Johannesburg — "We can not silence the guns in Africa without the inclusion of women in peace processes. - these were the opening remarks by the African Union Special Envoy Bineta Diop at the Virtual Africa Forum on Women, Peace and Security on November 10.
Organized by African Union Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, the forum seeks to accelerate the delivery of commitments of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and scale up actions for silencing the guns for a sustainable peace in Africa.
Africa now has 30 countries with National Action Plans for the implementation of the Women Peace and Security agenda, according to the Implementation of WPS report presented by Dr Jean-Bosco Butera, Special Adviser and Chief of Staff, Office of The Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, African Union Commission.
Butera says most African National Action Plans are well-written, but very few countries can show how these plans are to be translated into action. Which is why the Continental Results Framework for Monitoring and Reporting on the WPS Agenda was created.
There is no doubt that conflict affects women and men differently. Women and children have been shown to suffer the most and are more vulnerable to violent behaviour.
"Criminalise rape, and other forms of sexual violence and other forms of sexual exploitation. The same way the International Criminal Court recognises rape as a crime against humanity - why are our national laws not bold enough on GBV and allow perpetrators to escape the responsibility?" said Aya Chebbi.
Chebbi who is the first-ever African Union Special Envoy on Youth, and the youngest diplomat at the AU Commission chairperson's Cabinet, says African governments should take a stance on gender-based violence crimes. She says young women and girls feel excluded from peacebuilding initiatives and asked that those in power show solidarity and support to young people when they take steps to silence the guns.
Reychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Kenya agrees, saying political leaders should understand that gender equality is a component of social justice and social justice is a prerequisite for sustainable peace. "You cannot have peace if you do not have justice, equity, fairness not just in the distribution of resources but availing opportunities to all sectors of the society," Omamo says.
This forum comes a week after the United Nations marked the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325, which promoted women's "equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security".
Adopted in 2000 by UN Security Council, civil society and United Nations member states, it seeks to address the policy gap in exclusion of women in peacebuilding and the long term impact of armed conflict on women and girls.
Even though the continent faces a number of conflicts, some agree that great strides have been achieved over the years.
"The continent has made progress in addressing conflicts in the past few years but we remain deeply scared as Africa by insecurity, by local conflicts and by regional crisis that negatively affects the lives of women on a daily basis. As a continent there is a need for deep and focused soul searching on why we continue to have distractive outbreaks of conflicts that destroy lives and livelihoods," Naledi Pandor, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
Most African countries have succeeded in efforts to flatten the pandemic's curve, however violent conflict remains a threat in some countries and continues to displace many women and children.
"The advent of Covid-19 has worsened the situation of millions of African Women multiplying their deep challenges. Africa through the AU has implemented laudable efforts to combat the pandemic and to bolster our continent's response and we congratulate the AU commission chair and chairperson of the AU, President Cyril Ramaphosa for their sterling efforts, never the less despite their excellent work women remain displaced, abused without livelihoods and shelter in many of our countries," Pandor says.
The UNSCR1325 resolution's mandates has four basic pillars: Participation, Protection, Prevention, and Relief and Recovery. One of the four pillars calls for increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making, including in national, regional, and international institutions; in mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict; in peace negotiations; in peace operations, as soldiers, police, and civilians; and as Special Representatives of the U.N. Secretary-General. For Long-term success, women, girls and youth's inclusion in peacebuilding processes is crucial.