Friday, April 8, 2011

Women in Peace Building Is Imperative

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA (MB)- The role of women in peace building is imperative, hence their rights need to be protected and guaranteed says Isatou Bittaye of Peace Ambassadors of The Gambia, vice chairperson of Kanifing/Banjul Zone.
 She was presenting a paper “on women in peace building” recently at a two days training, held at the Governor’s office in West Coast Region in Brikama as part of ongoing recruitment process 2010-2011 organised by Peace Ambassadors The Gambia (PAG).

She cited that the lives of children are jeopardized when women are not protected and when women’s contributions peace building are undermined and marginalized.
Women, she added, play significant role in peace making, peace keeping and peace building citing examples of women that took part in peace mission in many conflict zones in the continent.
According to her, they are the caregivers and caretakers of families at household level during conflict adding that women negotiate for peace in conflict situation in their homes between household heads and their children and among children themselves.
In traditional African societies, she remarked that women contribute to peace building by instilling good morals and values in their children and making them responsible members of the community.
She positioned that women taught their daughters and sons, proper behaviour and the ethos of society, and impressed on them the importance of such values as honesty, uprightness and the necessity to compromise.
In addition, women have always been active promoters of harmony in the community, which can be referred to as a culture of peace.
According to Bittaye, African women’s roles as mothers, wives, and aunts were put to effective use in peace building and conflict resolutions in traditional African societies noting that they (women) participated in firmly in inculcating the culture of peace in the children and in the practice of conflict mediation among warring factions within the family and the community.
She went on to explain that women also commanded important positions in conflict resolution rituals and membership of peace envoys in traditional Africa.
She says “it is argued that if women are given the chance they can do the same in our own context, to the greater glory of peace and tranquility in our modern society.”
Consequently, African women pose as latent resources for peace building and conflict resolutions in Africa today.
According to her, women have learned that any form of war and violence is a gender differentiated actively in which they are mostly the victims and that necessitated their contribution in conflict situations.
She noted that women have used their roles as caregivers to support peace in the homes and communities and has joined efforts to promote peace in many parts of Africa.
She added that women participated in peace keeping operations and make tremendous contribution during conflict situations adding that women were part of United Nations contingents sent for peace keeping operations in conflict regions in Africa citing Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Liberia, she buttressed.
She recalled, during the conflict in Liberia, United Nations deployed about 100 Indian policewomen as first women-only peace keeping contingent to the mission in Liberia, also stating that Nigeria, also deployed an all-women police contingent to support the Africa Union in Darfur in 2007, and in 2010, The Gambia, deployed about 47 all-women peacekeeping contingent to Darfur.
  Bittaye pointed out that women from other African counties were part of United Nations peace keeping operations in the conflict regions and have contributed significantly in keeping peace.
 She alluded that women peacekeepers make positive difference to peacekeeping and that women’s presence peacekeeping missions improve access and support for local women noting that these measures have made huge improvements in the plight of women in peacekeeping operations in that they ‘ensured that all parts of an operation are aware of gender dimensions of their work.”
According to her, women peace keepers can help the mission enhance its ability to communicate with the entire host community, gather information, and handle situations in which sensitivity to gender considerations is critical.
With more female military observers, she said, local women may experience fewer difficulties in reporting sexual violence and abuse.
She mentioned that the presence of more female UN soldiers helps facilitate the screening at cantonment sites where demoblisations take place adding that the increased level of women serving in civilian posts combined with the establishment of gender offices to ensure the integration of a gender perspective into all aspects of peacekeeping.
These, she said has also contributed to the empowerment of women in countries hosting peacekeeping missions.
These gains, she buttressed, can be seen in the fact that in these once war- ravaged countries, more women’s advocacy groups are being strengthened, women are becoming increasingly represented in the police and civic service.
The challenges facing women in peace building are numerous and that hinders their effective contribution on peace building adding that women are at risk of gender-based violence in conflict situations, and women and girls face different risk compared to men and boys due to gender stereotypes. 
She adds, during conflict, women are given the responsibility to take care of family, they have higher risks of being abducted, kidnaps, injures by landmines, displaced, sexually abused, or torture during long working  hours to collect water, firewood, or food, and they do not have weapons, and many are abounded by their husbands.

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