Across the African continent, there are a handful of incredible stories and experiences of African women who have been able to meaningfully participate in peace processes over the last two decades. As the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in 2020, ACCORD had the privilege of sitting down – albeit virtually – with one of the great WPS giants – Mme Graça Machel, ACCORD’s Board of Trustees Chair on Wednesday, 17 March 2021, to capture her incredible story.
Mme Machel is an African stateswoman whose decades long professional and public life is rooted in Mozambique’s struggle for self-rule and international advocacy for women and children’s rights. She is a former freedom fighter in Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and Mozambique’s first Minister of Education. In the years following her tenure in government, Machel produced a ground-breaking UNICEF report “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” that changed the way the United Nations and member states respond in conflict zones. Since then, she has worked tirelessly in support of global health, child welfare, and women’s rights and empowerment.
Moreover, Mme Machel is also one of the very few women who have been involved in mediating Track One peace processes. In 2008, she was asked to be one of the three lead mediators for the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation, where not only was Mme Machel, the only female lead mediator, she was also instrumental in ensuring that Kenyan women were able to meaningfully participate in the peace process. During the talks, Mme Machel supported a group of 20 women from the Kenya Women’s Consultative Group (KWGC) to overcome their grievances and differences, get ready for consultations and issue a joint statement.
Reflecting on this experience in the interview, Mme Machel shared with us the conversation she had with the group of women to help them air their differences and come to a space where they can work together.
“I used a metaphor to say, “you know what, we are all sitting around this place, if there is one thing which make us equal, absolutely equal, is that, particular those who are mothers, every one of us has a child exactly the same way. When you are in this maternity ward, and you have to push to get your child out, you do it exactly the same way, regardless of tribe, regardless of your age (some are much older than others), regardless or ethnic group, regardless of any difference, we are equal. This is first. Second, the way each one of us love his or her child, is exactly the same.”
The interview is part of ACCORD’s project with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). ACCORD and IDRC have partnered to capture the experiences and best practices from prominent African women peacebuilders. By capturing these stories, ACCORD hopes to not only increase the body of knowledge on women, peace and security but also demonstrate the resiliency, power and presence of women in the field of peace and security.
Despite Mme Graça Machel’s rich contribution to the advancement of women’s rights and participation on the continent and beyond, little is documented about her experiences, challenges and best practices. Therefore, ACCORD’s partnership with IDRC seeks to document women peacebuilder’s experiences in order to share lessons with future generations. Their experiences and lessons learnt will be captured in several free-to-use publications that will invigorate the literature examining the value-add of women’s meaningful inclusion to sustainable development and durable peace and provide practical tools for women involved in similar work across the continent.