“Magnifying Women’s role in Conflict Prevention and Silencing the Guns”
19 NOVEMBER 2020
OPENING REMARKS BY H.E. BINETA DIOP SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION ON WOMEN, PEACE, AND SECURITY
Your Excellency Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Political Affairs,
Ms Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the African Union’
Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you, Mme Commissioner, for inviting me to this important Forum, in a prelude to the 2020 High-Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.
At the outset, I wish to commend the AGA Secretariat for facilitating this discourse and the high-level dialogues over the past few years. This platform has through the years become a valuable space for us to examine our undertakings, reflect on past approaches and explore new opportunities. I am glad that this is happening this year albeit in a different format.
As we engage in our discussions today on the amplification of women’s role in conflict prevention and silencing guns, it is important to remind ourselves that conflict is often very gendered. Men and women experience conflict differently. Women are very often absent from the circles that take the decisions to go to war and those that negotiate settlements. Yet, over the years, women continue to mobilise internationally to achieve global peace and security. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, amongst others, has reaffirmed over the last two decades, the important role women play in preventing conflict and sustaining peace.
Outside formal structures, promoting peace by women often take place in informal systems. In many communities in conflict, women have dared to come together, breaking barriers and striving to heal wounds. In many instances, grassroots advocacy has been instrumental in building relationships and finding mutual understanding. A conversation that looks at the horizon must explore the institutional framework as well as explore critically, but often ignored structures.
The realities of women that have been displaced or forced to migrate are often indescribable. Even though the temporary shelters are made available for refugees and displaced women, uncertainty, food insecurity, and poor living conditions remains an unfortunate part of the lives of women that have been displaced by conflict. Additionally, these women and girls are susceptible to sexual abuse and exploitation and are more likely to be trafficked and engage in sexual transactions for humanitarian favours. Time and again, we have seen a situation where conflicts have resulted in higher levels of sexual violence against women and girls which includes arbitrary killings, torture, femicide, and often led to forced marriage. These situations often force women to organise themselves to safeguard necessities for the livelihood of their communities and to carry out activities related to, for example, education and healthcare.
As we magnify, recognise and applaud, we need to remember that this should not be the norm and these women often do all this work in extremely difficult contexts. We must therefore continue to support women in all forms of formal and informal leadership roles.
We know that we are far from our targets and that we need to accelerate actions to ensure, not only that women leadership in peace processes is fully recognized and acted upon, but that our actions are part and parcel of the Agenda to transform Africa into a peaceful and inclusive continent.
It is in this perspective that, since 2017, the United Nations and the African Union Commission have joined hands in supporting an Africa wide women movement to catalyse the leadership of women, through the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN). I wish to take this opportunity to salute and congratulate my sisters, HE Commissioner Samate and Mme Ahunna, who launched the project to support Women in Governance and Political Participation. Coupled with the undertakings of the Pan African Network of Women Mediators FemWise, I am sure that our combined efforts will amplify women voices and leadership in building peace in Africa.
Women Civil Society Organizations play a vital role and most times these important roles are often underrecognized and undervalued. Despite these, these organisations are often subject to scrutiny and threats in conflict situations and when participating in peace processes women-led organizations are often subjected to intimidation and harassments. We must provide them with our political support and also technical and financial support to ensure that these leaders have the resources necessary to drive action. We must also throw our political weight and influence into actions that protect women groups and women human rights defenders and ensure that their security is not threatened while participating in peace and political processes.
I look forward to our interactions over the next two days, sharing our experiences, exchange knowledge and highlight our areas for support on the road to building better. Time is for action and I do anticipate that our deliberations will bring out solutions and partnerships to scale up actions for peace in Africa.
I thank you for your kind attention.