Category: Articles

Category: Articles

Congolese women meet with Ms. Robinson – the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region

By Selam Tesfaye

On April 29, 2013, women groups and organizations, including GNWP’s member Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), met with Ms. Mary Robinson in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to discuss the attainment of genuine and sustainable peace throughout the DRC and the Great Lakes Region.

Ms. Robinson was appointed as the new Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa in March 2013 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She has served as the President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and has more than four decades of political and diplomatic experience, including as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. She is expected to play a key role in supporting the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) for the DRC and the Great Lakes region, signed by Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the DRC, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia in February 2013 with the aim to stabilize the situation in the DRC.

During her first visit to the DRC as the Special Envoy, Ms. Robinson met with President Kabila, Minister of Foreign Affairs, civil society organizations and religious groups. The meeting with civil society organizations was opened by Mr. Roger A. Meece, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Civil society organizations presented their demands and concerns regarding the implementation of the PSCF, which included five components: sensitization on the population on the framework; mainstreaming of gender issues in the implementation with a special emphasis on the protection of civilians; security sector reform; setting up of DDR programs for ex-combatants; and the promotion and development of gender sensitive benchmarks in the monitoring and evaluation of progress in the implementation of the PSCF. They were also able to brief Ms. Robinson on the outcomes of the  Women’s Peace Dialogue organized by GNWP and CAFCO in April 2013 and present the outcome document of this initiative.

Ms. Robinson began by thanking women’s rights organizations for their work despite the situation of instability and insecurity within the DRC. She stated that the PSCF is a glimmer of hope for achieving stability in the DRC and the Great Lakes region. She stressed the need for the signatories to do what they have committed to do within the agreement and noted that civil societies should play an important role in holding the signatories accountable. She also pointed out that based on her discussion with the President of the Republic, there will soon be a national monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the framework and she encouraged women’s participation in the implementation processes of the framework. She promised to create platforms for women to come together and discuss their concerns. She also encouraged women to participate in the upcoming meeting on June 24 in Bujumbura, Burundi planned for the discussion of the UNSCR 1325 regional plan for the Great Lakes region. She concluded by urging women to work together for a sustainable solution in the Great Lakes region.

Ms. Robinson will be continuing on to Rwanda and Burundi.

 

Meeting with insurgent groups is the best option to resolve conflict in eastern DRC, says Women’s Peace Delegation

By Eleonore Veillet Chowdhury

Based on the Women’s Peace Dialogue and the Women’s Peace Delegation advocacy efforts in Kinshasa, members of the Women’s Peace Delegation have concluded that it is imperative to speak directly with the different insurgent groups active in eastern DRC. Since mass rapes continue and women are systematically excluded from peace negotiations including the one with the armed group M23, women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and the prevention and protection of women from all forms of sexual and gender-based violence will be among the topics addressed in open dialogues with insurgent groups. The Women’s Peace Delegation has tasked Ms. Miria Matembe—a member of the Delegation, former Vice-President and former Member of Parliament of Uganda—with reaching out to Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda’s Minister of Defense and facilitator in the peace negotiations between the government and the M23, to arrange meetings of the Women’s Peace Delegation with insurgent groups.

The Women’s Peace Delegation has also agreed that it is urgent to speak more directly with women and women’s civil society organizations in the areas most affected by conflict, namely North Kivu, South Kivu and Province Orientale. The Women’s Peace Dialogue in Kinshasa and subsequent meetings in the nation’s capital revealed that there is a strong disconnect between women’s plight in the capital city and that of women in the east, as the repercussions of conflict are not directly felt in Kinshasa. Direct engagement with local women and local women’s groups would allow for better assessment of the situation and, as a result, for more effective and informed advocacy strategies. In addition, women’s CSOs in the east understand the context and have taken on the responsibility of caring for victims and of sensitizing local communities on Women, Peace and Security resolutions such as Resolutions 1325 and 1820. Furthermore, these CSOs have the connections to meet or organize meetings with local government actors as well as different insurgent groups in the region.

