Women4SilencingtheGuns: Advocacy at the 33rd African Union Summit  

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By Aliah Ali, DanChurchAid / Side by Side 

On the 7th of February 2020, the 33rd African Union Summit was held with the powerful theme “Silencing the Guns” calling for a collective, comprehensive and coordinated effort for ending violence. Side by Side (SBS) together with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) gathered to lobby member states ahead of the African Union Heads of State Summit to highlight the importance of involving women in silencing the guns. The key message of the advocacy delegation was for the meaningful involvement of women on the conflict agenda, as women and girls continue to face many intersecting injustices in times of war and conflict. This was echoed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres when he said:

I have seen with my own eyes how women and girls are the main victims of conflict, the main victims of displacement and the main victims in terms of instability in any part of the world.”

Women as mediators and peacekeepers.

Placing women on the agenda not only recognizes the disproportionate impact of war and conflict on women and girls, but it also brings attention to the role of women in peace-building and reconciliation processes. Women have been an integral part of mediation, peace-making and peacekeeping efforts at the community, national, regional and global level for years, as women hold the roles of community leaders, negotiators, mediators, political leaders, faith leaders and educators and researchers.


Involving faith leaders

The advocacy efforts also made sure to include the voice of faith leaders to reach out to the Heads of States. The presence of faith leaders was impactful as they were able to share testimonies from across Africa of the impact of conflicts on their local communities. Having women faith leaders as part of the delegation further stressed the importance of involving gender in the faith-based approach in silencing the guns. Reverend Christians Sutton Koroma from Sierra Leone shared how women played an important role in the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, in addition to their role as mediators and peacekeepers. In situations of violence and conflict, the transformational role of faith leaders is of importance in speaking against the root causes of violence, gender-based violence and gender inequality to a community of people of faith by raising these issues as a political and moral concern.

Discussions by the delegates at the summit continued online on Twitter to share the key asks to a wider audience. Adopting the theme of the summit Silencing the Guns, the social media team used an online hashtag #Women4SilencingtheGuns and #Faithleaders4GEWE to share their messages online, as can be seen from the screen grabs below:

The advocacy event by SBS and AACC can be encapsulated in three key asks to urgently respond to the issues raised above:

  1. Provide the necessary space, encouragement and support for the participation of women and girls in peace building processes at all governance levels.

This is to be done through the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the ratification of the Maputo Protocol and to facilitate timely human rights face-finding missions that include women to conflict affected areas such as at the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the AU.

  1. Adopt strategies to end gender-based violence including through the ratification of necessary protocols and implementation tools.
  2. Involve and include faith leaders and faith perspectives in the implementation of gender equality and women empowerment (GEWE) strategy within Agenda 2063.

Cooperation between SBS and the AACC was further strengthened with the AACC General Secretary Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki being appointed as a Gender Faith Champion and Side by Side Ambassador. We look forward to working closer together and expand the important work of faith and gender, especially with the wide influence of Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki across Africa and faith groups.

Posted by: Side by Side | Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
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