By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Speaking with one voice and with their eyes firmly fixed on the objective of peace, women from across the country have enjoined all key stakeholders to the conflicts to undertake concrete and immediate actions to end the ongoing hostilities while making women part of the peace process.
The women made the call after the conclusion of the first National Women’s Convention for Peace that took place on July 29, 30 and 31 at the Palais des Congres in Yaounde.
The National Women’s Convention for Peace in Cameroon is the first initiative of its kind: a gathering of over 1,000 women (women peace activists, displaced women and girls, victims of war-related violence and others) from all 10 regions of Cameroon, including all 58 divisions and all 360 sub-Divisions – to pledge their knowledge and experience to the peace process, claim their place to contribute meaningfully to ending the security crises and make an unequivocal call for peace now.
The three days session saw presentations on conflict sexual abuse, psychosocial support and trauma healing; the process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration; the need to Create trauma healing centres in all regions.
According to the women, there should be “equal and permanent involvement of Women peace mediators and negotiators in peace processes at all levels, while enforcing their protection at all times, according to the four pillars of the UN Resolution 1325.”
“Women have the credibility, trust and influence earned from years of work at the community level. They are capable of picking up the pieces during the crisis, and use it as leverage during peace-building processes when official responses seem inadequate or slow,” Yvonne Muma, president of the Cameroon Women’s Peace Movement, CAWOPEM.
“Women recognise the importance of linking the discussions at the negotiation table to the communities (Grassroots) so that people who are most affected are consulted and informed.”
The role of women in their strides in preaching peace and bringing about solutions to crisis is well documented. However, women are most at times relegated to the background or are not even consulted in the peace process.
“Despite our intimate knowledge of what obtains, the legitimacy we have as members of the society, the responsibilities we voluntarily take on and the solutions we provide, we are often sidelined to the lowest level of multi-track processes.” She added.
“We are women. We are strong. We have passion. We want to inspire people to recognize humanity. We want people to have the right to live on peace and harmony despise anonymous, politics, race and gender,” Rosa Emilia Salamanca,
Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia (CIASE), a Colombian peacebuilding organisation with a particular focus on women’s rights and strengthening public policy said.
On her part, the Minister of Women and the Family, Marie Abena Ondoa told the women: “We have received the call for peace and responded by we are ready, just as the light makes the darkness disappear, only peace can make war disappear.”
She added: “Wherever women’s voices rise in unison the world pays attention. The declaration moved from a paper in our hands to a pledge in our hearts. The women’s convention has not come to an end, it is the start of the beginning.”
In their five points recommendations, the women called for the “immediate end to hostilities, and thus give meaning to African Union’s campaign to ‘Silence the Guns in Africa to achieve a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters.”
They further recommended that stakeholders should pursue a continued and inclusive dialogue that addresses core issues around Peace, Solidarity and shared Humanity in Cameroon; Create additional and reinforce the existing centres for psychosocial support and trauma-healing, and render the existing DDR centres functional and responsive to the existing conflicts.