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Sustainable peace cannot be achieved without women

WOMEN are natural mediators. They act as peacemakers in their families and communities. They bring together conflicting clans, calm tensions, and prevent flare-ups. GUEST COLUMN: BETTY BIGOMBE But the important role they play in preventing and resolving conflicts, and the contributions they could make as peace-builders in high-level, formal negotiations had not been officially recognised until the passing of a landmark United Nations Security Council resolution 20 years ago. On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 1325, affirming women’s crucial role in peace-building activities and urging all actors to increase the participation of women, and incorporate gender perspectives, in all their peace and security efforts. Before this resolution, in the eyes of many, mediators ought to be men. Men were the fighters, and hence they were the decision-makers. I played a part in changing this deep-seated perception. My work in northern Uganda led me to become one of the first internationally recognised women mediators in the world. It was examples like mine that paved the way for the international community to recognise the unique role that women play in peacebuilding and peacekeeping. I started my peacebuilding efforts in Uganda in 1988, at the very beginning of a conflict that lasted 23 years and displaced more than two million people. The rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony, abducted civilians, killed and maimed them. It recruited children and created armies of child soldiers. It raped girls and used them as fighters and couriers. I did my best to deal with all these issues and tried to reconcile fractured communities to the best of my ability. So when I heard about the passing of Resolution 1325, I was overjoyed. The few women mediators around the world have been fighting for recognition and support for a very long time. Thinking we finally reached a turning point, we celebrated. We had a lot of hope for the future. We thought, with the UNSC’s support, more women would automatically and immediately be included in peacebuilding activities. But we were naive. In the end, the resolution was not a key turning point, but just a tiny step in the right direction. Has there been any progress? As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And, 20 years on, Resolution 1325 has not been implemented as widely as we hoped for. Yes, there has been some progress. When I first started my career, it was unheard of for a woman to mediate in a high-level peace process, or for women’s community-level mediation work to be recognised. Today, women mediators are more common. I am, for example, a member of the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth Network, hosted by NGO Conciliation Resources, which supports 50 female mediators working for peace across different countries and communities around the world. But women are still in the minority in peace negotiations and other high-level peacebuilding efforts. Take the peace talks currently taking place between the Afg

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