AU Peace and Security Council 987th Session at the Ministerial level ” Building a Gender-Inclusive Culture of Peace in Africa”


Monday, 22nd March 2021

Your Excellency Amb. Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, Chair of the Peace and Security Council for the month of March 2021.

Your Excellency Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of Namibia, and our Vanguard leader on Women, Peace and Security,

Your Excellencies Ministers here present,

Your Excellency Amb. Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security

Your Excellencies Members of the Peace and Security Council,

Mme Letty Chiwara, UN Women Representative to Ethiopia, AUC and ECA,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Partners,

Representatives from UN Agencies and Regional Economic Commissions;

Representatives from Civil Society Organizations,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

It is with immense pleasure that I join you today for this open session on Women, peace, culture and gender inclusivity. Thank you, Mme Minister Omamo, for convening this session and congratulations to you and Kenya for steering the work of PSC in this month of March, in which we mark International Women’s Day and indeed a Women’s month.

Allow me also to take this opportunity to recognize Mama Netumbo, who is our leader and champion for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, as far as I can remember.

May I also use the floor to congratulate H.E. Ambassador Bankole Adeoye for his election and assumption of office as Commissioner for the Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, a new configuration to federate our continent’s efforts for peace, good governance, inclusion and progress?

I would like to express continued sincere appreciation to Council for institutionalizing this session as an expression of the commitment to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa. These sessions continue to be a mechanism for us to evaluate progress, revitalize our commitment, and strengthen action and implementation towards progress on the agenda.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

In celebrating the African Union Theme of the Year 2021: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa We Want”, it is important to recall that arts and culture are often carriers of the values and expressions of ourselves and our societies. The easiest way to understand society and what society ‘wants’ and holds dear is by looking at the expressions in arts and culture. The opportunity provided by the Theme of the Year, therefore, is to evaluate these expressions and seek conformity with our desired norms as well as our shared values.

In line with Assembly Decision adopting the Solemn Declaration of Gender Equality in Africa and the initiation of the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) in Abuja in 2004 women organizations and leaders continue to meet on the sidelines of the African Union Summit to share perspectives on the AU Theme of the Year. I am happy to report to Council that from the 31st of January to the 2nd of February 2021, women leaders met as part of the 37th GIMAC Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting under the theme “Advancing Africa’s Commitment to Gender Equality and Women’s Rights through Arts, Culture and Heritage’’.

The GIMAC meeting convened women from all backgrounds and, in line with the theme of the year included artists from all backgrounds and genres. Participants at the consultative meeting assessed the state of play with arts and culture on the continent, explored the intersectionality with gender equality and committed to working together across the continent on building change across the sectors. This commitment, therefore, represents one of the earliest coalitions to action in the framework of the African Union Theme of the Year.  

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

To attain a peaceful and prosperous Africa, we should be mindful of the kind of education provided on our continent considering that education can be perceived as a powerful tool for ideological development, as an instrument for imparting skills necessary for economic development and it can also stand as a means for the transmission of cultural values from one generation to the other.

While there are challenges in improving access and quality for formal education, arts and culture provide a platform for driving positive messages with regards to societal norms. We have seen how our young people – including many young women – have been able to fill the yearning for an African identity through movies and music. In many countries, cultural and creative industries achieve an increasingly high growth rate – up to 5% per annum in many African counties – even when other sectors struggle.  I strongly believe it is time to begin to interrogate the message communicated in these artistic expressions. It is important that the message communicated does not glorify violence or gender-based violence (including rape) but speaks to a culture of peace. Doing this requires providing capacity-building support and connections to our various art movements to help them incorporate positive norms into their artistic expressions. In instituting a culture of peace, we need to invest in sensitizing the minds of peoples to see that every human being has inherent dignity, sensitize their lifestyle, their belief systems and the partners associated with it, value systems, behaviours and promote mutual caring as equality that includes an appreciation of societal differences.

As women are disproportionately affected by violence, there is an urgent need for more inclusion of women in open dialogues, including through art, and involving past pain. A willingness to listen on our part can build a lasting bond and a sense of togetherness amongst communities.