While preparations for these meetings are underway, the members of the Women’s Peace Delegation continue to widely circulate the Kinshasa Call to Action among key stakeholders, within DRC as well as in the Great Lakes region, all of Africa and the world at large. They will be sharing the Kinshasa Call to Action with Mr. Roger Meece, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Ms. Mary Robinson, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region. Now that the members of the Women’s Peace Delegation from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone and Liberia have returned to their respective countries, they are lobbying and will continue lobby their government and policy makers for the implementation of the demands made in the Kinshasa Call to Action.

The Women’s Peace Delegation consisted of Ms. Rose Mutombo Kiese, President of Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO-DRC); Ms. Annie Matundu Mbambi, President of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF-DRC); Ms. Justine Masika, Coordinator of Synergie de Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (DRC); Ms. Miria Matembe, former Vice President and former Member of Parliament (Uganda); Hon. Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, Member of Parliament (Rwanda); Ms. Catherine Mabobori, Spokesperson for the 1st Vice President; former Member of Parliament (Burundi); Ms. Nana Pratt, Coordinator, National Organization of Women (Sierra Leone); Ms. Yvette Chesson-Wureh, Establishment Coordinator, Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (Liberia); Ms. Robinah Rubimbwa, CEWIGO Executive Director (Uganda); and Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (Philippines/USA).

The Women’s Peace Dialogue was facilitated by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolese (CAFCO) in partnership with WILPF-DRC, Réseau Femme et Développement and the African Women’s Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh)-DRC.


Women Leaders and Peacebuilders Say Enough to Sexual Violence in the DRC!

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders co-facilitated a Women’s Peace Dialogue and Women’s Peace Delegation with its member organizations Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), from April 5-6, 2013 in Kinshasa, DRC. Women leaders, peacebuilders and human rights activists from the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, met and came up with the Kinshasa Call to Action – an outcome document of the dialogue with a list of specific demands targeted at the DRC government, member countries of the African Union and signatories to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, UN agencies, the donor community, as well as civil society – to appeal to various key actors on issues of Women, Peace and Security.

The delegation met with the Minister of Gender, the Minister of Justice, MONUSCO, UN Women, UNDP, and representatives of religious leaders and emphasized the urgency of taking concrete actions to resolve the conflict in DRC and in the Great Lakes region. During these meetings positive initiatives such as the new Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework signed by 11 African states on February 24, 2013 as well as the ongoing peace negotiations between the government of the DRC and M23 under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) that is being facilitated by the Ugandan government were highlighted. Participants also appreciated the recent appointment of Ms. Mary Robinson as the Special Envoy to the region as well as the communiqué signed by the DRC Prime Minister and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Ms. Zainab Bangura after her recent visit to the country. All of these endeavors are timely and if implemented effectively will be able to achieve tangible results.

However, concerns were raised in relation to the rise of incidence of violence against women, in particular mass rapes despite numerous efforts and resources spent on securing peace and stability in DRC and the Great Lakes Region. Members of the delegation were astounded with the recent news of the rape of more than 200 women in Orientale province, just a few days after Ms. Bangura’s visit. They raised these concerns in the various meetings with government officials and UN agencies and were met with the same answer: the situation is complicated and that the incidences are happening in areas outside the control of the government.

In all the delegation’s meetings, it was repeatedly stated that the government is fully committed to eliminating sexual violence in the country and that it has adopted various strategies that will enable it to do so. Among these are the National Gender Policy of 2009 and the National Strategy to Fight Sexual, Gender based Violence in 2010 and the setting up of the humanitarian assistance corridor that has benefited many women to get access to services. Yet, the numbers show otherwise. A the presentation made by a representative from the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children during the Women’s Peace Dialogue revealed that 67% of sexual violence in the DRC is in fact committed by the military while 33% is by the civilian population. Additionally, more than 52% of women in the DRC have been victims of sexual violence just in the last two decades. What is being done about this? Aside from the few measures taken such as the stripping of soldiers’ titles in front of their peers, perpetrators are still free due to the lack of adequate justice mechanisms. Impunity also perpetuates the rise of sexual violence incidences in the country.

