subscribe: Posts | Comments

Malawi president pushes for women’s role in Africa’s peace processes


Faye Mooney
WVoN co-editor

In a speech last month, president Joyce Banda of Malawi emphasized the need for women’s involvement in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and consolidation processes in Africa.

Banda, elected earlier this year, pressed for gender empowerment in her keynote address to the 7th African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM) in Abuja, Nigeria.

The AFLPM was established at the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995, with the aim of promoting peace and harmony in Africa.

Banda used her  speech to argue that although women “play pivotal roles in many conflict settings, including reaching out across conflict divides and encouraging parties to abandon entrenched positions …  attitudes towards women’s participation in many countries and organisations pose a significant barrier to progress”.

She observed that women are still significantly under-represented in African peace negotiations, operations and national governance, particularly at senior levels, despite their growing presence in senior leadership roles in Africa and the United Nations.

She believes that through engaging the First Ladies as a first point of contact in conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms, it is possible to reduce the risk of clashes escalating into costly and destructive wars that can spill across borders.

“Having innovative and creative ways of using the role of First Ladies as peace ambassadors in their countries and within Africa becomes imperative as it quickly increases the number of women participating in peace missions at high levels,” Banda said.

“First Ladies Peace Mission can develop mechanisms of monitoring these indicators of potential conflict and devise ways to prevent conflict from occurring.”

The president of the AFLMP, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, echoed her sentiments: “I appeal to all of us, as mothers of the continent, to … advocate strongly for peaceful means of resolving differences in our various societies, and work more to prevent violence and war.”

Banda also recently met with the newly-elected chairperson of the African Union Commission, Madame Dr Dlamani-Zuma. She acknowledged African men “for creating space” by way of discouraging and removing gender barriers to enable women occupy important decision-making and leadership positions in society.

These messages follow in the wake of a string of reforms since her election which have marked her out as “A New kind of African Leader”. She has introduced economic reform in Malawi, liberalised media policies and sparked a public debate on repealing laws that criminalize homosexuality.

Some African commentators take the view that the impact of her speech at the summit will be long term and that her push for gender empowerment may signal the start of a change in women’s roles in peace processes in Africa.

One thing is certain: Banda is without doubt a force to be reckoned with on the African political stage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *