By Yvette Kathurima
The launch of the African Union (AU) Gender Training Manual for AU Peace Support Operations took place at the 407th Peace and Security Council (PSC) Open Session on Women and Children in Situations of Conflict in Africa on the 4th of December 2013. In 2010, the PSC convened its first open session on vulnerability of women and children in conflict situations in Africa and a decision was taken for the Council to hold an open session focusing on the issue every year. The sessions are linked to the African Women’s Decade which calls for accelerated implementation of agreed global and regional commitments of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The training manual was adopted by AU Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs on 14 May 2013 and was launched by the PSC following several trainings across Africa. Four documents were then launched at this meeting: The Manual; The Reader; The Policy Brief and the Draft Code of Conduct for the PSC which was pretested by AMISOM. The Gender Training Manual has 6 Modules (3 of which focusing on women and children’s vulnerability in situations of conflict). The Manual relies on language identified in the Maputo Protocol and Security Council Resolution 1325 and outlines key human rights standards. In addition, the manual illustrates how gender roles are impacted in situations of conflict and advocates for purposive gender mainstreaming in all situations. Moreover, the manual discusses the use of rape as a weapon of war and the challenges peacekeepers may have to address including SGBV. Lastly, the manual touches on disarmament, guidance to peace support operations and instructions on designing gender appropriate interventions.
The reader was developed as a tool that contains additional information on gender and peace support operations. Its objective is to strengthen awareness building and knowledge of gender in conflict and post conflict zones. It can be used during pre-deployment, peacekeeping missions and debriefing sessions. The reader is meant for standby forces, military, police, civilians involved in peacekeeping operations and trainers in military academies and police colleges. The reader follows the structure of the ToT Trainers guide/Manual.
The Policy brief summarizes the training manual which is heavy on content while the Draft Code of Conduct outlines behavior of key personnel engaged in peace support operations.
Member States were invited to provide comments on the four documents and there was consensus to end incidences of sexual and gender based violence. The representative from UK said, ‘Sexual violence is used because it is cheap, dreadfully effective, easily concealed and strikes at the most vulnerable people.’ When rape is used as a weapon of war, the woman’s body becomes the battleground. Trauma leads to depression, suicide and reproduction of violence. In addition, in most cases, children sired as a result of rape have no identity given that most African societies are patrilineal in nature.
The dehumanizing nature of SV shreds the fabric that weaves us together as human beings and Member States called for an end to impunity, accountability as well as strengthening of judicial systems. Moreover, there was a call for survivor support including research to influence social norms that perpetuate GBV. Lastly, there was caution to pay attention to increased cases of terrorism that target women and children in their attacks.
Yvette Kathurima is the Head of Advocacy at the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) and can be reached on email: firstname.lastname@example.org