Among the specific demands addressed to the DRC government in the Kinshasa Call to Action is ensuring the equitable development and just distribution of revenue within all regions of the DRC in terms of basic services and infrastructure. This especially resonates true for communities that produce insurgent groups in the eastern parts of the country. In order to ensure national unity and move beyond the rhetoric of armed rebellion, these communities need to be provided with basic services.

There is also a need to move away from the traditional discussions of armed conflicts and blaming rebel groups and into capacity development mechanisms for local communities especially women such as revenue generation activities. Protection and promotion of women’s rights in the DRC will also benefit in the economic productivity of the country since women comprise a majority of the population. Women should break away from the status of victimhood and claim their rights. In this regard, the government should also take national ownership of the issue and fulfill all its past and present commitments to do away with its label, “the rape capital of the world”!

Congolese Women Demand Discussions on the “Intervention Brigade” in the DRC

By Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

Congolese women and women from Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda who took part in the Women’s Peace Dialogue held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo from April 5-6, 2012 demanded discussions on the formation of the first Intervention Brigade that will operate in the eastern part of the DRC. Authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 2098, which was adopted on March 28, 2013, the Intervention Brigade will operate under orders to “neutralize” and “disarm” armed groups in the resource-rich eastern part of the country.

In the Kinshasa Call to Action, the outcome document of the Women’s Peace Dialogue, the 81 participants of the dialogue called on MONUSCO and relevant UN entities to ensure that the Intervention Brigade does not violate the rights of civilian populations especially women. Below are the other demands that the women have put forward:

  1. Facilitate discussions with women’s groups to ensure that their perspectives on UNSCR 2098 are taken into account in its implementation;
  2. Ensure that all peace keeping forces, including the Intervention Brigade, adhere to the principles of zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse in the execution of their mandates;
  3. Incorporate women’s concerns in the future execution of the Intervention Brigade’s mandate; and
  4. Provide gender sensitization training to security forces, national militaries, and the police.

The Women’s Peace Dialogue participants also expressed concern that the Intervention Brigade might in fact contribute to the escalation of fighting in the areas where they will operate and the risk of women and girls being targeted as a form of retaliation.

The Women’s Peace Dialogue participants also urged MONUSCO to continue to effectively monitor and report on the human rights situation and support national and international efforts to protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of Congolese people. Additionally, they called on MONUSCO, UN Women and the relevant UN entities to support the Women’s Peace Delegation’s upcoming advocacy efforts including dialogues with local leaders and insurgent groups in eastern DRC.”

Following the Women’s Peace Dialogue, the participants met with the Minister of Gender, Minister of Justice, the leaders of the inter-faith Congolese congregations and various officials from MONUSCO, UNDP, UN Women to present their demands aimed at putting an end to the violence in the DRC, particularly sexual violence. In all of these meetings, the women emphasized the need to address the root causes of the conflict in DRC and in the Great Lakes region.

The full copy of the Kinshasa Call to Action can be accessed here.

The Women’s Peace Dialogue was facilitated by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolese (CAFCO) in partnership with WILPF-DRC, Réseau Femme et Développement and the African Women’s Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh)-DRC.


Opening Ceremony

By Selamawit Tesfaye

Over 80 civil society participants, government officials, and international actors gathered in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 5, 2013 for the Women’s Peace Dialogue (WPD). The dialogue is an initiative of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), its member organizations, including Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), African Women’s Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh)-DRC, Réseau Femme et Développement, WILPF-DRC, and other civil society partners. The Women’s Peace Delegation of prominent women leaders and activists from Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Uganda also joined the dialogue. The main objective of the WPD is to generate concrete responses from individual governments involved in the discussions on the incidences of violence in the DRC, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the African Union and the UN Security Council.

