Dec 10, 2012

all women peacekeeping teams

The only all women team of international accompaniers is the International Women's Peace Service, but the Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international team, has been supporting the development of local women only peacekeeping teams in Sudan.  Their article about this work is below.

Women Taking the Lead in South Sudan

NP is pioneering the formation of Women Peacekeeping Teams (WPTs) in South Sudan. These are teams of local women who monitor incidents of conflict-related Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and help create safe spaces for women to address these in their local communities. There are between 10 and 25 women on each team and the first one was set up by NP in November 2011 in Juba. There are now five WPTs covering two districts in Central Equatoria State and three districts in Western Equatoria State. As we demonstrate the effectiveness of this model, there will hopefully be many more WPTs to come!

Photo: This picture was taken on 23 November 2011, in Ibba Central payam in Ibba county, and displays the members of the WPT as they had just officially formed their team that very day, together with one of NP Nzara's staff named Brenda Floors

The WPTs formed in Central Equatoria State were able to draw from a large pool of women who were willing to volunteer, including educated and skilled women of whom some even hold positions in county or state government. In Western Equatoria State, however, many of the women courageous enough to join a WPT have never had a formal job, and the majority are housewives, working in and around the house, raising the children as well as often working on their land as agriculturalists and/or selling their crops at the market. Some of them work (informally) at local restaurants as cooks or dishwashers. For many of these women, their participation in the WPT is the first time they have had an active, recognized role in a group of this kind.

“There has never been an international organization to come to Ezo before us to talk about women’s issues. (...) It will be our pleasure to receive NP and have them build our capacity and raise our voices.”
- Anna Lakim Nalurgura, Mid-wife and member of the WPT in Ezo Central Payam

The day to day work of the Women Peacekeeping Teams involves helping with the registration of cases of GBV, reporting these to the Ministry of Social Development and finding ways to address these issues through weekly meetings to discuss threats to themselves and other women in the community. At the same time they are being given more and more tools to increase the security of those most vulnerable to GBV and supporting the survivors in connecting them to police, social workers and health service providers. This will greatly improve awareness of GBV at these locations, as well as improve the capacity of local formal and official duty bearers in their increased experience in dealing with such cases. This increased awareness and capacity at the community and respective administrative levels will in turn greatly help reduce Gender-Based Violence in these locations.

NP works with both the WPTs and with the community at large to ensure the space for this work is safe. While it has been important to create an environment for women to participate in, it is equally important to engage the men in finding solutions for violence in the communities. Much encouragement and support is needed to have women realize the contribution they can make to change their own fate, and that of so many others.

Despite the commitment under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) for women to be represented in all levels of government, there are in fact very few opportunities for women to participate in public life. The WPTs are a unique opportunity to engage local women in the wider peacebuilding process. Women are generally the constants in their communities – they do not travel for work, they do not have multiple spouses in different places, and they often have the best sense of the protection issues in their communities.  Additionally, they are amongst the most affected by violence.

 “Through the existence of WPTs we can penetrate into society. It is the women who are at home all day and see what problems there are in society. It is them who stay with their children and maintain their communities when the men are out fighting.”
– Juba Team Leader Kudzanai Mativirira

The active presence of these local women within the broader peacekeeping effort in South Sudan promotes equal representation and women’s leadership, facilitates the approach of those women who are affected by conflict, and favours the participation of local women and their organizations in post-conflict situations and in the prevention of conflict. The Women Peacekeeping Teams have a unique opportunity to respond to the needs of an especially marginalized population and to showcase the vital role of women as actors in the long and difficult road towards peace, both in the world and in the home.

Photo: This picture was taken on November 25 2011 in Terkeka County, and displays the inauguration ceremony of the WPT formed that very day, together with the NP Juba team's leader Kudzanai Mativirira.

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