Mediating peace in Africa: Enhancing the role of southern African women in mediation
A high level seminar for practitioners, academics, policymakers, women politicians and leaders from southern African countries was convened by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), in collaboration with the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands in 2012. Held on 21 and 22 November in Pretoria, South Africa, the Southern Africa Women Mediators Seminar (SAWMS) was convened under the theme 'Mediating peace in Africa: Enhancing the role of southern African women in Mediation'. Delegates from Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in the seminar.
The equitable participation of African women leaders in resolving conflicts, sustaining peace and encouraging development is crucial to the promotion and implementation of processes aimed at strengthening accountability, greater transparency and civic engagement. Unfortunately, while women have the potential to be important actors, they are routinely left out of mediation teams and collaborative policymaking efforts. The absence of women means that peace processes on the African continent will remain unstable and ephemeral. Despite widespread recognition of the importance of including women, most mediation processes do not offer sufficient encouragement for women’s voices and representation, nor the spaces for their active participation.
Women in southern Africa are undertaking consistent and effective work at both the formal and informal levels as mediators. Important platforms such as the SAWMS provide a forum to elevate the knowledge and experiences of women mediators to the international arena for the benefit of many.