2. Gender and Peacebuilding Workshop, Maseru, Lesotho (April 2015)

Gender and peacebuilding workshop for female and male representatives from key institutions responsible for security and peacebuilding in Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe
7-9 April 2015

Introduction

The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) hosted a three-day gender and peacebuilding workshop for female and male representatives from key institutions responsible for security and peacebuilding in Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe from 7 to 9 April 2015 at Maseru Sun Hotel, in Maseru, Lesotho. This workshop formed part of a larger project that the Centre is undertaking aimed at enhancing the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Southern Africa to promote human rights and democratic governance. The purpose of the workshop was to increase capacities of human rights institutions and civil society organisations to respond effectively to human rights violations, promote gender equality, and build social cohesion. The long-term objective of the Centre’s project is to ensure that more women are meaningfully involved in peace processes, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding activities across Africa.

The workshop brought together 12 female and 11 male representatives of civil society organisations.

Workshop Objectives
The April 2015 workshop in Maseru had five key objectives:

  •  First, to identify ways of building the inclusion of women into peace negotiations, peacebuilding, and post-conflict  reconstruction efforts;
  •  Second, to strengthen the knowledge and understanding of participants of the concepts of gender, conflict, and peace, and  to enhance their gender analysis and conflict resolution skills;
  •  Third, to reinforce the organisational capacities of women’s and gender-focused groups to respond effectively to conflict and  gender equality issues in their local and national communities;
  •  Fourth, to increase knowledge of regional and international rights-based frameworks, and to examine ways to further  political efforts to achieve gender equality and the effective representation of women in post-conflict settings in Africa; and
  •  Fifth, to enhance networking and collaboration to increase women’s voices and meaningful participation in building peace and gender equality in their institutions and local communities.

Workshop Methodology
Workshop proceedings comprised a range of facilitator-led discussions, as well as presentations, experiential processes, and debriefings.

Gender-and-peacebuilding areas covered
The workshop provided participants with theoretical and practical knowledge and skills about gender and peacebuilding. At the theoretical level, terms such as gender equity, gender balance, masculinity, feminism, gender disparity, gender relations, gender analysis, gender stereotypes, gender balance, and gender discrimination were reflected on.

Reflecting on personal gender experiences
Related to the terms above, participants were given the opportunity, through group and plenary discussions, to share their own experiences and views within individual, institutional, social, and political contexts. Through a “Fishbowl” exercise – designed to encourage participants of the same gender to discuss their experiences related to their own gender while participants of the opposite gender observe – both men and women were able to reflect on the issues that affect their gender roles and identities in society.

For male participants, the Fishbowl exercise revealed how men exercise their power over women in the context of family, in the broader social culture, and in the workplace. The exercise also revealed some of the discomforts among men in displaying their authentic gender roles, especially on matters related to private life. It also revealed some of the stereotypes men have about women. For female participants, the Fishbowl exercise allowed women to discuss their experiences, as women, in their sexual lives. For example, female participants acknowledged that, for them, sex is generally linked to forming attachments. The female participants noted that in instances of women infidelity the way that society treats women usually leads them to blame themselves and experience a feeling of self-loathing; men, in contrast, may feel infidelity is just part of their normal masculine lifestyle. The female participants further observed that their sons generally tend to form stronger bonds with them than with their fathers, leading to the perception that fathers are “kings” of the house and hence untouchable. If boys internalise such observations, they are more prone to behave like their fathers when they grow up.

Exercising empathy for the other gender
Participants were reminded that for real gender equality to be achieved, woman and men must move beyond their own experience to develop empathy for the other gender. To this end, participants were grouped into opposite-gender pairs. Each person had to share an experience of feeling powerful or powerless in their social settings, whether at home or at work. The pairs had to listen to each other’s stories without responding or reacting, and then reflect on what they had heard and share how they felt about it.

This exercise illustrated that both women and men can feel powerful or powerless. Thus the exercise illustrated that, even in organisations, it is critical to have empathy for the experiences of different gender identities. There is a need to make room in organisations to hear people’s realities, and we should move away from blaming, whether the organisation or the individual. An organisation is made up of people, and people’s behaviours are important for the transformation of institutions.

Gender equality in organisations

In a session on power in organisations, it was noted that organisations are structures created to plan, coordinate, and pursue collective goals. Organisations are not rational entities, founded on logical, equitable, and efficient principles. They are microcosms of the social contexts in which they are created, and reflect social power relations. Thus, gender-biased and unequal societies produce inequitable organisations, and organisations tend to reproduce inequalities internally and externally, though often in subtle and invisible ways. But organisations are also sites from which power relations can be challenged and transformed. To achieve gender equality in organisations, we have to take into account several facts: that our conditioning in the use of power occurs before we become agents of change; that we have few positive examples or models of the good use of power and leadership; that we are surrounded by patriarchal structures of power and leadership; and that this is a painful but empowering journey of exploration and experimentation.

Gender and peacebuilding – country experiences

In identifying and discussing issues related to gender and peacebuilding from their countries, participants observed that violence is pervasive in almost every structure of cultures – political, economic, and social. Sustained violence tends to mutate towards other forms of violence, as people have become accustomed to using violence as a means to resolve problems.

Laws exist, but they are often in contradiction with cultural beliefs. Women seem to accept their subservience, and men seem to feel that it is acceptable to beat a woman. Reports of gender-based violence to the authorities often lead to cases being withdrawn by the family, thus perpetuating a culture of silence around violence.

Strategies for gender and peacebuilding

Participants noted that any strategy of addressing the role of gender in peacebuilding must necessarily unpack the roles of women and men. Women and men need each other in peacebuilding processes. There is a need for both genders to find ways to capitalise on the positive aspects of culture, in particular those norms and beliefs that reinforce peace. Strategies must include mediation processes that accommodate both genders, and must also recognise that peacebuilding is a wide field with many opportunities to reduce biases and increase opportunities for the best possible outcomes.

Outcomes

Comments from participants after the workshop indicated strengthened skills and increased knowledge in the area of gender and peacebuilding.

  • Tsikoane Pesoane, Democracy Education Programme Officer of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) in Maseru, Lesotho, reported that the training had helped him to understand patriarchy as a “male dominated social system that disadvantages women socially, politically and economically”. Pesoane committed to “share information [from the workshop] with my organisation”.
  • Grace Ruvimbo, Director of the Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network of Peace Building (ZYWNP) in Harare, Zimbabwe, noted that the workshop helped her to understand that patriarchy constitutes “systems, ideologies or notions that give men privileges and power”. Ruvimbo reported that women “have to fight for space in male dominated spaces [and] I will integrate peace and gender mainstreaming in my work”.
  • Grace Kisetu, Programme Officer of Activism and Movement Building at the Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP), reported that the workshop broadened her knowledge about gender and peacebuilding. She stated that “it was worthy attending the workshop to me as a person, my organisation and my country. It really enlightened me on the notion of peace building and its relation to gender issues. I will take home and to my organisation [everything] I have learnt and share with my colleagues”.
  • Ngamane Upi, Chairperson of the Khomas Region Men Engage Namibia, based in Windhoek, Namibia, reported that the workshop helped him to understand that he is “privileged [as a man] but, deeper conversations [with decision makers in institutions] are needed for men to understand that privileges can be shared with women”. Upi committed, in his role as a gender awareness practitioner, to “engage more men into gender awareness”.

Lesotho workshop 7 9 April

Workshop photo gallery

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