Debate on Women, Peace and Security: Empowering Women Parliamentarians in Africa

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Debate on Women, Peace and Security: Empowering Women Parliamentarians in Africa

AWEPA Newsletter

The Hague, the Netherlands – The Dutch AWEPA Section organised a debate hosted by Hon. Marit Maij, Member of the Dutch Parliament and Chair of the Dutch AWEPA Section in the Dutch House of Representatives, in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 14 April 2015.  The theme of the debate was “Women, Peace and Security”, with particular attention to the importance of strengthening African women parliamentarians and enhancing their role in post-conflict processes and in peace building and reconciliation.

In relation to the international agenda on women, peace and security, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Dutch National Action Plan were also discussed.

The audience consisted of Dutch (former) parliamentarians, African Embassies, diaspora, NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The debate was opened by Hon. Marit Maij who gave a word of welcome and introduction. In her opening statements, Hon. Maij acknowledged the difficulties women sometimes face in being included in peace and reconciliation talks, as well as under-representation in governmental bodies. She concluded with an observation that, as the victims of violence are so often women, the key to the solution should also be found by and alongside women.

Ms. Magda De Meyer, AWEPA Political Coordinator of the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Central Africa (RFPAC) and honorary member of the Belgian Parliament, then spoke of AWEPA’s work on the empowerment of women MPs in Africa and the pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Ms. De Meyer detailed AWEPA’s parliamentary capacity building work in enhancing women parliamentarians’ competency in lawmaking, representation and oversight. She outlined several examples, including AWEPA’s programmes in South Sudan, Mozambique, South Africa and Somalia. She also stressed the need for men to support gender equality and become gender advocates as well. 

On the current situation, Ms. De Meyer noted that “women can become the agents of change” and pointed out that changing laws is not enough, but it does give us the base for changing norms and values that sustain these laws and perpetuate violence.

The second speaker Ms. Anne Sophie Kesselaar, Policy Officer of Wo=Men on Gender, Peace and Security gave a presentation on Gender Peace and Security Resolution 1325 and the Dutch National Action Plan. Ms. Kesselaar gave a general overview of the Women, Peace & Security agenda, and the history of UNSC Resolution 1325, which represents “the first time in history that the disproportionate and unique impact of  armed conflict on women and girls was acknowledged internationally”.

Ms. Kesselaar also noted the crucial role of women in conflict in the resolution, and of NGOs in pushing for gender equality and security. This was followed by the identification of challenges and opportunities regarding women’s political participation in post conflict or conflict zones.

The speeches were followed by a lively and fruitful debate on the importance of gender equality and women’s rights. Participants identified a backlash during the past year which resulted in “gender away-streaming” instead of “gender mainstreaming” in development cooperation programmes and the political agenda. Rwanda’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Jean Pierre Karabaranga detailed the history of gender equality in Rwanda and outlined the crucial nature of gender issues for those working in the field of development.

Participants exchange views during the panel discussion.

The debate was concluded by Hon. Ingrid de Caluwé, Chair of the Gender Multiparty Initiative, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, and Member of AWEPA. Hon. de Caluwé stressed the different approaches to gender equality required in different contexts and the subsequent impossibility of applying a rigid one-size-fits-all approach. She also outlined some of the efforts and results achieved by the Gender Multiparty Initiative.

Hon. de Caluwé called for mutual learning to take place between European parliamentarians and African parliamentarians, and also between African countries themselves, based on their experiences, failures and successes.

Overall, the debate provided an insight on the issue of women, peace and security, and the empowerment of women MPs, from a number of different standpoints, as well as proposing possible joint steps forward for the future.


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