North Kivu: MONUSCO supports a project to strengthen women's participation in conflict resolution
On the occasion of the celebration of the International Women's Rights Day, the MONUSCO/Goma office, in collaboration with the association RAPDFEM (Network of Associations for the Promotion of Women's Rights), organized on 8 March 2023 a meeting marking the launch of the project aimed at supporting the strengthening of women's leadership in conflict resolution and security governance, through the network of women mediators and peace ambassadors in Petit-Nord, in the province of North Kivu.
This project is technically and financially supported by the Gender Unit of MONUSCO/Goma. About thirty women leaders from the territories of Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Masisi and the city of Goma as well as political and administrative authorities took part, including representatives of the provincial division of Gender, Family and Children of North Kivu, the House of Women and the Provincial Secretariat of Resolution 1325.
These women were mandated to go to the field in their respective communities to participate in community-based inter-community dialogues on conflict resolution.
Isabelle Pendeza, President of CAFED (Collectif des Associations Féminines pour le Développement), explains: "We have identified women mediators and ambassadors as well as partners at the provincial level who will help us. We know that together they will do a good job on the ground.”
No peace without women
Eastern DRC is affected by different types of conflicts such as inter-ethnic conflicts, community violence, conflicts related to the control of power and/or land, with the activism of several armed groups. Peace actors, including the UN, national and international organizations are therefore taking initiatives such as community dialogues and peace negotiations to reconcile and foster social cohesion within local communities.
Ephrem Zihalirwa, RAPDFEM's coordinator and project manager, explains the objective: "The aim is for women to be able to participate effectively in all conflict resolution mechanisms, whether at local, territorial or regional level.”
During the meeting, it was pointed out that in these conflict resolution bodies, women, who represent 52% of the population, are largely under-represented or virtually unrepresented. Furthermore, women from rural areas are not involved in the various peace initiatives. Their low representation and weak leadership could be explained by the fact that women in conflict and post-conflict areas are often perceived as victims in need of protection and not as actors in the peace process.
There is also a perception that few women and girls are interested or competent to work as mediators and contribute to building sustainable peace in their communities.
Consequences of the exclusion of women
"We want rural women to no longer be excluded from everything that is being done to contribute to peace, to no longer be victims but to be actors of peace. When this network is set up, women will participate every day in contributing to the resolution of conflicts in their communities, their chiefdoms, their groups and throughout the territories targeted by the project," added Ephrem Zihalirwa.
This exclusion of women therefore hinders the quality and sustainability of the outcomes of peace processes, as men and women have different concerns and priorities, and no one can speak to the needs and priorities of women better than they can.
Past experience has shown that peace agreements that exclude women often result in limited ownership by the population or are incomplete, as some aspects, especially those affecting women and girls, may be left out, or are unconsciously not prioritized.
For her part, the head of the MONUSCO/Goma office said that "this project wants to give women mediators and ambassadors this visibility and space in order to amplify their influence, their potential, their benefits and, especially in these very troubled times, to help them implement their own solutions.”