Feminising the peace process : a comparative analysis of women and conflict in the Niger-delta (Nigeria) and KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)
Isike, Christopher Afoke.
MetadataShow full item record
This study starts with the premise that the paucity of women in political leadership positions in society accounts for their absence from the formal peace table. Indeed, as many studies have shown, women are globally marginalized at all levels of public decision-making, and Africa is not left out of this trend. For a continent that is particularly plagued by armed conflict, Africa is generally known for masculinisng the public space including political governance. In this way, women in the continent are formally excluded from peace processes despite not only the roles they play during and after conflict but also their disproportionate vulnerability to the after-effects. Therefore, this study hypothesises that involving women in politics and governance on an equal basis with men would enhance the peace process in conflict-affected societies in Africa. To test this hypothesis, the study investigates the extent to which women’s participation in political processes or governance can enhance peacebuilding in conflict-affected communities using KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and the Niger Delta in Nigeria as case studies. Specifically, it poses the following questions: What is the impact of conflict on women in these study areas, and how does it define the women’s reality with regard to the conflict cycle? How have women responded to conflict and its resolution in these study areas? Will increased political representation of women both in government and decision-making points of the peace machinery enhance the peace process? What societal notions and ideologies under-gird the role perception and construction of women as ‘victims only’ in conflict situations, and which help to fuel their exclusion from peace processes? And what veritable lessons can be learnt from women’s involvement in conflict resolution in these case studies? In grappling with these questions, the study utilises a combination of research methods and approaches in collecting and analysing data from the both secondary and primary sources. For example, it adopts a qualitative method which it combines with feminist research (perspective and practice) and comparative case study approaches. Using the questionnaire and interview instruments, the study relies on data from surveys of 295 women and 4 men drawn from both case studies. In KwaZulu-Natal, an additional 40 students (25 females and 15 males) of the University of KwaZulu-Natal were also surveyed in two focus group discussions. While all data were analysed by content analysis with the help of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), the questionnaire survey data were further subjected to statistical analysis (Chi Square and Logistic Regression Analysis) to test for the significance of the variables that could explain the perception that more women in politics would enhance peace building. Mainly, the study found out that just as women are victims of armed conflict, they are also agents of peace. Second, women often articulate conflict and peace in different ways to men based on the ethic of care which defines their femininity. Third, women are active peace agents (as reconcilers and community builders) at the informal levels in their communities and they can be used for reconciliatory roles in the peace process – that is to break down gender dualism which perpetuates conflict. Fourth, in partnership with men, women make peace building more effective than if there are few or no women. Therefore, there is a need to mainstream women into politics on an equal basis with men, and men need to be carried vi along in this project. Fifth, given the failure of male dominated politics to prevent and manage violent conflict, women need to be encouraged to come into politics as women so that they can bring their own values to bear. Finally, based on statistical analysis, some of the positive predictors of the characteristics of women which suggest that more women in politics would enhance peace-building include marital status, education and place of interview (context). The study also explores some theoretical considerations for feminising peace-building. These include the human security paradigm, the human factor paradigm and John Lederach’s moral imagination model of peace building. The relationship between these paradigms/models and peace building is located in their emphasis on the importance of the human agency in peace building discourse and action. For instance, while the human security paradigm emphasises the significance of factoring people into the security, peace and development calculus, both the human factor and moral imagination paradigms underscore the fact that the quality of the people that can make the difference between violent conflict and peace matters. For example, while positive human factor qualities such as integrity, accountability, selflessness and truthfulness can create a fertile environment for good governance and development, from a moral imagination perspective, relatedness, collaboration, love, empathy and tolerance are necessary and sufficient factors for creating a fertile environment for peace building. From a critical survey of literature on women, politics and peace building in pre-colonial African societies, this study found that women in Africa generally embody positive human factor traits and moral imagination capacities which reinforced the high moral authority society accorded them. Oftentimes, women drew on this moral authority, which was based on the ethics of care that defined their femininity, to exert themselves politically, economically and socially. For instance, they leveraged on this moral authority to assume peacemaking and peace building roles by mediating in intra-community and inter-community conflicts, educating children to value peaceful co-existence and, frequently, carried out peace sacrifices and purification/cleansing rites to reintegrate their warriors into civil society. Based on this, and the practical illustrations/stories of women’s peace agency in parts of post-colonial Africa, this study contends that the values they represent can be appropriated and developed into an African feminist ethic of peace which can be utilised as both a conflict-prevention and post-conflict reconstruction model in other conflict-prone areas of the continent. However, the potential of women’s peace agency is clogged by their exclusion (by both men and women themselves) from the peace processes of their communities and nation-states, and this is perpetuated by the political marginalisation of women. Therefore, based on the finding that women (in partnership with men) make peace building more effective than if there are few or no women, the study makes a number of recommendations which are in line with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. These include: African states should enact constitutionally guaranteed electoral laws and policies to enable women to appropriate their own political spaces. Second, the peace process should be engendered in ways that will enable women to continue to play traditional reconciliatory roles especially at the grass root level. Third, because men remain critical to the gender equality project, they should be carried along through re- enlightenment that will make them see women empowerment as an African renaissance rather than as a western imposition. In the same vein, re-socialising men to assume co-parenting responsibilities will help deconstruct the basis of patriarchy in society and in the process enthrone a new kind of civilisation. This is imperative considering that gender equality in private and public life is both a necessary and sufficient factor for peace building.