The United Nations and the international community just last week climaxed their activities to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the passage and adoption of UNSCR 1325.
The resolution, which underscores the need to mainstream women and gender priorities in the peace and development infrastructures of fragile and conflict-affected societies, is considered very critical to evolving inclusive development structures in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
While there is an overwhelming consensus on the imperativeness of integrating women and gender perspectives in the peace, security and development infrastructures of fragile communities, such “persuasive rhetoric” have yet to reflect actual happenings on the ground (Awall, 2015, UNIFEM, 2014).
“Walking the talk”, has remained the greatest obstacle to realising the ideals of the resolution in actual conflict contexts. In a recent report published by the United Nations last week: on the status of the implementation of the resolution, it emerged that only 54 countries have developed country-specific actions plans; out of over 170 signatory countries (UN Women Global Study Report, 2015).
There is ample data to show how for example, women and children continue to bear the greatest burdens associated with violent extremism and conflicts. According to a survey conducted by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations in 2002, about 80 per cent of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees are women (Bouta and Frerks, 2002).
Without going too distant into the past, remember what Boko Haram did to the Chibok girls; and the systemic rape and enslavement of Kurdish and Christian women and girls by the so-called ISIS? That is the sort of fate, which awaits every woman or girl in conflict-affected societies. More shocking is the emergence of a new strategy that is becoming common amongst warring factions. The bodies of women are gradually becoming “the weapons of war”: where women and girl-children are systematically being raped by combatants just to humiliate their opponents.
Ghana in Perspective
Ghana has been a signatory to the UNSCR 1325 since the resolution was passed and adopted by the United Nations in October, 2000 (Awall, 2015).
It however took the country nearly a decade, to come out with a country-specific Action Plan. Such “kneejerk” approach to implementing such international resolutions by countries is responsible for the continued subordination of women in the peace, security and development infrastructures of most fragile and conflict-affected African States.
Instead of signatory countries devising practical and comprehensive strategies to implementing these resolutions, persistent rhetoric have tended to overshadow real and tangible commitment to seeing these policies through to their conclusive ends.
I listened to the Deputy Minister of Gender and Social Protection, John Alexander Ackon during the celebration of the “Ghana Version” of the fifteenth anniversary of the passage and adoption of the UNSCR 1325. He underscored how Ghanaian women are making very strenuous efforts at ensuring that peace prevail in fragile and conflict-affected societies across the length and breadth of the nation.
From Kete-Krachi to Bimbilla; Bawku, Alavanyo and Nkonya, women have spearheaded (and continue to engage) in “informal” efforts to bring closure to the “boiling tensions” and violence in their communities. Ironically, formal infrastructures that are supposed to create the needed framework for resolving these tensions and violence have made women’s concerns a peripheral consideration.
The men, who have in most cases taken entrenched positions, are the very ones who spearhead and take decisions in respect of these conflicts. Because of the interest and emotional investments in such conflicts by the men, several efforts whether through Tracks 1, 2 or multitrack diplomacy, (tension-reducing and violent diminishing mechanisms) that have been employed so far, have all failed to yield the desired results.
For instance, apart from the issues of poverty, some women and girl-children have migrated from conflict-affected communities to urban communities where they can engage in menial jobs in order to seek refuge and irk out a living. The “Kayaye” menace and its attendant negative consequences can partly be blamed on the various violent conflict situations that were recorded in the three Northern Regions of Ghana.
The human right abuses, some of these girl-children have come under is sometimes beyond human comprehension. Even the emergence of the Sodom and Gomorrah slum in Accra, can be traced back to the “Guinea Fowl” conflict that occurred in the North in the early 1990s. Just look at the resources that have gone into relocating these people. Had lasting conflict prevention and transformation mechanisms been found, possibly the environmental and consistent “red alerts” that always come from these areas would have been put in check.
While women continue to play very critical roles in small-holder farming activities in rural communities, their access to, and control of land for farming purposes continue to be hindered by violence and conflict dynamics in some of these areas. A study done in a conflict area in the Eastern Corridor of Ghana for instance, shows that, women who previously had access to some portion of land in their communities for farming purposes no longer have such access (Awall, 2015).
This is because, the owners and tillers of such lands have now become “enemies”: since such conflicts have taken inter-communal or ethnic dimensions. In the process, women who previously used the produce from their farms to sustain their families no longer have such life-sustaining and supporting avenues. Even as I write this piece, some of the women have yet to find alternative lands for their small-holder farming activities.
These are some of the reasons why we need to make women central to the process of evolving peace, security and development infrastructures in Ghana; so that, they can bring some of these nuanced conflict dynamics to bear on policy designs and implementation.
As the global community seeks to make women and gender development needs core to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), development projects and programmes in fragile contexts must make use of such platforms to mainstream women and gender needs in such frameworks. The involvement of women in taking human security related decisions empowers them to engage in conversations that revolve around meeting their wider strategic and practical development needs.
Rwanda is a classic example. Women now constitute nearly half of the legislative assembly in Rwanda, due to the strategic and political steps that were taken in the post-conflict and reconstruction stage of their recovery process. That is the kind of steps we need to take in Ghana especially, in fragile and conflict-affected communities. So that, cultural and social norms that relegate women’s development prospects and challenges would be reordered to meet 21st century development planning and implementation standards.
The “persuasive rhetoric without action” by governments must stop; so that genuine commitment to addressing women’s human right issues are readily incorporated in the peace, security and development architecture of fragile and conflict-affected communities of Ghana. We must show our commitment by not only being signatories to international protocols and charters: but, by implementing such ideals in actual situations in order to make them relevant to the lives of the people.
It is time Ghana developed a strategic and comprehensive framework especially in the conflict-affected communities across the length and breadth of the country: where peace and security infrastructures would take into cognisance the invaluable roles of women in bringing closure to the numerous conflicts that are wreaking havoc to their security, safety and development aspirations.
By: Inusah Mohammed Awall