Saturday, April 2, 2011

The biggest obstacle women face is the prejudice of the leaders

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman in Africa to become head of state of Liberia, after winning with 53% of the vote the elections held in this country in 2005. However, they are still very few women are taken into account in the process of rebuilding post-conflict state. On the contrary, there are many verses loose yet to write poems.

This week, FRIDE has organized a seminar to discuss the role of women in post conflict situations and THE WORLD. it has been able to speak with one of its participants: Clare Castillejo, anthropologist, researcher at the think tank and an expert on gender issues. Question: Can post-conflict situations be an opportunity for women to participate in the process of reconstitution of the State or, unfortunately, this is not what usually happens and women are excluded? Answer: There is no doubt that post-conflict situations provide a unique opportunity to rebuild the state in a manner that recognizes the rights of women.

After a conflict often leads to processes for creating a new constitution, new laws and democratic institutions, and a radical reform of the state of nature. These processes are the perfect opportunity to secure new forms of inclusion of women in political life and promote their rights.

But unfortunately, in practice women are generally excluded from post-conflict negotiations, although it is often the main advocates for peace and those who suffer the most during the conflict. Q: What responsibility do men in this exclusion? A: Again and again shows how men in positions of political and military leadership refused to include women in decision-making and, instead, divide the power between them.

Q: In which countries the opposite has occurred and women do have opportunities? A: Liberia is a striking example where a woman has made it to the presidency of the country. Since coming to power [in 2005], Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has taken steps to stop the heinous sexual abuse is one of the main problems of this country.

In other countries in post-conflict situation such as Rwanda, Nepal and Burundi, women have also managed to gain a foothold in the new democratic parliaments and now for the first time in history, national politics, have made themselves heard. Q: What are the main obstacles that are facing women? A: Without a doubt the biggest obstacle that women face is the prejudice of male leaders, who think that women should not be present at the negotiating table, as they covet power for themselves.

At the same time, women face many other challenges. In most countries in conflict, women have a low education level, which makes them feel more insecure. Furthermore, it hinders their ability to participate in politics and compete with men. His involvement in political life is also affected by the fact that it is women who suffer most from poverty and the burden of housework.

Q: I guess that also face many pressures ... A: Yes, unfortunately, in many cases women who decide to challenge social norms and assume public office face intimidation and even violent assaults. In countries like Sierra Leone or Afghanistan, women who position themselves politically in the struggle for their rights can become subject to very violent actions.

Q: We live in a time when women's voices are heard leaving many countries in the Middle East, and are falling dictatorial regimes as in the Tunisian or Egyptian. Will this to change the role of women in these societies? A: Of course, the current situation in the Middle East is a great opportunity for women to play a bigger role in the new democratic nations that may arise.

If you include women in decision-making from the beginning you might get a state that actually serve to strengthen women's citizenship. However, until now, the signs are not promising, since women have not been included significantly in recent processes of the constitutions of those countries.

Q: Would you, therefore, occur in the future a situation contrary and that women see as their rights are even more cut in these countries? A: Yes, it could happen. If the State had taken a very conservative interpretation of Islam, could further limit the rights of women, as seen in Sudan and the Gulf States.

Q: And yet, despite being often excluded, women can contribute much to the prevention and conflict resolution, is not it? A: Of course, all over the world, from Colombia to Ivory Coast, women are playing a leading role in the defense of peace. What they need is support from the international community.

This involves allocating funds to develop activities that promote peace building, training women and protect them in dangerous situations. After the conflicts, the international community in its intermediary role in establishing peace, needs to exert pressure to include women at the negotiating table.

So far the international community has not exerted that pressure and have lost many opportunities. Q: And how you can protect and prevent violations of human rights of women in conflict and post conflict? A: Protecting women from violence in the midst of conflict is a major challenge. It is capital that in the context of conflict, such as Congo where women suffer sexual violence so egregious, the international community to provide protection through a proper peacekeeping force, properly trained in gender issues.

Often during the conflict, women are displaced and end up in refugee camps, where they are also very vulnerable to violence. It is vital to ensure safe spaces for women and children displaced. Q: It is also essential to end impunity. A: Fundamentally, the international community should pursue and bring to justice those responsible for crimes against women during the war (from soldiers to presidents).

Demonstrate that the abuse will not be tolerated and no impunity for them can be an important deterrent and trials such as Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, is a significant message.

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