Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Women’s contribution to peace process vital

Women’s contribution to peace process vital

Daily Graphic, Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Page 11 (Women’s World)

Becky Adda-Dontoh

Kada’s husband’s ethnic group is at war with her own ethnic group. Kada adores her husband and in-laws. At the same time she loves her parents and siblings. Yet the men in both families wish one another dead. Her husband and in-laws perceiver her as a spy for her ethnic group, while her own family no longer trusts her, because they know how much she loves her husband.

Her two sons have been recruited as child soldiers by her husband’s family to fight against her ethnic group. He beloved pregnant sister-in-law was raped by men from her ethnic group.

Kada lost many friends on both sides of the war, and she is helping to nurse and provide food for many of the casualties.

Can you imagine Kada’s agony and trauma?

Even thought this story is a fictitious one, there are many real and living Kadas all over the world, and even in our motherland Ghana, though the atrocities may be on a lighter scale. Yes, there are Kadas in Bawku, Yendi, Peki, Ga Mashie, Alavanyo and Nkonya, and in many other conflict communities in Ghana.

The fact is that there are many Kadas and the fact that it is women and children who suffer most during violent conflict is the reason why women must get involved in peace processes.

Since my article on women’s representation on peace councils (Daily Graphic, January 10, 2008) a number of women have called to ask me about how to get involved in peace-related activities, since men don’t involve them. Dear sister! Are we waiting for men to involve us before we participate? It would be great if they did, as some men have done, but we must push open the doors ourselves.

This article is, therefore, to share some examples on what other women have done and are doing. Hoping that these ‘histories’ will inspire a lot more women to actively participate in building peace and transforming conflicts in their communities.

During the Djibouti (Somalia) peace talks in 2000, only five clans were recognised as legitimate participants at the peace table. Women, who were excluded from the five clans, mobilised to form a sixth clan and camped outside the talks tent, demanding to be allowed in till they were eventually accepted as equal participants in the high-level peace talks.

Their presence at the negotiation table led to the Federal Charter requiring that a minimum of 12 percent of National Assembly seats went to women. Asha Hagi Amin is the woman who mobilised the sixth clan.

In 2001, a United Nations Security Council delegation visited Kosovo. The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) representatives preparing the delegation’s schedule said the delegation did not have time to meet with women. The Kosovo Women’s Network picketed around the UNMIK offices and insisted that the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 gave them the right to meet the delegation.

Anwar K. Chowdhury, who was leading the delegation, agreed to meet with the women at 9:30 p.m., after the delegation’s other scheduled meetings. This example shows that even international institutions cannot be relied upon to support the inclusion of women in decision-making, women have to fight to be included in the processes.

In 1992, hundreds of Somaliland women, with banners and slogans, marched together in protest to the presidency and parliament building urging men to stop the war and solve the disputes peacefully. After determined pressure from the women, the Shiek peace conference was arranged for October 1992. In accordance with custom, women were not present as participants or mediators, but as one man puts it, “they were the wind behind the peace conference - they mobilised the elders, prepared the venue and the food, and encouraged the participants to keep going until he final peace accord was reached.” The Shiek conference paved way for a national conference in Boroma the following year. Here 10 women, representing two women’s organisation, participated, after their petition forced the conference delegates, all of them men, to accept their presence.

There are many more ‘histories’ and the examples these women give is that, they take their fate into their own hands and organise their own networks in order to improve their communities across ethnic and conflict lines.

Women can engage in wide range of peace-related activities in the areas of survival and basic needs, peacemaking, advocacy, women in decision-making and leadership, community outreach and rebuilding in a post-conflict environment.

Some of the most simple actions of women can be effective strategies for rebuilding trust and confidence, which are critical components for sustained peace. So, over to us, sisters and mothers.

(The ‘herstories’ were culled from “BUILDING PEACE, BY EMPOWERING WOMEN” Austrian Development Agency, 2006).

The writer is the President of Mothers for Active Non-violence (MOFAN-V)

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