Vanguard (Lagos)

8 February 2013

Nigeria: Hilary Clinton - the Wonder Years

Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States.

The Secretary carries out the President's foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States. Clinton took the oath of office of Secretary of State and resigned from the Senate that same day. She became the first former First Lady to serve in the United States Cabinet. She also became the first Secretary of State to have previously been an elected official since Edmund Muskie.

Somehow, in this post modern, post feminist days, women have been persuaded that competing in the world of men is not in their interest.

In many ways, this is true, sound position. The biological role so clearly thrust upon women to bring forth the young of the species and to nurture them for the first two years of suckling that competition with men had so undermined in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s, to the detriment of all stakeholders.

It was British judge Mr Justice Caulfield who, while presiding over the sleazy affair cum perjury case of English bestselling novelist and Member of Parliament Jeffrey Archer that led to the latter's incarceration, had made a big deal of the " the fragrance of Lady Archer", words that were to get written in marble .

It is not so much the achievements of Hilary Clinton that inspires as the fragrance of her: the way she has been able to rise above all odds and all sentiments and all smallness to be the woman who stands at the edge of becoming the first female president of the most powerful nation on earth. As such, as she steps down as the American Secretary of State, it is a valuable venture to go down the memory lane as it were.

Clinton has been ambiguous about her future in politics, but she has been tipped as presidential candidate in 2016.

Perpetual Nwocha and equal treatment 4-time African Female Footballer of the Year Perpetual Nwocha has become a household name for her exploits on the field and beyond on the same scale as the Westerhof boys of the 90s and early 2000s. She is also a member and the captain of the Nigeria women's national football team and a voice often listened to in football.

But what is to be made of her recent call for equal remuneration for men and female footballers? With the Super Eagles defending the hype around them- not to mention the money- she might have a tough time defending her stance.

Watch out for Dora

Dora Akunyili is in the news again

She got burnt when she forayed into elective politics in 2011, but the old NAFDAC boss is apparently still the foremost icon of integrity in the country, male or female.

Having kept a rather low profile over the years, she struggles_ and is quite succeeding_ at getting back in the public eye. She was bruised in the last Anambra gubernatorial race but it will not take her much time to dust off the dirt and carry on.

At the Anabel Leadership conference late 2012, she made a stunning debut with her clichéd fight against corruption, and she was called upon only a couple of weeks ago to give credence to the attempt of a Northern governor to build an international airport in his State at good cost.

For those who thought she was just a flash in the pan, Professor Dora is on the way.

REPORTAGE: Gender in Peace Building

A report which was the conclusion of a piece of research, has identified Gender as a key component of peace building and conflict resolution. Carried out by International Alert, a 26-year-old independent peacebuilding organisation that works with people who are directly affected by violent conflict to improve their prospects of peace. They seek to influence the policies and ways of working of governments, international organisations like the UN and multinational companies, to reduce conflict risk and increase the prospects of peace.

The starting point for the research was International Alert's belief that a gender approach, as a key component in the understanding of power dynamics, is critical to successful peacebuilding. The research hypothesis was that gender dynamics form a resource for peacebuilding which peacebuilders generally make insufficient use of, but that examples of projects and research do exist from which to draw lessons, and thereby improve peacebuilding practice.

The research found that Women's peacebuilding activities encompass a wide range, and indeed what women do for peace is sometimes said to expand the view of peacebuilding itself. For example, reconciliation figures high in what women's peace building organisations do, yet it receives little attention from formal donor-supported peacebuilding initiatives.

Women's work in reconciliation includes mediating in localised conflicts within families (such as husbands rejecting their wives after rape, or disputes between siblings over inheritance), bringing estranged communities together, and supporting mechanisms to resolve inter-communal conflicts.

Women engaged in formal peace negotiations often bring a non-partisan, process-oriented approach to bear, ensuring that the needs of a broad range of stakeholders, rather than just the previously violent protagonists, are on the agenda.

Many women's organisations which promote the role of women in community-level reconciliation and dialogue view their work as having a secondary but important outcome of enhancing popular perception of women's potential contribution, leading to greater acceptance of women's empowerment generally.

Questions raised included: Do gender relations change as a result of violent conflict?

Further assumptions are often made about the potential impact of violent conflict on gender relations. On the one hand, a "backlash" against women is often thought to exist in the immediate post-conflict period. On the other, the "post-conflict moment" is often believed to be one where windows of opportunity present themselves for radical change in women's status.

The literature suggests that both assumptions may be justified. Whereas gender roles adjust quickly to new circumstances, gender identities are not so much changed as thwarted, as both men and women are prevented by circumstances from living up to their own and other people's expectations (a development which may trigger interpersonal violence on a wide scale).

Changes in the gender division of labour (gender roles) are a society's practical and immediate response to managing crisis. However, they do not in themselves alter the institutional or ideological underpinnings of gender relations. If things are not to go back to how they were before, change may need to be institutionalised through active policy.

However, institutions (that generate policy) are themselves gendered, in that they are both products and shapers of existing gender relations in the society from which they draw their individual members. The nation-state, for example, is made up of male and female citizens, and at the same time shapes their gendered identities through the promotion of ideals such as patriotism and citizenship, which may have different meanings for men and for women.

Global institutions, too are gendered, and significantly influence local processes - as classically evidenced by the way global military-economic alliances impact on gender relations found in societies located around military bases.

Another question was: Under what circumstances do conflicts turn to violence? Do gender relations themselves contribute towards violent conflict?

Sociologists have suggested that violence (most notably but not exclusively by men) is the result of gender identities being "thwarted", i.e. conditions (e.g. of poverty, conflict, disaster, political oppression) prevent gendered aspirations from being fulfilled.

The idea of a "continuum of violence" is another conceptthat offers a framework for describing how different types and levels of violence interact with each other, showing how the behaviour of individuals is conditioned as much by structural as by individual factors. Some scholars suggest that gender relations have changed as a function of changing patterns of violence, although opinions differ as to the direction of causality - does reduction of violence lead to gender equality, or the reverse?

While academics (especially feminist academics) have grappled for some timewith the issue of where men fit in an understanding of gender, policymakers and activists have tended to focus instead on advancing women's protection and participation, as evidenced by the passing of UNSC Resolution 1325.

The latter group has tended to view men as either perpetrators to be excluded, as "gatekeepers" whose support has to be sought, or as potential active champions of women's cause. There is a small but growing stream of work acknowledging the potential vulnerabilities of men, and seeking re-interpretations of mainstream thinking on specific topics such as sexual violence as a weapon of war.

It concluded that the international policy framework around peacebuilding is currently dominated by donor concerns with state-building in fragile and conflict-affected states.The state-building, governance and fragile states agenda has in the past been dominated by the technical approaches of international donors; however, these approaches have been challenged as being donor-driven, top-down, technicist and divorced from reality.

As various civil society organisations have argued, one of the starting-points for reconstruction must be the re-establishment of peaceful interaction and equitable resource management at the community level, building up from there.

Gender critiques of state-building have urged it to go beyond "add women and stir", instead aiming to ensure women's full participation in post-conflict recovery. State-building approaches should aim to create "a state fit for women" as well as for men, and to take advantage of the opportunities statebuilding offers for advancing women's political involvement.

A gender approach to state-building would bring it down to earth - for example, by helping to ensure civilian oversight of security sector reform, making interventions locally relevant, prioritising state-civilian relations, and supporting local, rather than external, drivers of change.

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