During her visit to Interpeace’s headquarters in Geneva in March 2015, Nènè Konaté the Executive Director of the Malian Institute of Action Research for Peace (IMRAP) took time to share her thoughts about the peace process in her country and the release of the report on “Self-portrait on Obstacles to Peace in Mali.”
Noam Shuster is a peacebuilder in Israel. She speaks about the creative strategies she uses to promote peace in marginalized communities in her country.
Fatuma Adbulkadir Adan talks about innovative methods of promoting peace and development in Kenya. She tells us how she organized football programmes with special rules that reward fair play and team work. By doing this Fatuma empowers youth to solve conflicts without resorting to violence.
This past Friday, Interpeace’s local partner in Timor-Leste, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), held a National Validation Workshop with the goal of helping women to participate in the democracy process within the country. Coinciding with the International Day of Peace, the event marked the third phase in an innovative research project, which looks specifically at how to engage women in democratic processes at the local level as active citizens.
Incorporation of Peace Day
In concordance with International Peace Day on 21 September, CEPAD chose the theme of “Promoting the Voices of Women for Peace” for the workshop. All participants wore a white and blue ribbon, signifying a commitment to peacebuilding. Each attendee was also invited to write a message of what peace means to them to be displayed on a large cloth dove inside the venue, with the messages representing the dove’s feathers. This allowed participants to think about peace within a local context but also consider its global implications.
Panel workshops lead to self-empowerment
The first panel of the workshop included João Boavida, Executive Director of CEPAD, as well as numerous other speakers involved in women’s issues and government. This panel was then followed by a second group consisting of Joana Maria Viegas, a CEPAD researcher, along with three female representatives from the different regions of Timor-Leste. Sra. Me. Guilhermina Marçal, Provincial Superior of the Canossian Sisters and first speaker at the workshop, inspired participants when she stated: “Women hold the key. The key for peace, the key to democray. Women’s laughter grows peace in the world.”
Idea behind the research
After a long struggle for independence, Interpeace local partner CEPAD has supported the consolidation of democracy within federal and local government structures. Recently, CEPAD has been looking into the role women can play in the consolidation of democracy at the community level, moving the focus away from formal structures to active citizenship. Through CEPAD’s series of workshops, women are encouraged to think deeply about how they can actively participate in democracy and the workshops allow participants to understand the meaning of democracy within everyday life.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security adopted on 31 October 2000. The Interpeace initiative in Cyprus, Cyprus 2015, seized the opportunity to advocate for the vital role of women in post-conflict reconstruction processes and to promote greater social inclusion and participation in the peace process.
Women participation: perceptions and realities
Cyprus 2015 has recently conducted surveys on the perceptions of the peace process of both men and women from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in terms of values, hopes, fears, and outlook of the peace process.
“Our research suggests that gender discrepancies do exist. For instance, Turkish Cypriot women seem to fear that a settlement of the Cyprus question may lead to economic failure, while Greek Cypriot women are more concerned with renewed conflict and domination by the other side”, explains Erol Kaymak, Research Co-Director of Cyprus 2015. In terms of the outlook of the peace process, the gender difference seems more striking he continues, as “women were found to be at significantly lower knowledge levels than men in both communities regarding the events of the peace process.”
Moving forward: integrating a gender perspective in the peace talks
In order to allow for greater societal input and thus provide new impetus to the peace process, Cyprus 2015 recommends the adoption of a National Action Plan within the framework of the negotiations.
“The establishment of a working group for a gender perspective which would work towards the adoption of a mutually binding framework would entail the broad participation of civil society and relevant stakeholders”, said Ahmet Sözen, Co-Director of Cyprus 2015. Funding would be required from both communities as to ensure mutual trust and commitment, “but it is a first step in working towards greater inclusion of women,” according to Alexandros Lordos, Co-Director of Cyprus 2015.
In and of itself, the development and implementation of a National Action Plan in Cyprus may not transform relations overnight, “but it could serve to galvanize advocates of a new set of norms, reinforcing democratization and participatory processes, both of which could prove to be invaluable assets in guiding Cyprus out of conflict into the realm of sustainable peace and a sustainable future”, added Giorgos Filippou, Senior Researcher of Cyprus 2015.
For more detailed information, the complete policy brief on Gender Participation in the Peace Talks by Cyprus 2015 can be found here (PDF, English).
In late 2007, a pilot activity was launched by Interpeace and its Rwanda partner, the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP). The Biba Amahoro project, which means ‘plant the seed of peace’ in Kinyarwanda, aims to strengthen the role of Rwandan women in peacebuilding efforts.
Each woman is an active community member. Each comes from a different part of the country and from a different background: there is a member of the local administration, teachers who are also engaged in IRDP’s activities as facilitators of a dialogue club or of a school club, an active civil society representative, and a young woman who manages an orphanage. In November 2007, they spent two weeks with the IRDP team where each woman was assigned to one of IRDP’s staff members and followed his/her activities. They also attended a forum of debate organized by IRDP.
In December 2007 they travelled to Kenya with the IRDP researcher responsible for the pilot activity. The Interpeace team in Nairobi exposed them the work of other peacebuilding organizations in Nairobi and in the Wajir region, in the North of Kenya. In Wajir they met local organizations working on conflict prevention with youth, women, religious leaders, and with elders. These organizations, which have more than a decade of experience in the region, gave inspiration to the Rwandan women about the kinds of projects they can develop within their own community.
A training event is planned for summer 2008 and they will develop the ideas for a micro-project that they want to develop in their community.