President of CAFCO, Rose Mutombo Kiese, started off the opening ceremony by thanking all the participants for taking part in this dialogue. She then stressed the urgency for women activists to unite and act to address the unchanging situation in the DRC. The primary motive of this meeting, she explained, was to formulate specific recommendations and call upon those policymakers and other stakeholders who are involved in the conflicts to stop violence and reach a lasting peace in the country. “I invite you to focus our exchanges on specific issues, questioning what has already been done, what has yet to be done, why, and how in order to identity appropriate strategies. We can only do this is we pay attention to our common denominator – WOMEN,” she said. Ms. Kiese ended her opening remarks by thanking CAFCO’s partners who supported this project, including the GNWP, Cordaid, the Regional UN Office, and UNDP.

GNWP International Coordinator, Mavic Cabrera Balleza, gave a speech in which she talked about GNWP’s work and the objectives of the WPD. She acknowledged that there were various international policies, strategies, agreements and resolutions on the DRC. Yet, incidences of violence against women continue which she said necessitates an intervention such as the WPD. She called on the Congolese people and Congolese government leaders to take on greater responsibility and demonstrate strong leadership to fight impunity and end the rampant violence exerted on women in the country.

The DRC Representative of UN Women, Francoise Ngendahayo, made a brief statement emphasizing UN Women’s support of the initiative. Lastly, the Hon. Ministry of Gender, Family and Children, Ms. Geneviève Inagosi Bulo I. Kassongo officially opened the Women’s Peace Dialogue. She conveyed her support of the Women’s Peace Dialogue and reiterated that “all of the strategies adopted until now have not brought about results.” She stressed the need for something different and new to address the conflicts in the DRC. She also assured the participants that they could all count on the Ministry of Gender’s cooperation and assistance in follow up activities.

GNWP and its members take the Localization of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 Program to the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Selamawit Tesfaye

From March 28 to April 3, 2013, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, a program of the International Civil society Action Network (GNWP-ICAN) and its members, lead by Cadre Permanent de Consultation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), will hold Localization of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 workshops in Lubumbashi and Likasi, two cities in the Katanga province in the south east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Other members include Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) – DRC, Réseau Femme et Développement (REFED), and African Women’s Active Nonviolence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh) – DRC.

In these workshops, local authorities such as governors, mayors, paramount chiefs, traditional, cultural and religious leaders, women leaders, civil society representatives and other local key actors will examine the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and DRC’s National Action Plan (NAP) on UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS).

Participants will identify the specific provisions of the NAP most relevant to the social and cultural context of their communities and discuss how these provisions could be integrated into their local development plans. Additionally, participants will express their personal commitments and action recommendations that they can implement immediately as they are working on their local development plans.

These workshops constitute a bottom-up approach to the implementation of the WPS resolutions, with local authorities and communities taking ownership of the implementation of the resolutions. The resolutions call for participation of women in all decision-making and peacebuilding processes, prevention of conflict, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, protection of women and girls’ rights, and promotion of a gender-perspective on peace and security issues.

Follow-up to these workshops will include the replication of the workshops in other provinces of the DRC and the development of comprehensive guidelines to be used by local officials throughout the country to integrate Resolutions 1325 and 1820 in local development plans.

The Localization workshops have already been implemented by GNWP-ICAN and its member organizations in a number of countries, namely, Burundi, the Philippines, Nepal, Colombia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Nepal, Burundi and Sierra Leone have now developed Guidelines for the integration of WPS resolutions in local development planning.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for blogs, pictures and Tweets on the Localization Workshops in Lubumbashi and Likasi.

GNWP-ICAN and its members in the DRC thank the Government of the UK for supporting this program.

