Women often bear the brunt of conflicts and poverty in their societies. Even when they represent more than 50 percent of their populations; they are marginalized being at the receiving end of societal ills.
A reason for women representing the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR); to meet here in Kigali, to discuss their meaningful participation in the regional body.
The women who represent a cross section of society from the 11 member states, have among them; Members of Parliament, Senators, government representatives, international NGO’s and gender activists.
The Transitional Committee of the Regional Women’s Forum, meets to ponder ways of making the dream of a fully institutionalized Regional Women’s Forum a reality.
Among some of the issues that have been seen lacking in the regional body, include the omission of gender issues in planning processes, especially in budgeting, as well as decision-making at national and regional levels.
The Regional Women’s Forum is in line with the implementation of the Regional Pact on Security Stability and Development of the Great Lakes Region.
The women in the two day meeting are looking at ways of operationalising the Forum, within the ICGLR, as a full entity with a legal status. They are also preparing for the launch the forum later in May.
The ICGLR has suffered some of the most devastating conflicts in Africa, that have left women and children especially deeply hurt and traumatized. While a regional Women’s Forum will deal with a wide range of issues, it seems looking at the hot spots such as the Darfur, and the DRC, issues to do with peace and security, might take centre stage.
So often conflict resolution mechanisms lack a gendered approach that allows women’s full participation; not just as victims in need of reprieve, but decision-makers in their own right.
Of importance will also be the harmonization of national policies and programmes among the member states. You find for instance that some countries like Rwanda, are way ahead in the promotion of women to decision making positions, yet their sisters lag behind.
The Forum should therefore also serve as a best practices exchange platform. What best practice can each country bring to the table with regards women’s empowerment?
The Heads of State should see the Regional Women’s Forum, as a key pillar in all the ICGLR, planning processes and projects, for outcomes that carry a deeper meaning for citizens in the 11 member states.