Home » Human Rights » Dice Still Loaded Against Women in Peace Building

At 52 percent, Seychelles is the only country in the region to have achieved gender parity in the Prisons and Correctional Services . . .

This is the ninth in a series of articles analysing regional progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The need to ensure equal participation among women and men in peace building and conflict resolution spurred the member states to include Chapter 28 in the SADC Gender Protocol.

The protocol text notes that: “State Parties shall endeavour to put in place measures to ensure that women have equal representation and participation in key decision-making positions in conflict resolution and peace building processes by 2015 in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

“State Parties shall, during times of armed and other forms of conflict take such steps as are necessary to prevent and eliminate incidences of human rights abuses, especially of women and children, and ensure that the perpetrators of such abuses are brought to justice before a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Eight out of the 10 countries that contribute peacekeepers to UN missions send women peacekeepers. Zimbabwe (35 percent women) contributed the highest proportion of women in 2013, according to the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer 2014. The percentage of Namibian women peacekeepers, as a proportion of their total contribution of peacekeepers to UN missions, declined from 46 percent to 21 percent.

The Barometer notes that although South Africa accounted for only 15 percent of women peacekeepers nationally, this translated into the largest actual number of women deployed at 315 as it deploys many more peacekeepers overall. Many countries still have scant representation of women on peacekeeping missions, while Lesotho and Mozambique are yet to send any women.

However, the Barometer shows some improvements have been seen in that sex disaggregated data in peace building and conflict resolution sector was only available in five countries in 2010, but had increased to 13 in 2013.

South Africa has the highest percentage of women in defence at 28 percent in 2013, followed by Namibia which had 26 percent in 2011. The lowest representation of women in defence was held by Madagascar at 0,1 percent followed by Botswana with one percent.

The Barometer also states that “South Africa, at 34 percent, Malawi, 26 percent and Mauritius, eight percent registered an increase in the number of women in their police services.

“Seychelles at 38 percent continues to have the highest proportion of women in the police force in the region, while DRC at 6 percent has the lowest proportion of women in the police force.”

The publication trends analysis shows that data is only easily accessible for six countries.

At 52 percent, Seychelles is the only country in the region to have achieved gender parity in the Prisons and Correctional Services. Mauritius increased its proportion of women in correctional services by one point to 9 percent but remains among the lowest represented in terms of proportion of women.

That SADC is or has been represented by women at high levels within the region, continentally and at the international arena is cause for celebration.

Notable names include former Head of State Joyce Banda of Malawi, Dr Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, presiding as AU Commission chairperson and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The UN Women in a publication, co-produced with the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), notes that the security services in Zimbabwe still employ less than 30 percent women in top decision-making positions. It also reveals that women comprise only 17 percent in the national army, 16 percent in the air force, 11 percent in the police force and 17 percent in the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.

In 2013, the country witnessed the appointment of the highest ranking female officer in the army, Brigadier- General Shylet Moyo, but two years down the line she remains one of the few women in a decision-making position, according to the publication.

The African Union Security Sector Reform (SSR) Policy Framework acknowledges the efforts of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as SADC in bringing about peace, security and sustainable development in Africa. The union also recognises that political, social and economic development is impossible without sustainable peace and security.

The AU also acknowledges the obligation of member states to apply the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including in security sector processes, as elaborated in the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa which declared 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade.

The Framework will adhere to the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment as enshrined in the AU Women’s Protocol. Women-specific activities, gender awareness and responsive programming aimed at entrenching transformation through gender equity within the security sector are envisaged.

Going forward, the SADC region is urged to increase women’s representation and participation in peace building and conflict resolution by ensuring: national gender audits on security sector legislation and policies, to ensure that laws are gender sensitive and do not discriminate against women record keeping in the security sector should be sex-disaggregated SADC member states should continue to increase women’s roles in peace keeping at all levels gender training should be compulsory for all personnel, including senior management in the security sector local level peace building initiatives to increase the potential for the development of a peace movement in the SADC region.

Virginia Muwanigwa is a gender activist and chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, which is the focal point to the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance. She is also the director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).

Source : The Herald