Amb. Tunde OGUNYALE
Today marks the 9th day of the United Nations organized 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The revealing global statistics about the rate and level of inhumanity acts against women as well as the hardship women endure around the world leave no confusion to the fact that women are fast becoming an endangered species! This bitter truth is what gives credence to the UN’s call for the annual, thorough campaign for the elimination of any form of violence against women, and it is a campaign we should all support from our space for the benefit of our world.
It is not a crime to be a woman. No. No one, male or female, deserves to be objectified, mutilated or mangled, or violated. This is constitutional guaranteed and codified in different national and international laws like Chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights etc.
Despite the challenges women face across the world, their impacts and necessary role in peacebuilding and peace processes cannot be overrated. They are naturally built with the possibility of landing a more lasting peace agreement, and are therefore key to peaceful coexistence in our community and nation. There are now thousands of women across the globe from congested cities to moderately populated town, and down to very rural settlements, who are taking the bull by the horn and get themselves involved in active peace education and peacebuilding in order to protect their communities and their own interests as well.
There are many benefits attached to having women in peace processes. I recently read that an International Peace Institute study of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 found that when women are included in peace processes, there is a 35 percent increase in the probability that a peace agreement will last more.
Also, women tend to be more selfless in peace processes. According to a USIP published article, evidence indicates that women participants in peace processes are usually focused less on the spoils of the war and more on reconciliation, economic development, education and transitional justice – all critical elements of a sustained peace.
In addition, adequate representation of women during peace processes encourages proper address of women’s interests. Just before the passage of the UN Women, Peace and Security act in October 2000, a review of 664 peace agreements from 1990-2000 by UN Women noted that only 11% of them included any reference to women’s security and inclusion. And from 1992-2011, only 4% of signatories and less than 10% of negotiators were women! Thus, a fair representation of women during peace processes is important to address women’s interest and give them more recognition.
Furthermore, the presence of women in peacebuilding promotes national security. Through quantitative analysis demonstrated by Professor Valerie Hudson Texas of A&M University, we now know that the security of women is integrally linked to the security of the nations in which they live especially where they are given leadership position and an adequate opportunity at the table to build peace. Research shows that gender equality is a stronger indicator of a state’s peacefulness than other indicators, such as GDP. It therefore means that the more gender sensitive a nation is the more it will enjoy tranquility because everyone who has positive contributions to move the nation forward would have the opportunity to do so irrespective of their gender. We need to understand that the concept of “man” is generic and that we have a “male” man and a “female” man and that both are equal in value and only different in features.
There are numerous examples of women who have – either individually or in group – made significant contributions to peace in their communities and nations. I read about the Bougainville’s women peacebuilders who, when their male folks were busy killing, destroying and raping women, jointly marched to the street silently to protest the war and the use of rape as a weapon in their community. They kept marching as the men were firing. Their action persuaded their husbands and sons and they ended the war. We also have the Colombia women peacebuilding groups who negotiated local ceasefires with armed groups and won the release of hostages. They pressured insurgents to lifts roadblocks and documented human rights violations among other heroic activities
There is also the example of South Sudan women in peacebuilding who through practical support, build peace from below and reconstruct and improve people’s everyday lives. They provide food, shelter, healthcare services, education, economic empowerment and support to victims of sexual and gender -based violence. Some of them have been recognized internationally. In fact, the recipient of USIP’s premier Women Building Peace award presented some months ago, Martin Lopidia, is a South Sudanese. She is a passionate and dynamic civil society leader recognized for being the driving force behind the inclusion of women in the South Sudan peace process.
Women are major catalyst to building lasting and effective peace in any society, and they should also have the chance to make contributions, like their male counterparts, without fear of unnecessary dominance and control by the men folks. They have been underused! For women to maximise their potential in any community peacebuilding process, they must be protected from any form of violence targeted against their gender.
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