Women’s participation in peace processes, including as mediators and negotiators, has been proven to have a positive impact on the effectiveness of such processes. In recognition of the need to involve more women in conflict prevention and resolution processes, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), in partnership with ACCORD and United Nations Women South Africa (UN Women) held a Regional Workshop for Women Mediators in Conflict Prevention and Mediation processes, from 12-23 September 2022, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The workshop was split into two parts with the first week tailored for Member State’s institutions and second week for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Member States convened at the workshop from 12 -16 September 2022, and CSOs convened from 19- 23 September 2022.
The regional workshop provided knowledge and expertise on gender-responsive conflict prevention and mediation through an understanding and explanation of the factors that cause and trigger conflicts. The workshop also strengthened the capacity of women mediators in effective gender-responsive conflict management and resolution through dialogue and reconciliation.
Ms Alison Lazarus and Mr Herbert Chingati facilitated the two weeks’ workshops. Key speakers of the workshop included; Ms Mukondeleli Mpeiwa, African Union Head: Mediation and Dialogue Division; Ms. Gloria Kabage, FemWise-Africa Secretariat Reprsentative; Mrs. Pravina Makan-Lakha, ACCORD’s Advisor on Women, Peace and Security (WPS); Ms. Molline Marume, UN Women representative; Ms. Kealeboga Dambuza, SADC Secreariat Gender Unit Programme Officer; Dr Joseph Pitso, SADC Head of the Gender Unit; and ACCORD’s Senior Advisor, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo; who all contributed substantively to the discussions.
In addition, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo provided the opening remarks where he shared that there is a realisation that women are excluded in conflict management and peace-making and peace-building processes, and that on the settlement of these conflicts, women have not been brought to the table. Ambassador Nhlapo also noted that vast resources of women have been tapped optimally and these resources have proven to be some of the most reliable assets in dealing with conflicts on the continent.
The SADC Secretariat reaffirmed their commitment to the WPS Agenda by way of ongoing programmes in the region that aim to promote women’s empowerment and enhancing women participation in the region by implementing regional policies and activities to prevent and resolve conflict. The biggest take away from this workshop is that women in the SADC region play a critical role in peace making and peacebuilding efforts with or without formal platforms. It was highlighted that CSOs have been implementing local peace structures in their various communities whilst member state institutions have been working tirelessly to ensure that gender perspective policies and women representation in various departments is implemented. The Workshop further unpacked UNSCR 1325, SADC WPS Regional Strategy and the WPS Agenda. Additionally, the workshop equipped participants with various conflict prevention tools; as well as strengthened their understanding on the role of women as mediators in the region.
The participants of this workshop included representatives from the Ministries of Gender, Foreign Affairs and Social Services and CSOs. The workshop also served as a platform for dialogue on the establishment of a Network of Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation for the SADC Region. ACCORD remains committed to providing the necessary support and capacity to SADC and its member states to strengthen the role of women in mediation and conflict prevention.