PANEL FOLLOW-UP: Women and Conflict Prevention - Why Participation and Disarmament Matter?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 20:00
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Conflict Prevention
Initiative Type: 
Conferences & Meetings

As part of the 1325 anniversary, Peacewomen co-sponsored the Peace Fair together with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, the International Civil Society Action Network, United Methodist Women, Hague Appeal for Peace, Peace Women Across the Globe, and Centro de Educación e Investigación para la Paz.

PeaceWomen/WILPF hosted a panel on women and conflict prevention – why participation and disarmament matter. The panel -- Annie Matundi Mbambi (Chair of WILPF-DRC), Theresa deLangis (previously of UNIFEM in Afghanistan and now US WILPF) and Madeleine Rees – WILPF Secretary-General, discussed realities on the ground.

Maria Butler (PeaceWomen Project Director) also briefly launched the Women, Peace and Security Handbook – an analysis on how the Security Council's country resolutions (2000-2010) have reflected the language and intent of SCR1325.

Annie spoke to the audience about her the personal experience as chair of WILPF DRC. She mentioned the three P's: Prevention, Participation and Protection to which she urged us to add a fourth, Put into Practice.

She focused on the fact that women in conflict areas face basic human needs problems like the lack of food, which challenges advocates of 1325 to reach out in innovative and creative ways to women who are facing human security crises. One successful experience she retold was of women who speak about SCR 1325 during the time they gather to bake bread. Annie used this specific example to illustrate and emphasize the need to look at the different contexts in each country.

On the subject of disarmament and sexual and gender-based violence, Annie discussed the ways in which rape involves the use of weapons. “There is a fear of weapons in society and weapons complicate a certain situation – that is why there is the need to talk about disarmament. We should attack the causes of conflict,” she said.

Moreover she brought us insight regarding the impact of exploitation of natural resources on women in DRC Annie challenged us to stop using mobile phones for a day in solidarity with the women in DRC (referencing the cobalt mining).

Theresa also echoed the importance of being innovative in our work on 1325. She emphasized the need for creativity when organizing women in the field of a conflict or post-conflict country. In her presentation, she shared her experiences of working for the UN in the field in Afghanistan.

1325 discourse focuses greatly on the issue of women's participation. For the UN an ethical issue arises when encouraging women to participate simultaneously making those who stand up targets for violence and discrimination. Promoting participation with protection is a difficult challenge, but one that must be addressed. Moreover, when a community loses a defender or an activist it discourages participation by others.

1325 activists therefore have to be more specific about what kind of peace we want, and also what is meant by participation. For example, militarized peace cannot be acceptable because even when guns stop, things get worse for women who experience non-weapon violence as an alternative power performance. We need to plan and build peace with justice.

An interesting and innovative example from Theresa's work in Afghanistan was her story of women registering as bloggers for the “London donors conference” to which they had been denied participation. By gaining access to the media tent, they were actually the ones whose voices were heard and recorded. Her experience illustrates the need to find creative and strategic ways of circumventing the obstacles to making women's participation a reality.

In the end, the resounding message of Theresa's presentation was the necessity of holistic inclusive peace building rather than a short-term stability or political deal.

Madeleine moved the human rights discussion to a focus on prevention. This message highlighted the previous link between participation and disarmament. The panel was among the only ones in the conference that articulated a coherent framework that involved human rights, participation, disarmament, and conflict prevention.

Madeleine concluded by leaving us with further questions that we must continue to explore:

How do we get women to participate when they are hungry?
How do we overcome the challenges of the lack of education?
How do we bridge the gap between basic human needs and the international community's legal peace frameworks?
What is the best way to transform aid recipients from victims to participating agents?
How can we recognize the different roles women play without excluding the different categories they occupy?

Miruna Bucurescu, PeaceWomen Project intern