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Bringing Gender Dimensions Back from Obscurity: Governance, Peace and Security in Africa

AWDF Policy Working Paper

Release Date:

February 2016

Efforts to address the gender dimensions of governance, peace and security in Africa have registered some success. At the same time, fundamental challenges remain. These challenges continue to relegate gender issues to the periphery of peace and security. Among other things; this policy paper discusses the disconnect between policy, scholarship and activism; and the reality on the ground. It argues, among other things, that there is not yet a narrative that moves Africa towards transformation in gender relations in peace and security processes in Africa. The paper makes a set of observations which, in part, explain the absence of a qualitative shift toward gender equality in these fields. It offers some proposals for relocating gender considerations in mainstream  governance, peace and security discourse and practice.

Key observations

When weighed against expressed goals, at least in declarations and policies relating to gender peace and security, there are noticeable gaps and challenges. These have been consistent in the last two decades. They include, for example, analysis, policy and practice of gender peace and security which keep gender issues isolated from the field of security. Some of these include:

  • Gender inequality in mainstream peace and security processes in Africa is treated as a side issue, or linked to peace and security only tangentially and in segments.
  • Those leading or facilitating peace processes and missions lack conviction about the need to transform gender relations in their areas of operation. They see related policies as separate from mainstream security policy.
  • Peace missions’ staff and staff of peace and security institutions’ continue to resist the notion of gender equality (this is related to the above point). Their attitudes arguably derive from the norms, values and culture that have shaped their own understanding of gender issues. Training programmes have not managed to effectively respond to this challenge.
  • The relative ease with which those managing peace processes and peace missions retreat to the provision of technical solutions. There is no real interest in a deep examination of gender issues except as a technical problem requiring a technical approach and solution. It is therefore unlikely that real change can occur without a corresponding commitment that goes beyond ticking checklists aimed at meeting institutional reporting directives or donor reporting requirements.
  • Women leaders and activists have, even if inadvertently, reinforced the status quo. This is not least due to a lack of capacity. In an overwhelming number of cases women activists, in their narratives and practice, are unable to take a strategic approach that would enable them to engage in holistic thinking about peace and security. Understandably, they restrict themselves to their vantage points, which can be narrow and invariably relegate them to the periphery of strategic conversations. Excluding them from mainstream peace and security processes then becomes relatively easy – either by mainstream policy actors’ design or omission.

Key recommendations

These recommendations attempt to deal with the gaps and challenges outlined in this paper.

To academic and policy analysts

Analysts should endeavour to take a more comprehensive approach when analysing gender in peace and security processes. They should make more organic linkages between gender and mainstream security.

To African regional organisations and policy communities

African organisations should more consciously institutionalise the principles of Resolution 1325 into their methods of work, practice and daily life. They need to move beyond the technical checklists entrenched by their claims of gender mainstreaming.
Policy-making institutions and agencies should take a more holistic approach to the development and application of policy frameworks. For example, greater consultation with people working in the

To African women’s organisations and activists

Women’s groups and organisations seeking to place – and keep – issues of women’s equality at the core of the security policy agenda should become more grounded in mainstream peace and security processes and dialogues. For example, we need to analyse where we are located at this point in peace and security. Should we be doing greater analysis of the military and security industries? Including examining military expenditure against the national budget?


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This policy working paper was published by the African Women's Development Fund