Category: Africa

Category: Africa

Simone Mbodé Diouf, GNWP Program Officer for Africa, briefs UN Security Council 28 May 2024

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders’ (GNWP) Program Officer for Africa, Ms. Simone Mbodé Diouf, recently appointed as the African Union Youth Ambassador for Peace for West Africa, was selected as the only civil society briefer to the UN Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) held on 28 May 2024.

 

Below are Simone’s remarks, delivered in French, to the Council:

Your Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Mozambique;

Madam, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs;

Madam, the Executive Director of UN Women;

Mr. Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs;

Your Excellencies and Distinguished guests;

First, allow me to express my gratitude to the Republic of Mozambique for not only placing this important issue on the agenda of the Security Council, but for also extending the invitation to us to showcase the leadership of young women peacebuilders who are actively involved in sustainable peace initiatives, and demonstrating the transformative impact of their collaboration. 

As the African Youth Ambassador for Peace representing the West Africa Region, I am living proof that international and regional institutions can choose to trust the expertise and leadership of young women by putting them on the global stage. In this regard, I particularly wish to express my gratitude to the African Union for its unwavering commitment to mainstream and upscale the meaningful participation of young people in all aspects of peace and security in accordance with Article 17 of the African Youth Charter.

Excellencies, 

To shed light on the incredible work that young women peacebuilders are engaged in every day on the African continent, allow me to share the inspiring story of four young Congolese women whom I have had the privilege to collaborate with in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These women have been instrumental in implementing and adapting the Youth, Peace and Security resolutions in their country, embodying the resilience and innovation characteristic of young women in this space.

First, Nora and Marie Rose. These two young women led the National Technical Secretariat on Resolution 2250, created by the DRC government to promote the implementation and institutionalization of UNSC Resolution 2250. Following their leadership and coordination, the DRC created its first National Action Plan (NAP) on Youth, Peace and Security in August 2022.

Next are Emilie and Esther, the coordinators of the Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL) networks in North and South Kivu. Despite a challenging security context marked by war, they brought the YPS NAP to their communities by leading the Localization process. From data collection to drafting strategic documents to advocacy at the provincial level, Emilie and Esther ensured the NAP considered the gender-specific needs of young people.

The backgrounds and leadership of these four young women are highlighted in a thematic paper prepared by them, and published by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and UN Women on the occasion of the Secretary-General’s third report on the YPS agenda. That paper emphasizes the leadership of young Congolese women in implementing the YPS and Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agendas in synergy, drawing on lessons learned from their contributions to peace processes in the DRC.

Madam President,

Nora, Marie Rose, Emilie, and Esther are not alone. Many young women across Africa are dedicated to addressing the challenges that affect their future, such as climate change, resurgence of conflict, violent extremism, political marginalization, conflict-related sexual violence, and lack of economic opportunity. These young women are key to upholding peace and human security in their countries.

The YPS agenda explicitly recognizes the role of young women as equal partners in peace processes, mainly through Resolution 2535. This resolution acknowledges the unique and intersectional needs of different groups of young people, especially young women, in conflict, peacebuilding, and humanitarian response. It calls on Member States and other peace actors to promote synergies between YPS and WPS frameworks. Resolution 2535 also promotes accountability to the YPS agenda by encouraging the provision of adequate resources to support peace efforts led by diverse young women.

  • The African Union’s Continental Framework on YPS encourages sensitivity to gender dynamics by avoiding stereotypical assumptions about the roles and experiences of young men and women. It calls on Member States to recognize the gendered impacts of violence and develop strategies to address the needs of young women.
  • It is essential to highlight some programs and success stories that should serve as references and best practices to continue action in favor of young women:
  • The AU’s Youth Ambassadors for Peace program appoints five young people to work with, peacebuilding networks, Member States, regional economic communities (RECs), and young people to advocate for the involvement of young Africans in peace and security processes. In the second and third cohorts, 60 per cent of the representation is women. Currently, three young African women, including myself, are using their leadership and expertise to support young people in their region.
  • Femwise aims to strengthen the role of women and young women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts. 
  • The Youth Caucuses of African Women Leaders Networks (AWLN) chapters were established by the African Union to promote female leadership in all areas, including peace and security.
  • The Young Women’s Mentoring Initiative (YWMI) of the Permanent Mission of the African Union to the United Nations is an intergenerational mentoring program created to bridge the gender and generation gap that hinders young African women’s leadership in multilateral organizations.

