FemWise-Africa: Strengthening women participation in conflict mediation

According to UN Women, women’s participation in mediation is essential for achieving lasting, positive peace, which goes well beyond just the silencing of guns. Women are crucial partners in economic recovery, social cohesion, and political legitimacy, and women’s participation in a mediation process can help ensure that more and diverse members of the community become engaged in peacemaking. This, in turn, can build the credibility of the process and increase local ownership of the process and its results. An inclusive mediation process brings a fuller understanding of the deep-rooted causes of conflict and the different experiences during conflict, as well as facilitates creative and holistic solutions to conflict.

Non-Aligned Movement has stressed the importance of ensuring meaningful participation of women in all stages of the peace process and systematically integrating women in conflict mediation efforts, including those pertaining to analysis, planning, implementation and establishing sustainable peace. NAM attaches great significance to the Gender Strategy of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission adopted on September 7, 2016. The gender strategy seeks to strengthen the Commission’s engagement on gender-related aspects of peacebuilding by ensuring an inclusive approach which takes into account women’s perspectives, including their specific needs and promote gender equality in order to make peacebuilding more effective.

In line with the above principles, African Union has undertaken a landmark decision to establish FemWise-Africa (Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation) which aims to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts in the context of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Established in July 2017, the Network provides a platform for strategic advocacy, capacity building and networking aimed at enhancing the implementation of the commitments for women’s inclusion in peace making in Africa. This initiative was established to ensure that peace processes in Africa are shaped by women’s leadership and participation.

FemWise-Africa is part of the African Peace and Security Architecture in order to create entry points for female leaders from all sectors of society to more effectively access and take part in peace efforts; to foster a ‘critical mass’ of African women qualified to take part in formal mediation and conflict prevention processes; and to raise the awareness and visibility of the key role women can play for the success of such processes.

At the time of its inception, FemWise-Africa identified the following priorities: 1); Professionalizing the role of women in preventive diplomacy and mediation at Tracks 1, 2 and 3 levels; 2) Ensuring a channel for women’s meaningful and effective participation in peace processes, including as heads of official high-level mediation missions; 3) Initiating women’s action that will catalyse and mainstream the engagement of women in mediation in line with the African Union’s “Agenda 2063” and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); 4) Bridging the gap between Tracks 1, 2 and 3 mediation and synergizing efforts towards inclusive peace processes with sustainable outcomes. 5) Strengthening the mediation interventions of FemWise-Africa with the facilitation of Quick Impact Projects and the establishment of local and national peace infrastructures as foundations and Launchpad for medium- and longer-term initiatives that will ensure that stability and development take root.

The international community has lauded the FemWise-Africa initiative. On February 9, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutters during his address at the 33rd African Union Summit commended the efforts of the African Women Leaders Network and FEMWISE-AFRICA in strengthening the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation.

FemWise-Africa has been successful in its objectives. Members of FemWise-Africa were an integral part of the AU Election Observer Mission for the Namibian Presidential & Parliamentary Elections in 2019. One of the greatest achievements of FemWise has been the long-term deployment of its three members to support the AU Liaison Offices in Sudan and South Sudan respectively. FemWise is the only network of women mediators globally, that has deployed members on a long-term basis to support formal peace processes.

By Dr. Pawan Mathur

Photo Credit : twitter.com/FemWiseAfrica

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