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Reflection, advocacy and action on building capacities of women leaders in Africa

The year 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.


20 March 2019

On 8 March, International Women's Day, IPSS organized a briefing session on the theme “The Role of Women in Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in Africa”. Dr. Kidane Kiros, Director of IPSS delivered the welcome address and the keynote speech was delivered by H.E. Hanna Tetteh, the Special Representative of the Secretary General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU). The session was moderated by Ms. Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat at IPSS.



The speakers included H.E. Dr. Speciosa Wandira, Former Vice-President of Uganda and Co-Chair of FemWise-Africa; Ms. Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on Peace and Security; and Ms. Letty Chiwara, UN Women Representative to Ethiopia, the AU and UNECA.


The event reflected on the overall role of women in mediation and peace processes, particularly in peacemaking and peacebuilding. H.E. Tetteh remarked that International Women’s Day is a global day of celebration that honours the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. The year 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. H.E Tetteh called for reflection, advocacy and action on building the capabilities of women as leaders and the importance of their participation in decision-making. She also commended the development and adoption of the Continental Results Framework (CRF), which provides 41 indicators to measure progress made by the African Union and its Member States in the area of women, peace and security.


The keynote speech was followed by a high-level fishbowl discussion during which participants reflected on the following questions:

  • Where are the women in peace and security in Africa?
  • Can women participate without a voice?
  • Do women have a reason to celebrate?
    • If yes, what needs to be done to push this further?
    • If no, what must we do to get there?


“Women are not there yet in terms of their involvement in the final decision despite an increase in their number in peace processes”.


The discussion highlighted the International Peace Institute study of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 showing that when women are included in peace processes, there is a 35% increase in the probability that a peace agreement will last 15 years or more. However, different structural and cultural challenges were noted to be hindering women’s participation in peacebuilding and peacemaking processes from policy to implementation on the continent.

It was recommended that mentorship, women taking ownership, capacity building, networking and advocacy are critical for women to claim their space at all levels of peace processes and beyond.



Qualities of competence and confidence are crucial for women, especially young women, to attain the techniques to enable them to voice their concern in challenging environments. It was also noted that women in leadership positions should mentor young women in order to bridge the generational leadership gaps faced on the continent.



Women taking ownership is critical to changing the narrative of the victimization of women to a narrative of resilience as stakeholders in peace and security.



Beyond policymaking, civil society, media, academia and men as ambassadors have an important role to play in changing the victimization narratives and improving the capacity development of women. Programmes focusing on young women need to be prioritized to bridge the intergenerational gap.

The advocacy of women’s issues is essential to deconstructing toxic narratives about women and concepts like feminism. Speaking about their resilience and considering women as stakeholders is important and should include calling out when and where contentious issues involving women are happening. This provides incentives and pushes for accountability at all levels of governance.


Capacity building

Africa's action-oriented plan for UN resolution 1325 (2000) should be celebrated but also encouraged to build on the experiences of Africans at different places. Enhancing women's involvement in academia and establishing a link between academia and the work on the ground is fundamental.


FemWise-Africa is currently working on a strategic work-plan and welcomes all stakeholders to share their recommendations on how best to push forth African women in peace and security. “All women’s issues are security issues”. An appeal was made to all African women and women's networks to join and collaborate with FemWise-Africa because “supporting each other as women, is to strategize and be ready to respond whenever our fellow women call upon us to act!”


In conclusion, the briefing session called for women to be strategic and learn how to partner with each other through education and networking. Transitional leadership was emphasized through the mentorship of young women to mitigate intergenerational gaps. It was also highlighted that there is a need to implement the global and regional resolutions on women inclusion with clear laws at all levels and equip women’s networks like FemWise-Africa to respond whenever women are called to action.