On behalf of the Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network, co-chaired by South Africa and Germany, we congratulate the President of the UN Security Council, Gabon for assuming the Presidency for the Month of October and for convening this annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security with a focus on “Strengthening women’s resilience and leadership as a path to peace in regions plagued by armed groups”.
We also thank the briefers for their insightful briefings.
We are currently faced with a worrying multitude of overlapping crises: worsening global climate change, the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of violent armed conflicts, as well as the ensuing food and energy crises which are undermining development in Africa and other parts of the world and putting the trajectory of the SDGs at risk. Because of structural discrimination, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of these crises.
But, as we keep repeating, women are far more than passive victims and survivors. We must shine a light not only on the plight of women, but amplify their role as agents of change who bring about constructive and essential contributions to the common good and to more stable, peaceful and just societies.
The African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) as an Africa-wide movement for women’s dynamic engagement and participation in decision-making at all levels of society is a prime example of female self-organization and agency. It demonstrates once more that women can mobilize, demand actions and achieve great results when structural barriers are addressed and overcome, especially in domains where they have been excluded for generations. It is an example of women’s leadership in multilateralism, of working together to prevent conflict and promote inclusive peace and sustainable development.
Established in 2017 in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) with the support of Germany, the AWLN comprises a diversity of women from all sectors: civil society, grassroots, political, public, and private sectors. The Network has so far established 30 national chapters, made up of women leaders and professionals from different fields, backgrounds and Generations.
As a unique global platform for advocacy and influence, using its experience to serve as a key agent on WPS in Africa and as a women-led intermediary between the AU and the UN system, AWLN’s advocacy is aimed at ensuring that women’s leadership is a regular agenda item in the deliberations at AU and UN gatherings.
We are also proud to share that the Group of Friends of AWLN, established in New York in 2018, has supported AWLN’s dynamic development and its efforts to advance African Women peacebuilders from the UN’s perspective and will continue to work alongside all stakeholders in raising the voices of women in dire situations in regions plagued by armed Groups.
As stated by you, the Security Council is aware of the important role that women’s organizations play in conflict-affected countries as they strive to meet the needs of their local communities. Yet only 0.3 percent of bilateral aid to fragile and conflict-affected countries goes to women’s organizations who suffer from a constant lack of funding and are hampered in their agency and potential. We are thus leaving out some of the potentially most important actors in the management and resolution of conflicts and crises. This needs to change! We urge Members of the council to also continue to opening up the space for more CSO briefers and instilling a more inclusive approach to finding lasting solutions to the menaces to women’s well-being in conflict situations.
Violence against women and girls, especially in times of conflict is rampant; we must not rest until real change has been achieved in the fight against SGBV. Negative social norms and cultural misconceptions are never reasons for violence against women and girls. Against this backdrop, we applaud the upcoming Second Mens’ Conference on Positive Masculinity themed “Advancing Actions and Promoting Positive Masculinity to End Violence Against Women and Girls” convened by President Macky Sall of Senegal, 2022 chair of the AU, in collaboration with DRC, South Africa, Ghana, as well as the AUC and AWLN’s Patron, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to be held on 10 November 2022 in Dakar, Senegal.
Ensuring meaningful participation and equal rights with full resources for women and girls is key to securing peace, stability and prosperity for all. We need to transform gender roles and power relations while breaking barriers for women’s meaningful participation at all levels of peace processes and in leadership and decision-making spheres. This is necessary to ensure women’s financial and economic inclusion, which the African Union has set as its goal for this decade.
Countless studies have shown that empowering women economically and politically leads to sustainable growth, stability and more resilience for society as a whole. This makes countries better prepared to respond effectively to crises. The same is true in peace and security: peace agreements are more likely to last when women participate meaningfully.
The GoF of the AWLN will continue to support the WPS Agenda and the instrumental role of African women’s agency in achieving greater equity, fairness and stability, more inclusive governance and effective conflict-resolution and peacebuilding.