Female Activists Highlight Importance of Women's Involvement in Peace Solutions

Some female activists speaking at the webinar conference

Counting down to the Gender Equality Forum 2021, a cross-section of panelists in a webinar titled, “Sharing the Road to Peace, Exploring Shared Priorities and Collaboration across Region,” calls for genuine progress on women’s peace and security agenda.

The Northern Ireland Women European Platform (NIWEP) and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) hosted the webinar. It explored what peace means to women in post-conflict regions, emphasizing how similar themes feature different contexts and cultural structures. 

It also featured how sharing information, learning and collaboration across regions can help build the Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda for the 2020s. 

Panel discussants included Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Peace Appeal, Lifelong Peace Activists and International Advisory Council member, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; Prof. Aisling Swaine, University College Dublin; Agnieszka Fal - Dutra Santos, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; Yah V. Parwon, a Liberian feminist and Advocacy Lead at Medica Liberia; Adele Kibasumba, President of Mahoro Peace Association and Jimbere Fund. 

Adele Kibasumba, an activist and President of Mahoro Peace Association from DR Congo, expressed hope that women would not have to hold mass sit-ins to be heard in the next ten to twenty years. But their involvement should be an approach for governments or communities to accept that women bring a different approach that is non-violent and is saving lives.

“That is my wish, and it's not just the government -- also the community should feel that way. Before male counterparts start bickering among themselves or fighting among themselves, they should involve women,” she added. 

As an approach to peace, women should be the new normal instead of using it as the last means, Kibasumba concluded. 

Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, also noted that the women's agenda is still underfunded. Stakeholders need to increase women's participation and gender perspectives to enhance peace solutions.

However, Santos said her wish in ten years is to prevent war, violence against women, and conflict.

She continued that the shifting culture means peace is more, adding that “changing this culture and changing what we mean by peace and security” is shifting towards a more comprehensive human security lens when talking peace and security.

For her part, Prof. Aisling Swaine of the University College Dublin called for more synergies between the women's peace and security agenda and other human rights instruments such as CEDAW. 

In the next ten to twenty years, her wish is to see more synergy and acceptance at the level of the United Nations that it is okay to concurrently implement CEDAW and the women's peace and security agenda. She emphasised that there is no need to have a false dichotomy and division that human rights happen separately from security; states must adhere to their commitments to human rights and security. 

Representing Liberia on the panel, Ms. Yah Parwon of Medica Liberia said her vision for the women's peace and security agenda in the next ten or twenty years is to see governments give due consideration to the full spectrum of the women’s peace and agenda. 

Drawing her experience from the Ebola and Coronavirus crises, Parwon recalled how the health crises posed a threat to women’s peace and security; however, national plans to combat the health crisis rarely consider the impacts on women’s peace and security. 

Amplifying her point, the Medica Liberia advocacy lead shared the experience of a woman who gave birth in the open after being turned away by so many hospitals during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, lost her baby and almost lost her life. 

This experience moved Medica Liberia to lobby for funds and support a women-owned hospital to keep their doors open during the Ebola epidemic.

She further added that the experience is used to reflect on the impact of the crisis, such as the Ebola epidemic and coronavirus pandemic, on women's peace and security. 

Parwon stated that most governments are far from seeing the women's peace and security agenda through such a nuanced lens and reiterated her wish that governments give due consideration to the full spectrum of the agenda. 

She pointed out that Liberian women are noted for contributing to bringing peace to the country, especially since the civil war in the country, thus stressing the need for more women participation in governance.

She said despite women’s contribution to bringing peace and security in Liberia, they are still not included in decision-making spaces across all sectors. Ms. Parwon lamented that Liberia’s Legislature has one hundred three seats, of which women occupy only ten.

Giving the keynote address, Cora Weiss, President of The Hague Peace Appeal, a lifelong peace activist and International Advisory Council member, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, stated her wish for the women’s peace and security agenda in ten to twenty years. She expressed hope that civil society, women organizations, or individuals would take their governments to court and sue them for not obeying the three Ps of the agenda: Participation of women at all levels of governance and peace tables; Prevention of violent conflict; and Protection of women and girls during conflict. She also called for changing the word security to safety because military security has not kept women safe.