Harmonizing the Burundi NAP on UNSCR 1325 & 1820 with Communal Development Planning Processes

By Helena Gronberg

On January 14, 2013, we set out for Cankuzo Province to hold a three-day training as part of our Localizing UNSCR 1325 and 1820 program. Bordering Tanzania, Cankuzo is one of the most remotely situated provinces of Burundi’s 17 provinces. With a population of less than 250,000 (latest estimate from 2008 census) of Burundi’s 10.5 million population (2012), Cankuzo is also one of the most scarcely populated areas, partly due to the fact that a big part of the province is allocated to a nature reserve, the Ruvubu National Park. However, apart from its dark, sweet tasting honey that you can buy by the pound, Cankuzo takes pride in having one of the highest percentages of women’s participation in the communal councils. All five communes in the province, namely Cankuzo, Gendajuru, Gisagara, Kigamba, and Mishiha, have reached the 30 percent quota. Out of the total 83 communal chiefs, however, only four are women. The Localization workshop we were to hold was the second phase of GNWP’s Localization Program in Burundi. During the opening of the workshop the Governor of Cankuzo proudly stated that he has made a point of including more women in decision making during his tenure.

GNWP’s Localization Program is a bottom-up approach to policy-making that aligns local, national and international policies, and community driven strategies, to ensure local ownership, good governance, participation and linkages between local communities, civil society organizations and government in the work around UNSCR 1325, 1820 and the supporting resolutions on women and peace and security. In his speech at the opening of the Cankuzo workshop, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning noted that, “participation of many stakeholders is crucial in the decentralization process, and that local people expect the local politicians to address their needs.”

GNWP’s Localization on UNSCR 1325 program was first piloted in Burundi in 2010 when GNWP and its members, including Women Allies Peacebuilders Network, Fountain ISOKO for Good Governance and Integrated Development, and Burundi Leadership Training Program, held the first series of Localization workshops in the Gitega and Ngozi provinces as well as the capital, Bujumbura. The participants included governors, mayors, community leaders, traditional and religious leaders, the security sector, and women leaders. The workshops served as basic awareness-raising on UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and the Burundi National Action Plan (NAP), which at the time was a draft waiting for adoption, as well as an opportunity to come up with specific strategies for implementation of the NAP when adopted.
One of the main recommendations of the 2010 workshops in Gitega and Ngozi was to come up with a set of guidelines for integration of the Burundi NAP and UNSCR 1325 and 1820 into communal development plans.  A document entitled Guide Pratique pour l’Intégration des Résolutions 1325 et 1820 du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies dans les Plan Communaux de Développement Communautaires au Burundi was subsequently drafted by the two consultants who had served as resource persons in the 2010 workshops. With the objective to solicit concrete input from the participants on the content and usefulness of the document, the document was to be field tested in a provincial level workshop in Cankuzo and in a communal workshop in Cibitoke situated on the border to the DRC, the following week.

The workshop included a session on the notion of gender, discussions of the two resolutions and the Burundi National Action Plan on 1325 and 1820, presentations on the role of communal councils in implementation of issues of women and peace and security, and sessions on the actual guidelines.

Participants agreed that having a document that would guide local communities in the implementation of the NAP and the resolutions would be beneficial, but recommended that a shortened and more user-friendly version be made available. The necessity of translating all policy related materials into Kirundi was also highlighted repeatedly.

In addition to coming up with recommendations on how to improve the guidelines, participants made other recommendations in order to operationalize the Localization of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 Guidelines. Some recommendations included putting in place committees at the colline level, including female leaders, to monitor actions taken to integrate the WPS resolutions into communal planning; forming Community and Family Development Centers with the mandate to conduct awareness raising on UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and the Burundi NAP; advocating for the Ministries of Finance and Planning; Interior; and National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender to prepare a joint statement inviting municipalities to incorporate in UNSCR 1325 and1820 into the communal development planning process; and including the Guideline on UNSCR 1325 and 1820 integration into the “Handbook for Municipal Planning.