Madam President,

Excellencies, 

Allow me also to evoke the story of Kristine from Kenya, who is currently conducting local YPS consultations in all counties as part of the development of the Kenyan YPS NAP, and Nanette, the national coordinator of the Chad YPS coalition. These young women, through their daily actions, embody the intersection of the YPS and WPS agendas, two distinct yet complementary frameworks that are the foundation for developing comprehensive and inclusive peace and security policies. Both frameworks acknowledge that conflict, war, and violence impact young people and women differently and that their contributions to peace, conflict prevention, and humanitarian response are often overlooked.

Promoting the synergies between YPS and WPS, and enhancing intergenerational cooperation is crucial to peacebuilding. Is it not the essence of intergenerational feminism to work together towards our common goals rather than uphold silos between YPS and WPS? 

The commitment of young women across the African continent is undeniable, but political leaders must play their part. Young women need to be economically and socially empowered to have the resources, capabilities, and confidence to be agents of change. In my experience working with young people, especially young women, for several years, I have learned that when you invest in young women, they give back to the community, starting a virtuous, rather than vicious, circle.

Economic empowerment is necessary but not sufficient. It is also essential to recognize the potential of young women as political actors, as seen in the example of Sibila Ouédraogo, the youngest candidate in Burkina Faso’s recent legislative elections. Boosting dynamism as an opportunity for peace and sustainable development can help remove the obstacles to young women’s participation.

Dear Members of the United Nations Security Council and representatives of Member States,

Recognizing the importance of empowering young women requires more than just words. It involves gaining their trust, allowing them to participate in public forums, and reinstating their confidence in multilateralism. The YPS and WPS agendas serve as frameworks to illustrate how young women’s involvement can be effectively enhanced. However, little progress can be made without genuine political determination.

During the Summit for the Future in September, all Member States will have the chance to showcase their dedication to young people by incorporating robust commitments and concrete actions supporting the YPS agenda in the Pact for the Future. This is particularly urgent as, in the latest version of the Pact, all YPS and WPS languages have been removed. I urge Member States to reverse this change. The YPS agenda must continue to be a priority for the Security Council under the guidance of the United Nations Youth Office, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), whose leadership and coordination, particularly in addressing inclusion and protection issues, I commend.

This leads me to my final point: protecting young women peacebuilders. Even if some young women bravely speak out despite threats, fear silences many others. Combating hate speech and gender-based violence facilitated by technology is essential to creating safe civic, offline, and online spaces.

Allow me to conclude with the following call for action. I urge all UN Member States, duty-bearers, and stakeholders to consider the following:

  • Implement, fund, and institutionalize the YPS and WPS agendas as requested by 400 young people in the Cotonou Youth Action Agenda. This should include developing specific frameworks at local, regional, and national levels and integrating them into existing policy instruments to ensure the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making processes;
  • Ensure that the specific needs of young women are considered when developing WPS NAP;
  • Include promotion of the YPS and WPS agendas in the Pact for the Future;
  • Highlight best practices and lessons learned from young women peacebuilders working for sustainable peace;
  • Maximize young women’s contributions to peace by integrating agendas among national governments, the African Union, the UN, and civil society. This can be achieved by examining policy opportunities that prioritize young women’s leadership;
  • Promote synergies between YPS and WPS agendas by showcasing successful practices and lessons learned from young women peacebuilders; and
  • Encourage collaboration and dialogue between young women and other stakeholders to bridge generational and gender gaps.

