There is need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to preserve gains made and strengthen the capacity of women to ensure they take a prominent and equal role in peacebuilding processes.

This was highlighted during the recently concluded FemWise-Africa advanced training on mediation and negotiation for the Great Lakes Region.

The overall objective of the training was to enhance the mediation and negotiation skills of FemWise-Africa members of the Great Lakes Region in order to strengthen their contribution towards preventive diplomacy and mediation efforts.

The Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation – FemWise Africa, ensures its members are more technically equipped in their interventions and preventive efforts across their various areas of engagement.

Rwanda is recognised globally as having made unprecedented progress towards gender equality and continues to promote women’s participation and representation in various domains.

In regards to peacekeeping, women play a highly visible role in conflict management structures and the promotion of justice, right from the grass-root level. Women represent 45% of the total number of community mediators (Abunzi) and 48% of the access to justice bureaus.

In his address, Fode Ndiaye, UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda recognised the leadership that Rwanda has displayed in advancing the women, peace, and security agenda.

He said, the Great Lakes Region continues to make significant progress towards peace, security, and development, with many positive trends, including improved democratic processes, strengthened bilateral cooperation, and enhanced regional integration that promotes cross-border trading opportunities.

To sustain these important developments, Ndiaye said it is vital that the role played by women is understood, which demands greater sensitisation and commitment to integrate their role across all sectors including security.

“The over-arching commitment ‘to leave no one behind,’ as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, is at the heart of this approach if the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda is to resonate in every part of the region.

It must continue to inspire us if we are to sustain peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region and preserve the gains achieved to date by member states and the people of the region,” he added.

Shakilla Umutoni, FemWise member and representative from Rwanda pointed out that the Great Lakes Region has made encouraging progress towards peace, security, and development.

The overall peaceful transfers of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Tanzania, among other countries, as well as the signing and implementation of peace agreements in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Sudan, illustrate the positive momentum, Umutoni said.

She highlighted that many countries in the region have also made strides in strengthening bilateral cooperation, promoting good neighbourliness, and furthering regional integration.

However, despite these positive trends, we continue to witness acts of insecurity and instability situations in the region which, if left untapped will continue exposing the people of this region to risks of violence, she said.

“In the efforts, therefore, to sustain and preserve the gains made so far, there is need for strategic planning towards consolidating the recent momentum observed in the region. This will require sustained and coordinated support from national, regional, and international actors.”

Umutoni observed that the international community has continuously recognised the positive role women play when involved in peace processes and in preventing and resolving conflicts.

“We believe this is very relevant to our own countries and the region at large. Despite their critical contribution in peacebuilding, their role remains often underutilised and unrecognised on the globe including in the Great Lakes region.”

In Rwanda, we have a robust legal and policy framework as well as, institutional mechanisms to create and sustain a peaceful and conflict-free nation. Rwanda has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) 2018-2022 to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on women peace and security, as a practical step to sustain and expand registered gains in the women, peace and security agenda, Umutoni shared.

By the year 2020, the number of women deployed for peace mission had increased from 0.4% to 3.3%.

Rwandan women have not only contributed to conflict mediation at home but have exported peace to other parts of the world in UN and AU peacekeeping missions including Sudan (Darfur, Khartoum), South Sudan, Central African Republic and other countries.

While women have played a positive role in peace and security, Umutoni noted that more comprehensive strategies to increase full participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms are still needed here in Rwanda and in the great lakes region.

She was very optimistic for the training to facilitate the strengthening of desired skills and capabilities required to empower the GLR FemWise members’ responses to the peace threats on one hand, but also their engagement in high-level preventive diplomacy and mediation efforts on the other.

Xia Huang, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region said that significant progress continues to be made in the Great Lakes region and with regard to the political will of states to confront the many challenges confronting the region.