The guidelines that have been endorsed by the Government (Ministry of Finance and Planning) will serve as a reference for local authorities in integrating the NAP 1325 and 1820 into community development plans. GNWP and its partners hope to be able to further field test the Guidelines in an additional three regional workshops in 2013, in order to guarantee full local ownership of the document.

GNWP and its members and partners in Burundi thank the Government of Canada for supporting the Localization Program in Burundi.

Towards Ratification of CEDAW for South Sudan

February 2, 2013; Juba Regency Hotel – Juba, South Sudan

By Selamawit Tesfaye

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in collaboration with EVE Organization for Women Development organized a consultation session among civil society organizations at the Juba Regency Hotel on February 2, 2013. The consultation had the objective of raising awareness on CEDAW as well as to identify advocacy strategies around the ratification of the Convention. The training started with a presentation on the introduction and background of CEDAW. Participants were able to gain an understanding of the basic elements of the CEDAW – rights and freedoms enshrined, the role of the Committee, the use of General Recommendations, the Optional Protocol among others. The presentation also included best practices in the use of CEDAW in stopping violence against women, promoting girls’ education, improving health care for women, improving women’s lives at work, and protecting women’s legal rights.

It was startling to note that only 4 women out of the 15 CSO participants have heard of the CEDAW in their line of work and noted that they are engaged in most of the activities related to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention but are not aware of the instrument itself. They cited that previously the Operation Lifeline, the UN-SPLM aid cooperation for South Sudan, had provided some rules of procedure such as the Geneva Convention and some other human rights instruments making a link to the respect of human rights especially rights of civilians. They also noted that since South Sudan at the moment is drafting its Constitution, now is the time to break the silence and start awareness creation and popularization of the instrument.

Furthermore, during the referendum, one of the government’s promises was to protect and promote women’s rights and also ratify the CEDAW, which in turn galvanized a lot of women’s votes in favor of separation. It was noted that the South Sudanese government wanted to distinguish itself from the North, which is not friendly towards the ratification of CEDAW and thus should be held accountable to its promises.

Another important development that came out of this is the need for enhanced exchange of information that is lacking at the moment in South Sudan. There is also a huge capacity gap that needs to be addressed within the government and other relevant stakeholders, as there are some CSOs who have already initiated advocacy strategies on the CEDAW. Thus, instead of reinventing the wheel, the need for tapping into these kinds of initiatives was acknowledged.

All of the participants agreed on the importance of having the CEDAW ratified to alleviate the promotion and protection of women’s rights in South Sudan.  Even though there are a lot of competing interests at the moment, participants identified two entry points in kicking off their activities towards the ratification of CEDAW. The first is integrating CEDAW education in all their current work while the second is identifying relevant stakeholders that needs to be targeted for advocacy strategies on the CEDAW – the Ministry of Gender Child and Social Welfare; Constitutional Review Commission, Parliament, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus; Ministry of Justice; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For now all the parties have identified the steps and are willing to work together on pushing for the ratification of CEDAW for South Sudan. Let’s hope that a the relevant Ministries and other stakeholders are committed to ratify the CEDAW and enhance the promotion and protection of women’s rights in South Sudan.

South Sudan CSOs demand greater representation in 1325 national action planning

By Mavic Cabrera Balleza

“The voices of rural women need to be heard in this 1325 National Action Planning   process. We need to make sure that their voices are heard because they are the ones who suffer in the conflict. They will also be the implementors of the NAP.’”  Veronica  Anni Michael from Self Help Women Development , a women’s organization based in the West Equatorial state commented emphatically during the first national conference on South Sudan’s NAP on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security held in Juba, South Sudan from January 29-31, 2013.

