Raising women’s participation in peace work on different levels was the theme of the seminars that Operation 1325 arranged in Uppsala and Umeå between the 3 and 4 of October.
Raising women’s participation in peace work on different levels was the theme of the seminars that Operation 1325 arranged in Uppsala and Umeå between the 3 and 4 of October. An important conclusion is that decision makers from the military and elsewhere need to understand the important role that women can play in matters of peace and security.
One of the participants at the seminar in Uppsala was Susanne Axmacher, gender adviser in the EU-mission in Chad in 2008. Her mission was to educate a peacekeeping staff consisting of 3400 people, and implement resolution 1325 throughout the entire operation. In this context it was necessary to communicate that gender is a matter of security, life and death.
”But there are many in peacekeeping missions that don’t believe gender is a security issue. Of course, it is. Men are not the only ones that die in war”, says Susanne Axmacher.
WOMEN AS ACTORS NOT ON THE AGENDA
What happened was that the mission began to focus more and more on the protection of women. But the staff did not realise that they also needed to take in women’s experiences and opinions, and listen to them, suggests the gender adviser. Susanne Axmacher will soon be working as gender adviser for the Swedish Armed Forces.
One problem that Axmacher mentioned from her field experience was the mistrust that civil society organisations housed towards the armed forces. ”What will the military do with Resolution 1325, it is about our rights,” asked some organisations, according to Axmacher.
Kamilia Kuku Kura and Rita Martin, from Sudan and Southern Sudan, said it is important to know the purpose and operation of the gender advisers, and that they need to improve their contact with civil society. It is also important that women learn to communicate their needs, says Kamilia Kuku Kura in an interview after the seminar.
CONTACT WITH THE ”WRONG” ORGANISATIONS
A mistake that the staff of peacekeeping missions often make, is to approach only those organisations that receive a great deal of financial support, but these do not necessarily represent grassroots interests. It is therefore important to extend cooperation between policy makers, mission staff, graduates that have conflict countries as their focus and the most relevant grass roots. The seminars organised by Operation 1325 constitute a step in that direction, according to the Sudanese women.
Rita Martin, from South Sudan wanted to emphasise that the need to protect women should not overshadow their right to influence.
”It’s dangerous out there, for both men and women. But when it comes to women danger is often used as a way of excluding women from matters of peace and security. But if women are not included, who will report what is happening on the ground? That is why it is important that women participate.”
The two women from Sudan and Southern Sudan also spoke about the working situation for women in these turbulent times. Many positive things have happened since the new government of Southern Sudan was formed. For example, the new government has adopted a quota that guarantees women at least 25 percent representation. But there are warning signs ahead.
”Currently there is a huge gap between women in positions of power and grassroots women. If female parliamentarians do not raise grassroots issues then men may as well represent women,” says Rita Martin.
ADULTS CAN MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS
On the same theme, Louise Ohlsson, a researcher at the Folke Bernadotte Academy says that many in Afghanistan use the argument that it is too dangerous for women to take part in matters of security.
”But then Afghan women respond: ’Who are you to say what is too dangerous for women? We are adults; we can make our own decisions.'”
Finally, we at Operation 1325 would like to lift Kamilia Kuku Kura’s quote from one of the seminars. She is an activist from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, who has been taken prisoner and threatened by government forces on several occasions due to her work with gender equality and human rights.
”Women can do so much – in war and peace. Women cook, take care of children and climb mountains to fetch water, why should they not be able to work with peace and security?”
SEMINAR TOUR IN SEVERAL CITIES
- At the seminar in Uppsala on October 3, the participants were women activists from Sudan and the new state of Southern Sudan, a gender advisor who took part in a EU mission and a researcher on gender and conflict from the Folke Bernadotte Academy. The purpose of bringing together these women was to communicate how the implementation of resolution 1325 is carried out, to create an understanding of their different circumstances and to identify the challenges that are still present.
- At the seminar in Umeå on October 4, the same women as above attended and Margareta Winberg, former Minister for Equality and now chairman of the UN Women.
- In Uppsala, on October 3, approximately 110 people attended the seminar.
- In Umeå, 4 October, approximately 30 attended the seminar.
Both workshops raised many questions and made way for engaging discussions between participants and the audience.
- The Sudanese women were deeply impressed by the curiosity and encouragement to students and showed them the knowledge they possessed in matters relating to Sudan.
Operation 1325 also held seminars in Lund and Örebro on the same dates. We will soon provide you with more information about these seminars.