Namibia establishes centre for women, peace and security

SANF 20 no 52 – by Nyarai Kampilipili
In an effort to enhance the participation and involvement of women in peace and security processes, Namibia has established an International Women’s Peace Centre.

The centre, which will serve as an orientation centre for newly appointed peacekeepers before deployment will focus on research aspects of mediation and negotiations, as well as capacity building and supporting women on issues related to gender-based violence during conflict and post conflict.

The launch of the centre on 31 October marks exactly 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The UNSCR 1325 was adopted on 31 October 2000 and was a ground-breaking resolution that was spearheaded by women leaders and organizations to recognise the importance of involving women in international peace and security processes.

The resolution was the first to reaffirm the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace and political solutions as essential for effective peacekeeping and sustainable peace outcomes.

During conflicts, women and children are vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, displacement and poverty.

In addition, women are inadequately represented in mediation and peace-building efforts and most peace agreements lack gender sensitivity and reference to specific needs or interests of women.

Women remain predominantly in the periphery of formal peace processes, even in instances where women have been signatories to peace agreements.

There have been concerted efforts to address these challenges and to provide for more responsive, representative and inclusive peace and security structures and processes.

Despite these efforts towards gender equality and women empowerment, gender violence remains an area of concern and innovation is needed to ensure that women can play their roles as agents of peace at community and national levels.

In the international space, as well as regionally and locally, much remains to be done to broaden the space for women participation in peace processes, including training women mediators and advocating for gender equality measures as critical to security policies and practices.

In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, for example, efforts are being made to enact gender sensitive legislations and ensuring the representation of women in key decision making platforms such as cabinet, parliament, local government, and security sector institutions.

To accelerate the process, SADC developed a regional framework that will serve as a guide on mainstreaming gender into the regional peace and security systems and processes.

The SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018-2022) aims to address challenges experienced by women and children by ensuring full participation in peace and security activities, programmes and projects in the region.

The strategy and its accompanying action plan are to be implemented from 2018-2022 and member states have been urged to develop national action plans and mobilise resources to implement proposed activities at national level.

Southern Africa is making significant progress towards promoting gender equality and equity in the region. However, there is need to maintain the momentum and push forward the regional gender agenda, particularly in issues to do with peace and security.

This requires intensification of regional efforts to mainstream gender into peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes if sustainable peace is to be achieved.

Although progress is being made in the development of strategies that mainstream gender in peace and security matters, the number of women and children being affected by conflict remains high.

High ranking women in the security sector in SADC Member States remains low.

For example, only three SADC member states have had women ministers of defence in the period 2009-2020. These are Botswana, Madagascar and South Africa.

South Africa remains the only country in SADC with a woman Minister of Defence who has held the position since 2012.

In this regard, there is need to include more women in peace processes for gender-sensitive issues to be mainstreamed into negotiations taking into account the challenges posed by COVID-19 which has the potential to reverse the gains made on gender equality since the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

2020 was meant to be a year to commemorate these key instruments, review the achievements made so far on gender equality and women empowerment and the challenges women still face in conflict zones.

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