Uganda: Harnessing women’s power for human security in post conflict settings

21 August 2009

Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng from Isis Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange outlines how this local NGO ensured women’s voices were included in the peace process, and spearheaded the creation of a task force. (Isis WICCE is a member of IANSA Women’s Network).

Introduction

The UN has continued to recognize the power that women have in supporting a sustainable and peaceful world . Even way before in 2000, when the UN put in place UNSCR 1325, with the aim of reminding states of the crucial roles women play in conflict and post conflict settings, and urging the states to involve women in post conflict processes, the women’s movement across the world had informally organized and responded to many aspects that the resolution highlighted. This is evident in the influence women’s leadership has had in shaping the world’s direction through the UN systems, the state’s machineries and other bodies. It is the women’s engagement with the UN on issues pertaining to women’s human rights in situations of armed conflict that informed the process of enacting the UNSCR1325.

However, 9 years thereafter, women’s organizations still continue to beg for recognition at the peace table; in the DDRR processes; involvement in the conceptualization of the UNSCR 1325 national action plans; and their participation in the missions. Surprisingly, even after proving their potential as defenders of rights and informal, but effective brokers of peace processes.

Isis – WICCE contribution to the Juba peace Process in Uganda

Like many such organizations, Isis – WICCE has continued to inspire women war survivors to use alternative approaches to implement some of the aspects in the resolution. The best example to cite is the Juba Peace process, between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s resistance Army, Let by Joseph Kony, where initially, there was no recognition of ordinary women in Uganda to participate in the negotiations, despite the fact that majority of those who suffered the consequences of the dispute of the two warring factions are women. The transformational nature of women prompted women’s organizations to mobilize into a women’s peace coalition, led by the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), to inform the process even when absent at the negotiation table.

Documentation, which is Isis – WICCE’s strength, provided the solution. Through the coalition, consultations with the survivors of armed conflict were carried out on different agenda items of the negotiations (Justice, Reconciliation, Accountability and Comprehensive solution). The unique values and perspectives of women’s participation were taped, and they presented their solutions to the problems to the negotiation table through visual communication (video clips).

The coalition members made sure that the video clips were shared to every powerful member of the negotiation team; from His Excellency Mr Chissano; the mediator, Dr Reik Machar; the government team lead led by Dr Ruhakana Rugunda; the Lord Resistance Army and strategic UN departments. These voices shaped the negotiations processes. Hearing and seeing ordinary women speak out in an analytical manner challenged the negotiators to focus more on a collective way of rebuilding the region and Uganda as a whole, an issue that usually attracts less attention in many peace negotiation agreements.

The virtual engagement made sure most of the recommendations made by the women (and men), were in put in the final Agreement, and both parties agreed on a framework to rebuild the region – the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP). Unfortunately, the signing of the agreement did not happen and the peace process I would say went in hibernation.

Engendering the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP)

This did not stop Isis – WICCE passion to continue engagement for that would bring about social justice and restoration of individuals dignity. Therefore the organisation went ahead to mobilize women peace coalition and other organizations to continue the journey of positioning women’s concerns in the post conflict processes, even when the national action plan on UNSCR 1325 was not in place.

Realizing the blind nature of the framework in responding to the needs and concerns of women in post conflict setting, Isis – WICCE made a gender and women’s human rights analysis of the framework – the PRDP , a framework that establishes guiding principles, the institutional framework and the strategic objectives for any future peace building, recovery and development interventions in the region and beyond.

The purpose was to identify the gender gaps of the framework, and to further identify opportunities that the PRDP implementation process could offer to advance gender equality and women’s rights in Northern Uganda. Two key gaps included;

  • Inadequate address of women and girls’ needs and interests in the policy framework.
  • Continuous sexual and gender based violence, and use of arms to violate women’s rights with impunity;

This prompted Isis-WICCE to hold a consultative meeting with the women’s movement, and invited the office of the prime minister (office in charge of implementation of the PRDP), to discuss the gaps in the framework and agree on the way forward.

The meeting resolved to institute a Task Force, spearheaded by Isis – WICCE, to ensure that consolidated data on the continuous marginalization of the needs of women and girls is collected, and making sure the national plan of action uses the data to inform the implementation process, particularly on the inclusion of women in decision making and responding to their concerns and needs. This process I presume provided an in put to the construction of the national plan of action, which we are informed, will soon be launched.

Formation of the Task Force to spearhead the PRDP Advocacy Process

The formed Task force went in full swing and engaged the Prime Minister’s office to recognize, involve and work with women’s organization. The Task Force argued that all the process should be based on awareness of the needs of the PRDP beneficiaries and their concerns in the post conflict management. Consequently the office of the Prime minister reconsidered and approved women’s representation to 4 key implementation committees of the PRDP, namely, the PRDP Monitoring Committee; The technical working Group; the Karamoja integrated Disarmament programme and the Northern Uganda Data Centre committee.

The Task force has just concluded the participatory gender equality and women’s needs assessment in the region. Its main objective was to identify the main priority gender equality and women’s issues/needs in Northern Uganda, in order to map out strategies and appropriate interventions and mechanisms to guide the process. The preliminary findings point to the need for more participation of women in the implementation process. Women survivors continue to suffer all forms of violence including the use of small arms. There is a new wave of killings mostly women and girls, and removing their body parts. Recently it was reported in the national paper – the New Vision that a total of 53 persons mostly women were found dead with some body parts missing. Such circumstance continues to traumatize women and hinder their participation.

Conclusion

The implementation of UNSCR 1325 will only make meaning to women survivors of armed conflict if the special roles of women in prevention, resolution of conflict and peace building are appreciated and taken seriously. Proliferation of small arms is not only a mainstream security concern. It is a community concern. Therefore, it is a right of members of the community to be educated, and equally participate and listened to when planning for redress. Whereas we do recognize the government of Uganda efforts in combating the proliferation of small arms in the region, a lot more needs to be done.

Involving women in the process of identifying, mobilising and sensitizing communities about the ills of these arms will go a long way in address this scourge. Women’s effective involvement requires women to be freed from violation, their security assured while carrying out their responsibilities, and their capacity enhanced. Prevention from violence, protection and participation is their fundamental right, and is the basis to the enacting of the UNSCR 1325.

Source:
Isis WICCE