Thank you for your kind attention.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a pilot for the Localization of the Youth, Peace and Security strategy: the contribution of the Young Women Leaders in North and South Kivu

14 October 2023 by Simone Mbodé Diouf , Émilie Katondolo  and Esther Atosha 

Edited by Katrina Leclerc 

For over a decade, the Global Network for Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) has successfully implemented its Localization of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)[1]In North and South Kivu, considerable progress has been made thanks to the collaboration with local partners, including the Synergie des femmes pour les victimes de violences sexuelles (SFVS) and the Synergie des associations féminines du Congo (SAFECO). Building on the achievements of the strategy — which has been cited multiple times as a best practice in the local application of WPS by UN Secretary-General — GNWP and its local partners launched the innovative pilot process for the Localization of Youth, Peace and Security (YPS). The DRC is the second country in Africa to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) on YPS to support and recognize the role of young people in preventing violent extremism and contributing to reconciliation and peacebuilding in their communities.

With financial support from the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP) of Global Affairs Canada, the GNWP consortium, including ISOKO Partners for Peace and Gender Equality and Youth for Peace DRC, is supporting the chapters of GNWP’s Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL)[2] and the Congolese provincial YPS coalitions to adapt the Localization strategy for the local implementation of the YPS NAP in the provinces of North and South Kivu. The Localization of YPS process aims to popularize the NAP, the UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) and define strategies for developing youth, gender and conflict-sensitive policies at the local level.

Active participation in data collection during the survey phase

Members of the YWL network, in collaboration with provincial YPS coalitions, adopted the approach, which consisted of enabling young people’s leadership in the process, from data collection to the drafting of strategic documents. This approach has made the first pillar of UNSCR 2250 — participation — a reality. In addition, the leadership of young people, particularly young women, also enabled a better analysis and understanding of the unique challenges facing young women and men in the provinces of North and South Kivu.

In North Kivu, the survey results demonstrated that the challenges faced by young women include their exclusion from decision-making bodies, the multiplicity of taxes that hampers their income-generating activities and the lack of initiatives to strengthen young people’s resilience. It also illustrated the failure of protection mechanisms and relief and recovery efforts to take into account the gender-specific needs of young women during complex humanitarian contexts.

Significant input and consideration of young people’s needs in the NAP Localization and strategic advocacy documents

The validation the survey results and development of the advocacy documents for the Localization of the YPS NAP, developed by YWL members and the provincial coalitions, also illustrated the enthusiasm of young women to take a decisive place in the process. Their perspective was reflected in the strategic advocacy documents that outline the priority issues that must be addressed in local development plans and the policies of decentralized entities in the two provinces (to read the advocacy documents in French, please find them here).

Concerning the participation pillar of UNSCR 2250, it was recommended to set up a legislative preparation training center with scholarships for young women political aspirants, as well as to organize awareness campaigns on their political engagement and involvement in community peace and conflict management mechanisms. These examples constitute major achievements of young women leaders who have undoubtedly demonstrated leadership that exemplifies a paradigm shift: young women are no longer forgotten in the Youth, Peace and Security resolutions; they are actors in their own right.

Centering and amplifying the vision and aspirations of young women will ensure that advocacy for the integration of the specific needs of young people will be a success in the provinces of North and South Kivu. This is possible due to their involvement in the effective implementation of the recommendations through Localization of the YPS NAP, enabling the process to be inclusive, gender-sensitive and sustainable.

[1] GNWP’s Localization of WPS resolutions strategy is based on the ownership and contextualization of WPS policies at grassroots level with local actors. For more information, please visit: https://gnwp.org/what-we-do/global-policy-local-action/implementation-through-localization/

[2] YWL is a program initiated by GNWP in over 12 countries to support and ensure youth leadership in the synergistic implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions.

About the authors

Simone Mbodé Diouf

Program Officer for Africa at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)

Esther Atosha

Head of the YWL network in South Kivu

Émilie Katondolo

Programs Coordinator at Synergie des femmes pour les victimes de violences sexuelles (SFVS) and the Head of the YWL network in North Kivu

Katrina Leclerc

Program Director at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)

GNWP Reports from Cameroon: Launching the Localization of Women, Peace and Security (WPS)  in Bali Nyonga and Bamenda II 

20 November 2023 by Karen Bedoume and Katrina Leclerc

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with Common Action for Gender Cameroon (COMAGEND), launched the Localization of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) strategy in Cameroon. On 20 to 23 September 2023, with support from the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), GNWP and COMAGEND led the establishment of the Localization of WPS efforts in the Bamenda II and Bali Nyonga communities in Northwestern Cameroon. 

