Exchanging Peace, Exchanging Ideas: The Peace Exchange Component of the Localization of UNSCR 1325 & 1820 Program
April 16, 2016 by Lauren von Eckartsberg and Shabnam Moallem
Amara Sowa spends long hours on his laptop typing up handwritten notes from civil servants from remote rural communities in Sierra Leone. One by one, he enters responses to a survey on the impact of the Localization of the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) since its inception in 2012.
Sowa is the Regional Technical Facilitator of the Decentralization Secretariat in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, one of the partners of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in ensuring that WPS resolutions are effectively implemented in local communities.
In 2012 GNWP brought the localization strategy to Sierra Leone in collaboration with civil society and the government. Implemented in all 19 local districts, the Localization program brought together local officials, paramount chiefs, police officers, women’s organizations, teachers, religious leaders, monitoring and evaluation officers, media, and technical staff to bring the international policies of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and their national counterpart, the SiLNAP down to the local level for sensitization and local ownership of the implementation process.
Among its many accomplishments, the Localization program has produced the Sierra Leone Localization Guidelines
, a practical manual for how to implement SiLNAP at the local district council level. There is also anecdotal evidence that where Localization is implemented, the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence has been reduced. Moreover, there is greater compliance with policies that promote gender equality such as the 50% women’s representation in Ward Committees, which are voluntary committees that meet monthly to serve as support to the local district councilors by providing inputs and discussing council activities.
The GNWP team is in Sierra Leone from 11 to 16 April 2016 to facilitate the Roll Out of the Localization Guidelines in the Northern and Western Regions and to co-organize the National Monitoring workshop on the localization of the SiLNAP, and to establish Regional Steering Committees. These activities will also generate inputs for the next phase of the SiLNAP.
Sowa expresses great satisfaction in his involvement in the Localization of SiLNAP. “It’s a lot of work! But it’s also very rewarding,” he says with a smile. “I go to nearly all districts of the country, discuss the SiLNAP with local leaders, simplify it so they can relate to it and embrace women’s participation in decision-making, prevention of violent conflicts, protection of women and girls from sexual and based violence as their core values in their lives. …I have two-year old twins-a girl and a boy. I really see this as my investment in their future. The principles of the WPS resolutions are as important for boys as they are for girls, for women and men. To see a peaceful, prosperous and gender-equal society is a dream I have for my children. ” Having been a key actor in the localization process in Sierra Leone from the beginning, Sowa has not only been a resource for his own country’s development of localization materials, but he has also been a contributor to the Liberian localization program this past March as part of GNWP’s Peace Exchange program. The Peace Exchange component of the localization program allows for key actors and implementers from different countries to participate in another country’s process to allow for cross learning, information sharing and solidarity building.
Just as Sowa was able to lend his expertise to the Liberians, Adonie Greaves, the Assistant Superintendent for Development in the Grand Bassa County of Liberia is now here in Sierra Leone as a Peace Exchange member to return the favor. Although both following the Localization process, different methods of decentralization and engagement with government officials results in an informative dialogue between the Peace Exchange members and the local officials.
As the workshop ends, participants leave with knowledge and recommendations for implementation strategies from other countries and other districts, and with added energy to go home and better serve their community.
The Localization of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 program in Colombia, Liberia and Sierra Leone is made possible with the support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy of Sweden.