By Kelly Fish
The volcanic eruption in Iceland has prevented participants from across Africa from physically participating in the International Gender Justice Dialogue in Mexico, yet they are still bringing their valuable experience to the dialogue.
One of the central themes of developing a global gender justice agenda is Peace Talks and Implementation. Women activists from Sudan, having numerous experiences in this arena, contributed the following:
It is recognized that there are numerous obstacles to the participation of women in peace processes. As one Darfuri activist notes, it is believed that only those who carry guns and are fighting are eligible to sit at the negotiation table. Additionally, those who are afforded seats are generally within high level positions within the government and rebel groups, which rarely include women. Another Darfuri woman notes that women themselves feel insecure about their skills and knowledge for dealing with complicated peace processes, and that those who do manage to make it to the table, find themselves without proper preparations and skills.
In order to address these obstacles, Sudanese women advocate for women to be included from the very beginning of the peace
processes and composing no less than 30% of those at the table. Further, these women should be equipped with specialized negotiation training to enable them to full engage and move beyond being simply token representatives. It is vital that advocacy targets the mediation team and peace partners to fully support and ensure women’s inclusion within peace processes.
At a more structural level of peace negotiations, one Sudanese women’s activist noted that there has not been an evaluation of government and UN appointed chief mediators. It is believed that an evaluation of role, mandate and achievement is essential for creating more space to influence appointment processes. Many chief negotiators and technical advisors are viewed as being politicized and that often they take the stance that the formal negotiations is not the place to engage women or “soft” issues, but instead focus must be on the “hard” issues such as wealth/power sharing, as well as security.
As negotiations continue in Doha, Qatar for resolving the conflict in Darfur and Sudanese continue to work towards the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the ended the North-South conflict, Sudanese women continue to organize and advocate for their voices within these processes.