The sixth Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum was hosted by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation from the 27 to 28 of August 2020. Over the past five years, the dialogue forum has provided a platform for women to share their experiences and best practices in peace and security initiatives by bringing together women from different countries to share their experiences and best practices in peace and security initiatives.
This year’s dialogue forum, which was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was hosted under the theme, “the Role of Women in Silencing the Guns: Building Architectures for Peace during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.” Over the two days, the forum had three sessions which looked at; leadership accountability for the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond; the role of women in silencing the guns; and building and strengthening new architectures for peace.
ACCORD’s General Manager, Ms Pravina Makan-Lakha presented during the third session on Friday, 28 August along with fellow panelists Ms Mukondeleli Mpeiwa, Senior Policy Officer Mediation Support Unit/ Coordinator Panel of the Wise & FemWise-Africa Secretariat Peace and Security Department; Ms Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Kenyan armed conflict analyst and mediator, educator and author; Mme Matlhogonolo Maboe, Dream Team Foundation/Age of Hope Foundation; Ms Marita Sorheim-Rensvik, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Envoy on WPS; and Professor Cheryl Hendricks, Executive Director, Africa Institute of South Africa.
During her presentation, Ms Pravina Makan-Lakha stressed the importance of empowering local, grassroots peacebuilders as the conflict context continues to shift to the local sphere, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to do so, she highlighted the need to bridge the gaps between the local and the national or international levels by ensuring that funding continues to be directed to local organizations, increasing equitable access to technology at the local level, and continuing to build and support women’s networks like Getrude Shope Brigade, FemWise, GiMAC, MARWPONET, and focus on building them from the grassroots up.
Over the two days, participants heard from speaker after speaker about the resiliency women show in the face of crises as interveners, as first respondents, as the backbone of peacebuilding efforts. Speakers stressed the importance of looking at this crises as an opportunity to push for technological advances and new innovative ways of building peace. As we commemorate the many milestones that 2020 brings such as the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Resolution 1325, it became extremely clear during the dialogue forum that we must focus our efforts and resources on empowering local communities, especially women peacebuilders, to mitigate and prevent conflict if we hope to come out of this crisis better and stronger.