The Joint Donor Team for South Sudan in collaboration with Eve Organization for Women Development, the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare, and UN Women organized the NAP UNSCR 1325 conference. The conference participants representing national and state level CSOs, government ministries and UN agencies identified the pillars of the NAP namely, participation, protection, prevention and relief and recovery as well as the priority issues under each pillar. Sexual and gender-based violence, access to justice, access to education and women’s political participation particularly in constitution building were some of the issues identified. The importance of the participation of rural women and traditional leaders was also highlighted throughout the conference.

Another key point in the discussion is the need to guarantee financing for the NAP implementation and the need to link NAP financing to the “New Deal,” the new aid architecture for post-conflict countries or fragile states. The session on Integrating UNSCR 1325 and NAP into the New Deal Implementation was presented by Dewi Suralaga of Cordaid. At the moment, South Sudan’s NAP process does not have a budgetary allocation. To address this situation, the National Steering Committee for the NAP will explore the formation of an International Consortium composed of donors, international CSOs and UN agencies  that will generate quick financial, technical and other forms of support. For the longer term, other financing modalities such as the Multistakeholders Financing Mechanism will be considered.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Betty Achan Ogwaro and Deputy Minister of Gender and Social Welfare Priscilla Nyanyang Joseph, were two of the high-level officials who attended the national conference. Minister Ogwaro highlighted the role of women’s organizations like Eve and GNWP in tirelessly lobbying for the implementation of UNSCR 1325.

Following the NAP 1325 national conference, South Sudanese CSOs participated in a  NAP strategy session facilitated by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). The CSO strategy session allowed the South Sudanese CSOs to discuss and reflect on their participation in the NAP process.  They came up with additional issues they want reflected in South Sudan’s NAP 1325 and 1820 such as protection for peace activists and women human rights defenders; and the need to integrate implementation of women’s rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights norms into the NAP 1325. A key output at the CSO strategy session on the NAP 1325 was the CSO Statement that will be presented to the National Steering Committee on the NAP 1325. The statement outlines CSO contributions to the NAP process  and calls for an increase in the number of CSO representatives to the National Steering Committee. Currently, there is only one CSO representative out of the 24 members of the National Steering Committee.

The Addis Cooperation Agreement and the NAP 1325 and 1820

The CSO Strategy Session also included a discussion on the Addis Cooperation Agreement between South Sudan and the Sudan. There is a strong link between the NAP and the Addis Cooperation Agreement because women’s participation in peace negotiations such as the Addis negotiations is a key pillar of the NAP 1325.  There are no women members in the peace negotiation panels in Addis. Moreover, there is an overarching concern that majority of South Sudanese are not aware or do not understand the agreements. The staff of the Institute for Inclusive Security and a member of the Women Leaders’ Network served as resource persons in the discussion on the Addis Cooperation Agreement.

Ratification of CEDAW in South Sudan

The South Sudan CSO Working Group on 1325 also held a consultative discussion to develop an advocacy strategy for the ratification of CEDAW in South Sudan. They agreed on the following next steps: integrate CEDAW in their respective organizations’ capacity building initiatives; build partnership with the South Sudan Women Lawyers’ Association, Constitutional Review Commission, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus,  Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Gender, National Human Rights Commission among others. Please see  blog on CEDAW in South Sudan.

Arabic version of South Sudan civil society monitoring of 1325 launched 

The South Sudan civil society 1325 monitoring committee led by Eve Organization for Women Development in partnership with GNWP launched the Arabic version of South Sudan civil society monitoring of 1325 during the first national conference on South Sudan’s NAP 1325. The Arabic version was welcomed by all the conference participants as an important tool in raising awareness of the resolution. “This is a very useful document.  Arabic is the language that rural women in South Sudan speak, “ said Zeinab Yussin Hagelsafi, an officer from the South Sudan Land Commission.

