In the pursuit of post-conflict reintegration, gender mainstreaming is key
In my last article, I talked about the many vital reasons women need to be engaged in the peace-building and peace-keeping processes in conflict resolution, giving you the whys. In this article, I will go further to discuss the hows: the best practices for long term sustained peace after a country or region has experienced conflict by engaging gender inclusion in post-conflict reintegration.
Of the world’s thirty-nine active conflicts, thirty-one of them represent recurrences of conflict post-peace settlement agreements. In all thirty-one of those cases, women were excluded from the peace process.
It may be helpful to note that the goal of gender-based programs and national action plans is not only to improve the lives of women but also, to affect the relationship between men and women, especially where barriers to women’s participation in security tend to be high such as in fragile societies.
In the reintegration stage of conflict resolution, gender mainstreaming should be integrated holistically through government, civil society, justice system and security sector through appropriate social programs. Reintegration experts have identified that a lack of political will from some leaders to implement gender laws coupled with weak institutions result in a lack of trust that the system will carry out gender mainstreaming.
The lack of prosecutions of sexual violence and rape offenders during and after war (as an international crime at either national or international level) have also been identified, because of deficient political will by some leaders and decision makers. To combat these and the recurrences of conflict, here are the best practices from peace experts from around the world to keep nations safe and continue building peace by way of gender inclusion as a necessity after a country or region has experienced conflict:
Occurrences of violence do not stop with the signing of peace treaties and agreements. In fact, instances of human trafficking and domestic violence increase during post-conflict period where security measures are not firmly set in place.
Women help to facilitate good relations between traumatized civilians and security services especially when referring to female survivors of war and torture, violence of rape and other sexual assaults.
Nigeria ranks within the top five countries with the highest number of female uniformed personnel-contributing countries to peacekeeping missions.
The high numbers should be accompanied using gender training for both men and women security personnel and mentorship programs to retain and advance women currently in the military and police.
Far too many women are denied assets belonging to their late or disappeared spouses and fathers who are lost to conflict or war. If allowed to take possession of these assets, they can build a post-conflict livelihood.
That is why services such as entrepreneurial training, job search and interview training is essential for women to regain a positive source of income. Research done by the UN Women shows that when women are empowered with the access to new channels of information such as Internet, mobile phones, etc., they tend to use them for educational purposes and ways to enhance their household by way of training and education.
Women, especially those coming out of a state of conflict must be educated with literacy training, financial literacy, business management skills, and land ownership (as collateral and for production) and inheritance rights. Post-conflict, the private sector should seek to engage and facilitate links to local industries and businesses run by women to help grow the economy and further promote gender inclusion in the economy.
There should also be an established alliance between men and women for the sake of sustainability. The empowerment of women in production, financing, information sharing, and finding markets is not an aspect that is only beneficial to the women involved but also builds the national wealth and enhances the steady income of households which eases the pressure from men to support the families alone especially in countries with unstable economies, which can prevent outbreaks of economic- related conflicts.
Safe places for support
There are many classifications of genders but for the sake of the two majorly identified, there needs to be support created for the marginalized of the two. There needs to be formal and informal local networking among women such as via women centres where women can gain access to capital, a sense of support and safety to allow productivity to flow. Such places can also be shelters that offer effective protection and survivor-centred support.
The creation of networks for women facilitates peace because when women mobilize, they galvanize opinion which as we can see from the Women March some weeks back, help change the course of history.
As with esteemed newspapers outlets such as The Guardian, all forms of media and public relations need to be used to build support for women in topics such as joining the police and military, disseminating stories of perpetrators, and addressing them, addressing past wrongs without forcing forgiveness and building awareness of issues by survivors telling their stories through media.
The media can be a tool for educating the public and promoting leaders who speak out against sexual violence and who promote gender equality.
The United Nations estimates that not only have less than 3 percent of signatories to peace agreements been women but that women’s participation in peace negotiations averages less than 8 percent in the eleven peace processes for which such information has been made available (such agreements typically do not address sexual violence).
New strategies to increase the international community’s capacity to respond to violence against women include the use of female interpreters and data collectors, gender advisors, and female police officers.
The rights of women as equal citizens and having gender equality need to be mainstreamed throughout all judicial and legal training.
There should be legislative structures to protect women when they participate in political processes and in line with media exposure, a network of influential men and women can help to raise awareness of rights and political inclusion in a culturally-sensitive manner.
In the post-conflict stage, there needs to be strong advocacy of men and women in leadership at all levels promoting the inclusion of women and men who put forth gender equality agenda through mass education via media, skill building, security, legislation, wealth inclusion and facilitation, social services and more for the betterment and greater good of all in society. In the pursuit of peace, gender mainstreaming is key.