Members of FemLINKPACIFIC’s regional media and policy network on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 are teaming up with Peacewomen from the Philippines to Serbia, the Caucuses, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Canada as part of the gender focal point network of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict to challenge the media status quo when it comes to the reporting of women, peace and security:
“There needs to be a change in the mindset that women are also vital information bearers and they also bring a different perspective on peacebuilding. Women should be present in formal decision making processes and structures to prevent the unequal representation and portrayal of women in the media,” says Veena Singh Bryar, FemLINKPACIFIC’s Coordinator: Regional Programmes and the GPPAC Pacific gender focal point, who suggests the need for safe spaces for information and communication, such as community media and radio.
“This can be done by women making their own media, by making their experiences visible they (the media) might help in creating a women’s rights discourse that is more inclusive and less stereotyped,” says Sophie Toupin a women’s rights programmes officer at Crossroads International in Montreal agrees saying it has been independent media, which has portrayed women in a more balanced and empowered way:
“By (only) focusing on the victim aspect, women in armed conflict are put in a fixed and one-dimensional category, where they are mostly seen as passive recipients of aid and in need of outside protection rather than being portrayed as active rights-holders and agents of change for themselves, their families, their communities and their countries.”
It is no wonder that the GPPAC gender focal points are focusing on the need and possibilities for media engagement to promote the role of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, in particular through the implementation of UNSCR 1325.
The activities include: a two-day media training for GPPAC Gender Focal Points (GFPs) and a Press Conference/Roundtable, where the GPPAC GFPs will both share best practices and insights the UNSCR 1325 review, but will also provides an immediate opportunity to apply their new media skills. Related to this, individual press meetings will be set up to further support both aims.
‘Engaging the Media to Enhance Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention: Towards Effective Implementation of UNSCR1325’, is co-organized with the GPPAC Pacific Regional Secretariat, FemLINKPACIFIC. And is enabling networking and interaction between representatives from the United Nations, governments, the media and civil society, bringing together grassroots, regional and international perspectives on enhancing women's participation in conflict prevention:
“Even though women have documented events of conflict, wars and violence and have spoken out on human rights abuses and violations, lobbied and advocated for (their) formal involvement in peacebuilding processes and human rights, they are still not taken seriously,” adds Singh-Bryar.
These realities are still being faced despite the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace and Security) 11 years ago and this week we are hopeful that the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, scheduled for 28 October 2011
at United Nations Headquarters, New York will be catalytic as member states and UN agencies address the theme “Women’s Participation and Role in Conflict Prevention and Mediation” because even the UN system is recognizing that despite the decade-long recognition of the importance of women’s participation in conflict prevention, more needs to be done systematically to integrate women and peace and security issues in preventive diplomacy, early warning, and human rights and security monitoring. More is also required to address the root causes militating against women’s effective participation in conflict prevention.
According to the Concept Note for the UN Security Council Open Debate: “The striking absence of women from formal peace negotiations, in particular, reveals a troubling gap between global and regional commitments and actual practice. Research shows that the inclusion of women on negotiating and observer teams in combination with the application of gender expertise to substantive components of peace accord has helped to ensure that peace agreements better address issues of social inclusion and equality, as well as specific aspects of gender-based discrimination and conflict related sexual violence. Exclusion of women and lack of gender expertise in negotiations can produce near-irreversible setbacks for women’s rights, leaving out crucial issues such as women’s engagement in post-conflict governance, women’s access to economic opportunity, justice and reparations for war crimes against women and girls. Women and peace and security issues tend to be addressed at a relatively late stage of the conflict prevention and mediation cycle. By this time it is often too late for women to ensure their rights and needs are addressed in peace accords and institutional arrangements. Preventive diplomacy in particular should prioritize women’s participation and addressing women’s needs.”
It is anticipated that the Open Debate will result in the unanimous adoption of a Presidential Statement (PRST) that establishes a clear linkage between Council’s initiatives on Women, Peace and Security and initiatives on Preventive Diplomacy as Members of the Council and other Member States respond to several key priority issues:
The role and participation of women in conflict prevention.
Review of progress in the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and related commitments on women and peace and security;
Ways and means to enhance women’s participation and role in formal and informal conflict prevention and mediation efforts, including measures such as capacity-building support for women’s peace movements in conflict and post-conflict situations, the establishment of a rapid response roster of women mediators and mediators with sector specific gender expertise, arrangements for observer status for women’s civil society groups at peace negotiations, donor conferences and international engagement meetings, steps to increase the number of women in the Foreign Service and ensure that women diplomats are engaged in leadership roles in conflict resolution;
Coordinated and coherent support by the United Nations system to achieve greater effectiveness of peacemaking efforts through the increased participation of women and strengthened capacity to address gender issues in peace and post-conflict planning processes;
Role of Member States, regional organizations and the United Nations in ensuring women’s civil society and other stakeholder groups are informed, supported and represented in peacemaking and decision-making processes.
Ways and means in which the Security Council through its own work can strengthen attention to and contribute to accelerating the implementation of women and peace and security commitments.
The use of Early Warning, Preventive Deployment, Mediation, Peacekeeping, Practical Disarmament, Peacebuilding as tools of Preventive Diplomacy.
Examination of the political, humanitarian and moral imperatives of conflict prevention, including the interconnection of needs that start or fuel conflict.
The linkage between Councils initiatives on WPS and Preventive Diplomacy.
This is also time to consider, as peace activists on how we can also enhance our commentary on peace and security issues – maybe it does mean that we create the content, we become more proactive about media productions and claim the power to access and inform the media in our own way - one of the reasons for the establishment of our Regional Women’s Media and Policy Network on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace and Security)
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls