Child of War, Woman of Peace

The effects of conflict are felt hardest by women and children
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In DR Congo, more than , women have been raped in a decade of conflict. But women are not only victims, they are central in the fight for peace. While international bodies urge greater participation of women in peacebuilding, our local partners show that women are often already at the forefront of the mission for a lasting peace. Women are not only victims of conflict, they are drivers of peace. Violence against women is endemic, their rights and voices rarely acknowledged. But this is not the only story. We support two local female activists and their organisations, Aware Girls, to educate men and women about their rights, support them to vote and stand up to violence.

In DR Congo we support two local organisations that help women affected by war — female ex-combatants, wives of ex-combatants and women who have experienced trauma at the hands of militia groups to establish and build livelihoods. Our support to FOCHI building justice courts in an area with a large gender divide has seen great progress in the inclusion of women. In Somalia we work with local partner SADO to train young people in skills or livelihoods as a practical alternative to joining militant groups.

Over half of the participants are female.

Child of War, Woman of Peace

After a six month hands course, the young trainees reported a sense of respect from families and the community, and felt able to work in traditionally male dominated activities. In Zimbabwe community tensions easily spark into violent outbursts, including domestic violence and violence against women. We support local organisation Envision to prevent violence against women by providing gender training, supporting women who have been victims of sexual violence or domestic abuse, and by working with traditional leaders to change attitudes towards the use of violence to solve problems.

One year ago my husband, my three siblings and I moved to a new village. I heard CRC could help women like me. We have a small plot of land by our house on which we grow produce to sell. My income was not consistent and my husband Mustafa does not have a job. Their story has become a cautionary tale of the dangers facing journalists across the world. Together, the photos capture the paradox and perplexity of war: a tender moment between a soldier and his girlfriend; the mutinous face of a child soldier; and most of all, the triumphant emotions of a militia commander after he fires a rocket-propelled grenade.

The photos show just how far Liberia has come. In , following successful peace talks in Ghana, the country voted in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first democratically elected female head of state on the African continent. In late , following the election of ex-soccer star George Weah as president , Liberia had the first peaceful transfer of power in 73 years. When disputes threatened cancellation of the negotiations, Ms. Diop recalled, the women threatened to denounce the parties back home.

They also made sure the men knew the women were watching. As negotiators entered the conference hall each morning they were greeted by groups of women who called them by name and handed them the "thought of the day" -- a photocopied sheet with a Congolese proverb or slogan selected to respond to the issues under discussion. The handouts ranged from such gentle generalities as J'aime le Congo "I love the Congo" to demands for progress on specific issues, but they all served to remind the parties of the expectations back home.

In general, the caucus chose to avoid confrontations with the men -- a tactical decision dictated by its small numbers and its ad-hoc and informal status. If the caucus was to have an impact on the process, it was necessary to establish and maintain good relations with the men, who resented actions that appeared to challenge traditional gender roles and who had only reluctantly agreed to the modest increase in female delegates. Bibiane acknowledged, "because there was this group of women entering 'their' space. But we approached them in a way that made them feel secure.

In African culture the woman is your mother. The woman is your wife and sister. If your mother or sister is talking to you, you have to listen. We didn't demonize the men or try to take their place. The women found creative ways to use tradition and culture to enhance their influence.

On 8 March, International Women's Day, the caucus was invited to address a plenary meeting of the formal talks. Instead of giving a speech, the women staged a play that dramatized the suffering of women and children in war and concluded with an impassioned appeal for peace. The performance was effective, Ms.

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African women struggle for a seat at the peace table. From the 1. Looking at this predicament from a pragmatic point of view, we could say that the very phenomena which the modern world needs to complement current values are those that women, as a class, know most about. Women are seen as victims of conflict that need to be protected and kept safe rather than agents of change for peace. The road that divided them now connected them, and through their local peace group, Twishakira amahoro "we want to have peace" , the women of the villages have worked to keep the connection strong.

Diop said, precisely because it presented the women in familiar roles. Are the women really suffering this much? In the end, however, final agreement eluded the parties at Sun City despite progress on many issues. As the meeting adjourned, the women's caucus blocked the doorway and announced to reporters that delegates would have to remain in the meeting hall until peace was agreed. It was a short-lived gesture of civil disobedience, but demonstrated the willingness of the women to use more aggressive tactics and step outside traditional roles when circumstances required.

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Heyzer told Africa Renewal. If we hadn't gotten involved [the women's caucus] could not have happened. It was not until 17 December that a comprehensive power-sharing agreement between the Congolese parties was finally reached. The severe shortage of funds, and continuing resistance to their participation, however, meant that only 10 women were able to attend the follow-up meetings in South Africa in November and December. Although the group members were selected for their expertise in the issues under discussion, their role was largely symbolic -- limited to private meetings with the delegation heads and public prayers for peace.

Bibiane explained.

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At one follow-up meeting, she noted, the delegations included only four women among 80 men, although UNIFEM was able to provide training and support for women's peace activities inside the country. Women peace activists in the troubled Mano River basin countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone have also had to struggle to be heard.

Since at least the beginning of the Liberian civil war in , Liberian women have organized to assist the victims and encourage national and regional peace initiatives. In a number of women's religious and development organizations launched the Sierra Leone Women's Movement for Peace, organizing protests against the country's deepening civil conflict and advocating for women's rights.

Notably, one of their leaders, Mrs. Perry, was named to head Liberia's transitional government in In , explained Ms. The countries "are so interwoven," Ms. Brownell noted.

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When there is fighting in Guinea, there has to be fighting in Liberia. That is why we had to be in touch as women. The network got off to a fast start, delivering a women's peace appeal to the feared Revolutionary United Front RUF rebels in Sierra Leone and addressing an MRU heads of state summit within a week of its launch. The organization also initiated a recruiting drive to increase the membership and effectiveness of its national affiliates.

Women and conflict

In recognition of their efforts, the women were given delegate status at the 24th ECOWAS summit that December and addressed the leaders about the importance of supporting women's peacemaking programmes. It also highlighted the limits to their effectiveness, due to scarce resources and their exclusion from the formal peace process.

At that time, relations between the MRU countries were extremely tense.

Child Victims of Armed Conflicts

Brownell and Mrs. Perry, to all three countries to appeal for an urgent meeting of the feuding heads of state. When Mr. Taylor was informed that the delegation was waiting to see him, he is reported to have said in surprise, "Are you telling me that women leaders from Guinea are here in Monrovia?

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The inspiring story of an immigrant's struggles to heal old wounds in the United States, this is the sequel to When Heaven And Earth Changed Places, Le Ly. Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Alternately shocking and inspiring, this sequel to Child of War, Woman of Peace by [Hayslip, Le Ly].

And women from Sierra Leone? How have the Liberian women managed to bring them here? At that meeting and in meetings with Mr. The leaders, Ms. Brownell said, "know they have to listen because the women are not for war and know that we don't want anything from them except peace.