The CSO Strategy Session, the translation and printing of the Arabic version of South Sudan civil society monitoring of 1325 and the consultative discussion on CEDAW were facilitated by the Gobal Network of Women Peacebuiders with support from Cordaid, ICCO, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

GNWP conducts community focused capacity building trainings and media awareness-raising campaign in Liberia

October 2012

By Helena Gronberg

As we approach Gbarnga City in Bong County, the GNWP members I am traveling with tell me that we are entering the part of the country that used to be Charles Taylor’s stronghold. Although Liberia has been peaceful for over 10 years, and Charles Taylor is far away having been convicted of war crimes in The Hague, knowing this detail feels a bit eerie. Indeed, Charles Taylor’s name is to come up many more times during the three-day community focused capacity building workshop we are about to hold.

We have come to Gbarnga to conduct the second of two community focused capacity building workshops on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820. In 2009 Liberia adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325. As the second in Africa, the LNAP was celebrated as a great achievement and launched with much fanfare during the International Colloquium on Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in March 2009. The NAP implementation however, has all but stalled since then. At local level the resolutions and the LNAP, which are supposed to promote women’s participation, protect women and girls’ rights and prevent and protect women from sexual violence, remain unknown and sexual violence rates have increased over the past years rather than decreased. Much more awareness raising is needed especially in the rural communities.

Against this backdrop, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and its members in Liberia, the Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC), the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) and Voice of the Voiceless (VOV) are carrying out a media (TV and radio) awareness campaign to help increase knowledge on the principles of LNAP and UNSCR 1325 and 1820 at national and local level. A primary goal of the campaign is to promote women’s participation in decision-making; protection of women and girls’ rights; prevention of conflict; prevention of and protection from sexual violence; and to ensure state accountability in regards to the implementation of the Resolutions.  After completing the radio- and television spots we are now field testing the programs in two community focused capacity building workshops in Grand Bassa and Bong counties. We hope to solicit feedback on the programs from various actors at local level in order to improve the messages of the campaign. Additionally the workshops serve as awareness raising fora. Sessions on conflict analysis; the background and content of UNSCR 1325; and the Liberia National Action Plan are conducted as participatory sessions using song and dance. Participants also discuss strategies on how the content of the LNAP and UNSCR 1325/1820 can be shared with others in the communities.

The issue of sexual and gender-based violence comes up repeatedly in the workshop. While I have been aware of the seriousness of the issue here in Liberia and that sexual violence rates have increased since the cessation of the conflict I am stunned at some of what I hear. It is agreed that perpetrators are not punished severely enough and that sexual- and gender based violence, especially rape and domestic violence, has become startlingly widespread. Additionally, one can see an alarming and shifting pattern among rape victims in Liberia. While rape was endemic during Liberia’s long civil war, ten years since the end of the conflict children now make up the majority of the victims. According to Doctors Without Borders, nine out of every 10 rape victims treated in Liberia in 2011 were under 18 years old. Many cases still go unreported due to fear of stigmatization and retribution. A lot of families will take money from the accused rather than press charges.

What really strike me though are the comments that are made in regards to Taylor’s conviction at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I am told that there is a common sentiment that “by raping you will become famous and get to travel the world.” I ask our GNWP members if people seriously think this way and the answer is yes. “Look at Taylor, he is on the news and even fathered a child while in prison.” This kind of thinking is chilling and detrimental to any society, particularly one struggling with coming to terms with its violent past.

During the three days we get substantial feedback on the TV and radio programs. We are especially encouraged to produce the radio spots in as many local languages as possible as more than thirty languages are spoken in Liberia. “One thing lot of people have in common is the radio”, says John Bookman Marpu, a Peace Studies Major at Cuttington University and a local journalist. “People listen to the radio. The power of the radio cannot be underestimated. It reaches thousands of people at one time. These short messages about empowering women and respecting their rights, I think they are effective.”

GNWP and its members thank the Folke Bernadotte Academy of Sweden for supporting the media awareness raising campaign and the community focused capacity building workshops in Liberia.