Anyway, I'm babbling. Read!
Indonesian women to the peace table
Indonesia is enjoying a period of relative peace and calm as the violent conflicts that wracked the country at the dawn of the country’s democratic transition have been resolved, for the most part peacefully.
It wasn’t just a question of bringing peace to Aceh, but also to Maluku, Poso and West Kalimantan, where thousands died and many thousands more were displaced in scenes of ugly ethnic and religious violent conflict after 1998.
For these considerable achievements in conflict management and peacemaking the government and civil society arguably deserves a jointly awarded peace prize. But if there is one area in which the country’s peacemaking efforts have been weak it is in the promotion of the role of women.
Women are profoundly underrepresented in peace negotiations around the globe. In 2009, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) reviewed 21 major peace processes held since 1992 and found that women constituted less than 8percent of delegates to talks and less than 3 percent of agreement signatories.
This is a shameful record given that the United Nations specifically called on the world, through a Security Council resolution, to promote the role of women in peacemaking a decade ago.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 calls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective, including, the needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction.
The resolution also calls for measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution and that involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements.
Additionally, the resolution calls for measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary.
Women can and do make a difference in peace negotiations. In Northern Ireland, women’s groups built the trust between Protestants and Roman Catholics that was the foundation for the ultimate agreements.
Neither do the harsh conditions of conflict stand in their way – for in Northern Uganda, in Somalia and in Darfur, women have demonstrated an ability to participate constructively and effectively in peace talks.
Closer to home, in the case of conflict in Ambon, Poso, and Aceh, for example, women have led many inter-religious and peace dialogues at the grassroots level.
It was the actions of women that helped pierce the religious polarization between Christian and Muslim communities in the vicious 1999-2001 Ambon and Poso conflicts by insisting on keeping markets open and crossing religious lines to bring their produce to sell.
Not only are women typically perceived as less threatening, they are often able to influence men and husbands to put down their weapons.
The roles of women are especially important in conflict situations, prevalent in Indonesia certainly, where complex social and economic issues are the drivers of violence rather than the traditional disputes over territory or sovereignty.
In peace talks to end such conflicts the critical issues relate more to matters of community relations and local economic wellbeing that women are more centrally involved in than men.
In other words, it is not about deploying women because they are more peacefully inclined or less prone to violence – which very often isn’t the case – but because women’s perspective are directly relevant to resolving conflict.
One only needs to examine the aftermath of conflicts in Indonesia to see why. Consultations with communities affected by conflict in Ambon, in Poso and in West Kalimantan, for example, all reveal a lack of attention to the resettlement of IDPs, to compensation for lost property and other vital ingredients for long term reconciliation and peace in the community.
The inclusion of women in government led peacemaking efforts would have ensured greater attention was paid to these social and economic issues.
But whilst it is evident that women in Indonesia do play an important role in conflict management at the grass roots level, elevating their involvement to higher political levels is the next key step — not least because this would help promote and share experiences in other conflicts, both in Indonesia and farther afield.
To this end, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue is holding a two day roundtable discussion in Jakarta on “Women at the Indonesian Peace Table: Enhancing the Participation of Women in Conflict Resolution”, in partnership with the Research Centre for Politics of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and with the cooperation of the State Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection.
The principle aim of the meeting is to strategize on ways to enhance women’s substantive contribution to conflict resolution particularly at decision making levels in the political and security sectors.
The March roundtable will bring together several women from Parliament, representatives of government agencies, women from conflict affected areas, NGOs as well as other experts.
The work of promoting women in peacemaking should not be confined, as is so often the case, to periodic workshops and meetings, but should become the basis for an active campaign by women in positions of political power and influence.
In this respect it is encouraging to note the decision by the Indonesian Parliamentary Caucus for Women to encourage more of the 136 women in both the parliament and the regional assembly to get involved in international and regional affairs.
A recent visit to the Burmese border by two female DPR members, and the continuing involvement of women legislators in the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary caucus on Myanmar is to be applauded and supported.
Despite UN resolutions and pressure from civil society, women are not going to be automatically invited to the peace table; structural, political and cultural change is both needed and possible.
Indonesia has a respected history of involving women in important national and political issues. Women were at the forefront of the country’s nationalist struggle in the years before independence, with the first national women’s congress held in 1928.
In a country that has already elected a woman as president it seems appropriate that Indonesia should spearhead efforts regionally and internationally to enhance the role of women in peacemaking.
It was the actions of women that helped pierce the religious polarization between Christian and Muslim communities in the vicious 1999-2001 Ambon and Poso conflicts