Since 2016, the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have been at the core of a violent conflict that has killed over 5,000 civilians and displaced over one million Cameroonians. This ongoing conflict, dubbed the Anglophone crisis, has also given rise to unresolved local crises and disputes. It has equally exacerbated the rates of violence against women and girls – those who bear the brunt under such conditions. As a result, its escalation has called for a more rigorous implementation of the WPS resolutions and a swift response to injustices experienced by women and girls. 

In the Bamenda II municipality, Localization of WPS workshop participants highlighted the pre-established cultural and religious barriers that have consistently barred women from meaningfully contributing to decision-making and peacebuilding efforts and holding any leadership positions in their communities. Women’s economic emancipation was another common topic of concern among the discussants. According to them, many women are forced to stay in abusive marriages and relationships to ensure their survival and well-being. If they were to leave these relationships, restricted access to supportive resources could hinder their economic sustainability and autonomy. One woman participant noted, “there is a need to increasingly appreciate that the conflict affects women differently than men. This analysis is important to end the misconception that conflicts impact women and men the same way.”

Participants in Bamenda II consciously applied an intersectional lens to identify local challenges and devise gender-responsive strategies. Further capacity-building for women’s civil society leaders and psycho-social counseling for survivors of gender-based violence were among the main recommendations. The first Deputy Mayor, Tsi Louis Angwafo, and the North West Regional Delegate of the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and the Family (MINPROFF), Wirba Asan, committed to raising issues related to gender inequality within their respective government institutions and champion the application of the WPS resolutions in the Northwestern region of Cameroon.  

In Bali Nyonga,  the Mayor, Ernest Wandum Bunga, and MINPROFF Divisional Delegate, George Fuambo, highlighted women’s crucial role in building and shaping society, as well as their indispensability in peacebuilding processes. 

The participants in Bali Nyonga discussed the significant challenges they face amidst the conflict, namely weak governance and justice systems, high cost of living, land disputes and xenophobia. Moreover, participants noted that conflict often exacerbates the effects for women, finding themselves at the heart of several forms of violence. During the workshop session on “Peace and Security,” one of the women participants noted that peace means “being able to sleep in peace without thinking that something terrible will happen to me, which I haven’t felt in a long time.”

Participants emphasized that previously attempted solutions were largely ineffective due to their lack of gender-sensitivity and considerations of the WPS resolutions. In turn, participants developed a roadmap urging municipal, religious and traditional leaders to consistently include women in peace processes and mobilize efforts towards shifting cultural norms that limit women’s agency. 

GNWP and COMAGEND are grateful to the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) and the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé for their support in expanding the Localization of WPS strategy to the Bali Nyonga and Bamenda II communities. 

Picture of Karen Bedoume

Karen Bedoume

Peacebuilding Program Intern for Africa, holds an LLB in Law and International Relations from Middlesex University. Her key areas of interest are International Law, Gender Youth, Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention and Sustainable development.

Picture of Katrina Leclerc

Katrina Leclerc

Program Director, Ph.D. candidate in conflict studies at Saint-Paul University. Her academic research focuses on the synergies between the WPS and YPS agendas, and local peacebuilding approaches.

Amplifying Youth, Peace and Security in Uganda: GNWP partners with civil society organizations to support youth-led building and sustaining peace initiatives

14 November 2023 by Anne Mugo*

“I cannot mention it all, but I believe continued support for such programs is vital for young people”

In June 2023, residents of Mpondwe town in western Uganda woke up to a gruesome reminder of the impact violent conflicts have on young people. 40 secondary school students were brutally killed in a horrific attack perpetrated by the terrorist-designated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Based in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the ADF’s attacks persist nationwide while recruiting and radicalizing Ugandan youth into violent extremism. Young people in Uganda, who represent 78 per cent of the population, continue to be severely impacted by this sporadic violence. Their situation is worsened by human rights violations, a shrinking civic space, internal conflicts, sexual and gender-based violence, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related crises. Young women are much more vulnerable to these threats and regularly face discrimination based on their age and gender. Furthermore, they are largely neglected in conflict discourses and formal peace and security initiatives and processes. 