Our findings during the compilation of the AUC Chairperson’s Report on the implementation of the Women Peace and Security Agenda on the Continent compiled by my office in the context of the 20th Anniversary for UNSCR 1325 show that there has been some progress in women participation and leadership in the peacebuilding process. Nevertheless, implementation of the participation pillar of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda is hampered by the implementation of the relevant policies needed to integrate gender perspectives into peace and security.

We also found that where progress has been made, it was partly attributable to establishing early warning and response systems that integrate the Women Peace and Security issues at grassroots levels. Across Africa, women at the grassroots level have consistently demonstrated their ability to mobilize for action and drive peace in their communities. As many grassroots movements are bound by recognition of a different heritage and culture, we have realized that there is a great opportunity to incorporate support for cultural expressions into programming, especially at the grassroots. Women, through grassroots movements, can serve as bridges towards common approaches while recognizing these differences and diversity.

Noting that the goal of promoting unity through our diversity is critical to building a culture of peace, it is important that women leadership is highlighted and a gender-responsive approach to preventing violent extremism is incorporated into our approaches. Of the 25 countries we surveyed last year on women leadership in conflict management, only the Republic of South Sudan reported intentionally including women involved in its conflict management processes with about 12% of negotiators and 15% of mediators being women.

These figures are an expression of the status in the world, a clear indication that we are far from targets, defined 25 years ago at the Beijing Conference.

From 1992 to 2019, only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of peace agreement signatories were women.

Yet data indicate that women’s participation in peace negotiations with voice and influence leads to better accord content, higher agreement implementation rates, and longer-lasting peace.

On Participation, data of January 2021 indicate that there are only 51 countries (26%) across the world that have reached 30% and more of women in Parliaments. In Africa, we have 11 countries (Top Five: Rwanda (61.3%); South Africa (45.8%); Namibia (44.2%); Senegal (43%); Mozambique (42.4%)

For Women in Ministerial positions: 63 countries have attained 30% and more. In Africa, we have 17 countries. Top Five: Rwanda (54.8%); Guinea-Bissau (50%); South Africa (48.3%); Mozambique (45.5%); Ethiopia (40%)

Africa is behind in terms of women in peacekeeping operations. While the world average in 2020 was 4.8% in military contingent, the highest proportion we have seen in our peace support operations is 3%, with the Ethiopian contingent in AMISOM.  

I am happy to report that since our last open session in October 2020, my office convened the First Africa Forum on Women, Peace and Security, bringing together key stakeholders of the WPS Agenda in Africa, including the Member States, Regional Economic Communities, Women peacebuilders, women refugees and displaced, Women peacekeepers Youth, Media, Centres of Excellence and Partners, to federate our efforts and define pathways to accelerate actions for peace and transformation in Africa, founded on women role and leadership.

Indeed, throughout a year of unprecedented disruptions by COVID-19, we saw the resilience and solidarity of women and women-led organizations, in the face of an abrupt increase in violence, including in homes that are meant to be safe, that solutions that work are those grounded on a Human security approach and address the livelihoods of families and communities, stressing the peace and development nexus that women excel at.

 Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

As I conclude my contribution, I wish to make some recommendations to Council:

  • We must request Member States to scale up investments in arts and culture as a tool for peacebuilding and also as a vehicle to address harmful practices that continue to affect the lives of women and girls, often shrouded in the name of culture;   
  • Enhance support to community-led activities, particularly those by women organizations in peacebuilding programs and initiatives to encourage grassroots participation and leadership in conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives.
  • Continue to strengthen the role and leadership of women, pushing further Africa gender equality agenda, a sine qua non for shared prosperity for all in Africa;
  • Strengthen monitoring and reporting mechanisms to accelerate delivery of our commitments on women’s rights to peace, through the Women, Peace and Security  Agenda.

Allow me to once more express gratitude to the Peace and Security Council for its commitment to the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Holding this session at the Ministerial level also demonstrates the interest in promoting strong implementation at the Member States level.

I would also like to express our appreciation to all our partners who, through these trying times brought upon us by the pandemic, have continued to support the work of the Union on driving Women, Peace and Security in Africa.

I continue to share the belief that real impact happens with the work of women leaders both at the continental level and in grassroots movements. I, therefore, take this opportunity to thank the women who continue to drive for action despite limited resources.

I thank you for your attention.