4 percent of women are participants in peace negotiations, 4 percent are signatories in peace processes, 2.4 percent are chief mediators, 3.7 percent are witnesses and 9 percent are negotiators. This is according to studies conducted by UN Women over a period from 1992- 2011 to assess the level of women’s participation in peace building across the world. Women and the youth have historically been the worst affected by conflict and yet are grievously underrepresented when peace talks are initiated, their voices, their stories and their desires lost in the discourse.
Africa University together with its partners the Swiss Embassy in Zimbabwe and the Centre for Security Studies (CSS ) Zurich, are looking to change this with the 4th in a series of workshops currently underway that targets specific stakeholders in peace building and brings them together to educate, empower and enhance mediation and negotiation skills to create lasting peace interventions.
From the 11th to the 13th of November 2020, 20 women parliamentarians from across the political divide in Zimbabwe shall undergo intensive training in a 3 day workshop where experts in negotiation and mediation shall share their knowledge and skills. Part of the training team includes Dr. Simon Mason , a senior researcher and head of the Mediation Support Team at the Centre for Security Studies, Zurich, Professor Pamela Machakanja, Dean of the College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance and other high impact researchers and mentors from the university’s Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance.
In his opening remarks, VC Professor Munashe Furusa expressed the appreciation of the university for the partnership and the aligned vision of creating a prosperous and equitable Africa through creating avenues for lasting peace. He said, ‘ Africa University is delighted to host women parliamentarians on our campus as we deliver that last in this series of trainings that is aimed at enhancing capacity in mediation and negotiation skills. This partnership has provided a grant of USD 177 381 that has enabled these sessions to become a reality as we train representatives from across the political spectrum. Peace agreements are easily broken degenerating into violence. Peace then becomes elusive. This gathering should re-energize your drive to bring peace to our continent. With 53% of our student population being female, we are committed to ensuring that female participation goes beyond symbolism and filling quotas. There is a huge gap in women’s involvement in formal peace processes. When women are part of the solution, only then can we be assured of securing lasting peace. The cost of failure is enormous and as female parliamentarians you are powerful catalysts for peace and the resolution of conflict. We are proud that one of the key outcomes of these workshops has been the development of the Africa University Master of Negotiation and Mediation programme that is expected to begin in 2021.”
First Secretary and Senior Advisor in the Swiss Embassy in Zimbabwe Mr. Holliger thanked the university leadership for the partnership. He went on to say of the relationship, ” We have been able to pool our resources and create a programme in the field of negotiation and mediation that is truly changing lives. COVID- 19 has has exposed fault lines of tension and conflict on social, economic and humanitarian fronts all over the world. These tensions must be managed and it is imperative that we equip as many stakeholder as is possible with the skills to do that. Women may be disproportionately affected by conflict but they are also the solution. A peace without women is simply unsustainable. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that outlines the increased role of women in conflict resolution serves as our compass. Youth are also an important part of the equation and the previous training conducted here at Africa University in October 2020 has touched on these and other important stakeholders in the peace process providing a truly holistic approach.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security (2000) was a landmark resolution that reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security (unwomen.org).
The Africa University College of Business, Peace Leadership and Governance remains a bastion of training , education and mentorship in matters relating to peace and governance. Of the university’s over 9000 alumni, many from this college have gone on to serve in high positions in government and civic society driven by a passion to be agents of peace and development in their communities, the continent and the world.