Between March and June 2023, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), partnered with the Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT) to bolster the efforts of the Ugandan Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) coalition in amplifying United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250’s recognition of youth in peacebuilding processes. The Ugandan YPS coalition comprises 9 civil society organizations alongside 106 trained peace ambassadors representing the conflict-prone districts of Amuria, Kabarole, Kaberamaido, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kasese, Kumi, Kyegegwa and Ntungamo. Currently, Uganda needs a national policy framework to guide concrete government action and the implementation of UNSCR 2250. To sustain advocacy towards developing a YPS National Action Plan (NAP), GNWP and CoACT partnered to build the capacity of coalition members to influence national and local policy processes. Over the course of four months, GNWP conducted workshops engaging the YPS coalition members in dialogues and campaigns to amplify the YPS agenda in local communities. They encouraged efforts towards its institutionalization in local and national development plans.

Knowledge Sharing and Movement Building

On 14 April 2023, nine coalition member organizations convened in a strategic planning workshop to share their experiences and present progress updates on the implementation of their local organizational action plans. Participants drew on lessons learned, embraced best practices and developed new cost-effective peacebuilding initiatives as part of their 2023 projects. Three young women-led organizations, hailing from Aburia, Kaberamaido and Kumi, joined the YPS coalition to elevate young women’s voices and share the multifaceted challenges that young women encounter in conflict-ridden settings and a blueprint to build peace at the local and national levels. During the workshop, member organizations also reported the recruitment of an additional 85 young people, demonstrating their ability to further promote YPS in rural communities. Workshop participants showed increased knowledge in identifying and addressing barriers hindering young Ugandans’ meaningful participation in local and national peacebuilding, crisis response and conflict prevention initiatives. 

Youth-Led Peace Dialogues

Central to GNWP’s Localization of WPS resolutions strategy is the convening of key local stakeholders to discuss and assess local security measures from a gender perspective. In Localization workshops, diverse actors gather to analyze local conflicts and craft Local Action Plans (LAPs) that address these challenges in an inclusive and gender-sensitive manner. The Ugandan YPS coalition organized 6 youth-led intergenerational peacebuilding dialogues with a total of 347 participants, comprising youth council leaders, district youth representatives, civil servant representatives, opinion leaders, security personnel, religious leaders, political leaders and presidential representatives. Participants discussed and exchanged valuable insights on the YPS and WPS agendas. Young women and men peacebuilders led peer-to-peer engagements, built partnerships and amplified their roles in the implementation of existing WPS LAPs in the Kasese and Kyegegwa districts. 

Participants also underscored the synergies between the WPS and YPS agendas and urged authorities to employ gender-sensitive approaches in peace and security initiatives and processes. During the intergenerational dialogues, local authorities and key stakeholders committed to partnering with the coalition members to advance youth’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding. To ensure accountability, several YPS coalition members will regularly monitor the implementation of action plans and commitments in their districts. Participants also exchanged insights about the nexus between climate change, conflict, and peace and security, highlighting how climate change exacerbates the effects of conflicts and emergencies on young people and women. Demonstrating their commitment to environmental preservation and climate change mitigation, participants conducted community clean-ups and embarked on tree-planting initiatives in Amuria, Kabarole, Kaberamaido, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kasese, Kumi, Kyegegwa and Ntungamo districts. 

Mobilizing Public Support and Ownership of the YPS Agenda

Young women’s and men’s multifaceted roles are often misunderstood and misconstrued in conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes. Emphasizing youth peacebuilders as critical contributors and decision-makers in local and national conflict prevention and peace processes can counter the stereotypes that often label them as victims. Members from the Uganda YPS coalition actively participated in radio talk shows alongside local government officials to enlighten thousands of listeners about the crucial intersectionality of the WPS and YPS agendas. Listeners demonstrated a willingness to support the meaningful participation of youth in peace discussions that were previously reserved for older community members. GNWP’s financial and technical support to the YPS project amplified the narratives of coalition members and underscored the imperative of providing platforms for youth to continuously engage in conflict prevention efforts. Their stories championed the fostering of a culture in which young women and men are recognized as decision-makers and leaders, steering the course toward sustainable peace.

Picture of Anne Mugo

Anne Mugo

Associate for Africa Peacebuilding Programs