Isis-WICCE Executive Director Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng was in Brazil (September) as a key note speaker during the annual conference for the Association of Peace Keeping Mission training organisations. She was invited to speak about the gendered nature of peace keeping missions.
According to Ruth, women’s understanding of Peace is much more different than what the mainstream thinks. Whereas others define peace to mean absence of active violence and the silence of guns, women define peace to mean, peace of body, mind and spirit.
During and after war, the body which has been damaged by the sexual violence and other ghastly atrocities has to be restored, for women to be whole again and thereby participate in rebuilding themselves and the community at large. Healing then becomes apre-requisite for any peace building initiatives. Based on the above, women’s participation in peace keeping becomes very central; Women participating in security sectors are a critical component of any relief mission.
Women’s participation in peace keeping – broadens the range of skills among personnel, enhances operational effectiveness of all tasks, and improves the mission image sensibility and credibility. Women’s participation also drives a strong civil military coordination, reaches out and interacts with civilians (Trust),can be a clear outreach to women organizations for local protection, early warning, etc., tension in social relation and in community, interacting with SGBV survivors.
Working with women war survivors in different parts of the world, it has shown us that peace making begins with healing the body of the affected individuals especially women because a woman in any society is at the centre of peace making through their gender roles – her nurturing of humanness can make peace or cause conflict.
As we train peace keeping missions let us balance the political arm to peace keeping , and the social protection arm, with specific understanding that there is a difference between men and women. Therefore our training must emphasize partnership and coordination with other stake holders, address trauma and put women’s knowledge at the centre. This will provide peace keeping missions, the ability to provide a holistic approach to peace making as they will be able to internalize the realities on the ground. This way peace keeping will be simplified and understood and embraced by communities.