5. West Africa Regional Gender and Peacebuilding Workshop, Accra, Ghana (July 2015)

West Africa Regional Gender and Peacebuilding Workshop, Accra, Ghana
6-8 July 2015

Introduction

Ghana regional workshop participantsThe Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) hosted a three-day regional gender and peacebuilding workshop for female and male decision-makers within key institutions responsible for security and peacebuilding in West Africa (Ghana and Liberia) from 6 to 8 July 2015 in Accra, Ghana. The workshop was part of a continent-wide project that the Centre is undertaking, aimed at bringing about the equal participation of women in institutions and organisations responsible for building peace, security, and gender equality in Eastern, Southern, West, and North Africa, in line with the participation pillar of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 of 2000 on women, peace, and security.

The Accra regional workshop provided a platform for sharing best practices across institutions, countries, and the sub-region; offering technical support to institutions facing challenges in implementing gender equality; and promoting the creation of an enabling environment towards full gender equality within participating institutions.

The workshop was attended by eighteen participants (nine female, nine male). Thirteen participants were from Ghana (six male, seven female) and five were from Liberia (three male, two female).

Ghana regional workshop participantsWorkshop Objectives

The workshop had five key objectives:

  • First, to consolidate participants' skills in gender analysis and gender-sensitive peacebuilding as developed during the first set of workshops conducted at the national level in Ghana and Liberia in November 2013 and May 2014 respectively;
  • Second, to review, consolidate, and concretise work and action plans for gender equality made by participants during the first set of workshops;
  • Third, to secure commitments for a partnership between women and men to work for gender equality in participating institutions;
  • Fourth, to ensure that decision-makers commit to achieving full gender equality within their institutions, and that they create an enabling environment towards full gender equality within their institutions; and
  • Fifth, to share best practices in promoting gender sensitivity, equality, and the meaningful participation of women in building peace in their institutions and local communities.

Methodology

Using a combination of experiential and reflective approaches, the workshop comprised a range of facilitator-led discussions in plenary and in small groups, presentations, and debriefings. The experiences and perspectives of the participants were incorporated into the discussions.

Topics Covered

The workshop began with refreshing the memory of participants regarding key terms on the subject of gender and peacebuilding, including gender equity, gender balance, masculinity, feminism, gender disparity, gender relations, gender analysis, gender stereotype, and gender discrimination. This set the foundation for participants to reflect on various aspects on gender and peacebuilding in their personal lives and in their institutions.

Ghana regional workshop participantsReflections on power and the impact of patriarchy on men and women

Power imbalances influenced by patriarchy are usually supported and reinforced by society. Participants were guided to observe how patriarchy creates conditions for violence against and oppression of one gender over another. In this context, gender analysis requires that when we begin to see the systematic patriarchal issues that lead to violence and oppression, we should realise that change will require collective action, which begins with changing ourselves and reflecting on our own use of power.

Participants observed, in concrete experiences, how patriarchy creates both advantages and disadvantages. For example, regarding advantages for women, participants noted how women generally receive more sympathy than men, and how patriarchy demarcates lines of responsibilities between men and women in social interactions so as to create a clear sense of the division on labour. Regarding disadvantages for women, participants noted how men tend to make decisions that favour their own interests and how women's potential and initiative are suppressed. Participants also noted how patriarchy can be disadvantageous to men. For example, sometimes men make wrong decisions because of a lack of participation of women. In addition, patriarchy leads to social conflict which affects everyone including men, creates dependency of women on men, and limits development for the benefit of everyone including men, and leaves men feeling pressured to conform to the leadership role that patriarchal society requires of them.

The workshop concluded its discussion of this topic by observing that patriarchy suppresses women's creativity and that when considering the role of women in leadership, it is important not to measure women's contributions by the same yardstick as that for men. The value that women bring in terms of their leadership is linked to different qualities and abilities that are not necessarily valued in masculine-centred leadership.

Ghana regional workshop participantsGender beliefs and practices

The workshop noted that gender beliefs and practices can be analysed along four dimensions: internal, interpersonal, institutional, and ideological. The internal dimension refers to the personal beliefs and attitudes that people hold that support or justify the power of the male/masculine over the female/feminine. The interpersonal dimension refers to the practices and behaviours of individuals in their interpersonal relationships that enact or maintain the power of the male/masculine over the female/feminine. The institutional dimension refers to the policies, practices, and cultures of institutions that enact or maintain the power of the male/masculine over the female/feminine. And the ideological dimension refers to the social norms and belief systems that support or justify the power of the male/masculine over the female/feminine.

Through the internal dimension, personal views and biases impact how people interact with others, as well as how they function in their institutions. Internal dimensions of patriarchy begin in the home, from a very early age. Therefore, to minimise negative impact of patriarchy in institutions, it is critical to focus on changing the internal dimensions of patriarchy at the level of the individual.

Contextualising and implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

Participants were shown two videos and a webinar that sought to emphasise the necessity of providing security forces with greater exposure to human rights issues as a preventive mechanism to protect women and children both during and after times of conflict. This is critical because gender-based violence is a significant problem in war, which although traumatic for all concerned, is particularly traumatic for women. In addition, the involvement of women in peacekeeping missions can enhance implementation of the four pillars of Security Council Resolution 1325: protection, prevention, participation, and gender mainstreaming. Strong political will and contribution from all sectors, including the media, civil society, and government, are critical if the goals of Resolution 1325 are to be achieved. At the level of the individual, for real gender equality to happen, we must move from our own experience to empathy for the other gender. Empathy requires the understanding that whether one is male or female, there is the possibility to feel powerful or powerless. This understanding is critical if women and men are to work together in promoting peacebuilding. There is also a need to make room in organisations to share and listen to the realities of both men and women.

Transforming patriarchy: institutional action plans

Following these discussions and sharing of insights, participants drew up lists of actions they would take upon returning to their institutions in the effort to promote implementation of Resolution 1325. In general, participants committed to share with their colleagues the knowledge and skills they gained from the workshop, and initiate activities aimed at achieving the goals of the resolution.

Doreen Afriyie Sanwu"I have learned from the presentations by various groups on how to implement action plans in my organisation. I will organise a workshop for the Ministry of Defence staff to train them on what I have learned." Doreen Afriyie Sanwu, Assistant Director at Ghana's Ministry of Defence, Accra.

 

Conscience Tequah"The workshop met my expectations and everything I have learned was useful to the implementation of gender balance. From here I will impact the lives of others and make sure I help create awareness of UNSCR 1325." Conscience Tequah, Women's Rights Reporter at Liberia's Daily Observer newspaper, Monrovia.

 

Freda Agyei Asare"I have an in-depth understanding of gender [issues]. In my own small ways I am going to sensitise my colleagues at the work place and the public on the need to have gender equality at heart in service delivery." Freda Agyei Asare, Assistant Director at Ghana's Ministry of Defence, Accra.

 

John Ato Breboh"Excellent workshop and I would like to engage with CCR on similar workshops [in future]. [The workshop has given me an] understanding of UNSCR 1325, its successes and challenges [in relation to] individuals and institutions. I will use the knowledge gained to teach the staff working with me and the society at large." John Ato Breboh, Principal Investigator at Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Accra.

Workshop photo gallery

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