes to conflict management and peace negotiations. Like men, they brave the test of time just ensure peace. There is this part of philosophy that talks about an appeal for sympathy. Even with this factor alone, women can win the hearts of rebel leaders. Thus it is by nature for a woman to be a good mediator.

Call to make Ugandan women active in peace mediation

The United Nations Women recently challenged the Ugandan government to bring more women into security and peace talks. According to Anna Mutavati, the deputy UN representative, women and children are most affected by sexual abuse, caring for children, sanitation, and hygiene during conflicts and insurgencies, yet they continue to be excluded in solving these conflicts.”  Mutavati reiterated that the myth of associating peacekeeping processes only to men, neglecting the role of the women must be looked upon. The above instances are just to show to what extent women can go in peace negation and crisis management. That notwithstanding, the concerted efforts of both men and women, can go a long way to solve some of the world’s myriad problems related to conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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