Peace By Piece: How African Women Leaders are Building New Peace Movements Across Africa
May 7th – New York: According to the African Union, Africa continues to register good progress on governance and democracy. The political participation and decision-making by African women's are second only to developed countries and Latin America. There is increased political pluralism, and countries enjoy robust civil society engagements in governance and democratic processes. However, like in many parts of the world, the lingering effect of unrest and social injustices and unwarranted rhetoric haunt her people. It's in the villages, towns, and schools, long after the handshakes, monuments and agreements-institutional symbols of peace, where women and youth, pick up the baton and continue to actively work to build fragile communities and restore hope.
As part of the '10 Events celebrating Columbia Global Centers’ 10th Anniversary”, the Nairobi Center in partnership with the Columbia University's Earth's Institute - Women, Peace, and Security Program hosted a panel of formidable women leaders from across Africa, actively working in peace-building initiatves within their various communities. The panel was hosted by Leymah Gwobee, Nobel Peace Laureate, and Executive Director of the Women, Peace, and Security Program, who continues to spearhead nonviolent initiatives across the world. With the odds stacked against them, the vibrant panel shared insights on intricate yet necessary work within their communities, in small living rooms and expansive boards to foster non-violent, one person to another 'movements' across Africa.
“Peace in this context is not the militarization of her people Ms.Gwobee noted, “It is the active roles women play within their communities to proactively work through leadership, dialogue, and community engagement," Leymah noted, the tenacity women and the youth is the hope of the continent. “Women are indeed the champions at the grassroots level.”
The insightful panel included Leymah Gbowee, Christelle Bay- Hope for the Needy Association, Cameroon, Riya Yuyda - Crown the Woman, South Sudan, Omezzine Khelifa, 2018-2019 Obama Scholar, Mobdiun – Creative Youth, Tunisia, Rumbidzai Chisenga, 2018-2019 Obama Scholar - Mandela Institute for Development Studies, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The panel was able to draw from their insights and experience with working within their respective communities and regions at large.
Panelist after panelist spoke in clarity on the grassroots movements, the role of involving women and youth in dialogue and allowing hope to grow and actualize. As engaged citizens, everybody has a role in building within the peacebuilding movement at any level through the use of one’s leadership to mobilize communities, skills, knowledge, and networks to influence and develop leverage, "build your table" quipped Rumbidzai Chisenga. Simple actions she added, such as the case of O. Ongbinde of Nigeria who translates the national budget into a document that ordinary citizens understand enhances citizen participation. Similarly, encouraging integrity within our citizens to then engage their leaders and systems, because through open and transparent engagement can breed sustainable and scalable efforts. Let us not get-building consistent awareness around challenges in our societies, such as gender-based violence, radicalization, inequalities, as Leymah noted: "war or injustices are sometimes normalized in our settings," and thus we continuously need to recalibrate and step outside situations and seek to address and unlearn what is normalized.
"What can we do" an audience member asked? Increase research activities and document the substantial work that has been already carried out in the villages and towns across Africa. This will be leaps and bounds particularly for those on the frontline; reaffirming their efforts, sharing their stories and indeed reigning in reinforcement through the efforts of fundraising.