Speech by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane at the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa (PWM-SA) Summit on Women, Peace and Security – May 20-22, 2011

Minister of Correctional Services and chair of this morning session, Comrade Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; 
The Chairperson of the African National Congress and Convenor, Comrade Baleka Mbete;
The Deputy Secretary General of the ANC and Premier of the North-West Province, Comrade Thandi Modise;
Minister of Women, Children and Person with Disabilities, Comrade Lulu Xingwana;
Regional Director of UN Women, Ms. Nomcebo Manzini;
Representatives of ACCORD;
Participants;
Ladies and gentlemen

Speaking at the re-launch of the ANC Women’s League in 1990, the visionary leader of the historic people’s movement - the African National Congress - Oliver Reginald Tambo unequivocally expressed that  “women themselves have to organize and act so as to bring about the changes in attitudes amongst both men and women”.  OR’s message, some 21 years ago, is that we have a duty to liberate ourselves first from the shackles of inequality, gender-based sexual exploitation, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy. We also have a duty to liberate our men-folk by empowering them in a way that will ensure that they appreciate as backwardness and uncivilized the deplorable acts I have just enumerated.

We are here this morning, to participate in another Summit on women, because we remain committed to gender equity and working with various bodies and parties like the Progressive Women’s Movement of our country (the PWMSA) in advancing the women’s cause on all fronts, especially on peace and security issues. This cooperation with entities of this nature spans back from the years of our struggle to the current democratic dispensation.

We are proud as South African women that our country’s legislative framework on women gives impetus to our nation’s international commitment to promoting gender equality, conflict management and resolution. Hence in our country, August is Women’s month, during which we celebrate and commemorate the role of women in the struggle for a free, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa. Specifically on August 9, we celebrate the heroic contribution of women in the struggle against the oppressive laws of the apartheid regime, marked by the historic march by women of all races to the Union Buildings.

Our country has made it its business to call for a resolute support to all efforts aimed at addressing the plight of women and girls as victims of conflict-related abuses.  Our rallying call should remain: “there should be nothing about us women, without us”. We must therefore continue to work for the increased participation of women in all stages of peace processes, especially post-conflict resolution and reconstruction.

It is in this context, that we reiterate the fact that women are under-represented in formal peace negotiations, whether as local participants representing warring factions, or as representatives of international authorities overseeing or mediating deliberations and institutions invited to the negotiating table.

In addition, central issues of concern to women, including their participation in post-conflict political, social, civil, economic and judicial structures, do not always reach the negotiating table, in part because of the exclusion of women from the formal peace negotiations.

Yet women and girls are the first casualties of war. From the beginning of war, women and girls are besieged not only by combatants and other armed elements, but also by new societal pressures and expectations brought about by the new conflict environments. Sexual violence in conflict areas is inextricably linked with gender inequality.

According to the UNHCR, a disturbing 80% of the world’s refugees and IDPs are women and children.

The political mobilization by women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo prior to the formal peace talks made it possible for them to participate as delegates of political parties and experts from civil society in the Congolese peace talks, held in Sun City, South Africa, from 25 February to 19 April 2002. This is one example of what women can do when they are involved in the peace process.  This was an important turning point, if not proof that women should be afforded the space and time to bring to the negotiating table a different perspective – that important gender-sensitive perspective.

Contemporary history of armed-conflict does attest to the fact that, in cases where women have been involved in national peace negotiations, they have managed to bring their own perspectives to the peace table. Their involvement has, in most instances, ensured that peace accords address demands for gender equality.

The need to address gender inequality was also emphasized as an explicit goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women in the Millennium Development Goals, thus providing another valuable opportunity for the advancement of CEDAW and the Beijing commitments.

Sub-regionally, gender equality and the empowerment of women is one of the founding principles of SADC and is enshrined in the SADC Treaty. We have been greatly honoured by the leadership and important contributions of women in recent peace processes and negotiations in our region. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development of 2008 has been hailed as an important step towards the empowerment of women, the elimination of discrimination, and achievement of gender equality and equity.

We should all remember that the African Union has, in the year 2010, declared the decade (2010-2020) as the African Women’s Decade. In the full knowledge of the disturbing atrocities committed against our fellow mothers and sisters in the Democratic of Republic of the Congo, Sudan and elsewhere.

The AU’s Africa Gender Policy of 2009 is a guide to the process of gender mainstreaming at the regional and sub-regional levels.  Measures have been put in place for the AU to provide member states with technical support for mainstreaming gender in their policies and programmes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our work in the United Nations activities entail working with other nations for the maintenance of global peace and stability, the promotion of development, as well  as the protection and promotion of human rights and international law. This work is complimented by our active role within the AU Peace and Security Council in ensuring that Africa’s interests in the maintenance of global peace and security are catered for.

Our Security Council membership presents South Africa with an opportunity to play an active role in promoting a culture of collective responsibility and collective responses in dealing with the challenges of the contemporary world. The first few months of our Council membership have been a critical test to the resilience of our foreign policy objectives in the maintenance of international peace and security and the advancement of the African Agenda.

The Security Council is a multidimensional organ covering diverse issues and complex agenda items. The Council manages over 100,000 blue helmets deployed in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world. In addition, the UNSC plays a crucial role in international efforts to combat terrorism by mandating enforcement action and monitoring compliance by member states and other actors.

South Africa’s chairpersonship of the UNSC Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa presents the country with a platform to play an active role on peace and security on the Continent. In the coming 21 months, which is the remainder of our membership of the Security Council, a mammoth task still lies ahead for our pursuit for peace and stability in all regions of the world, particularly the African continent. We will intensify our efforts to encourage closer co-operation between the Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in pursuit of peace on the continent.

Madame Chair,

The adoption by the UNSC of Resolution 1325 was indeed a defining moment for us as women. This Resolution highlights the importance of bringing gender perspectives to the centre of all United Nations conflict prevention and resolution, peace -building, peacekeeping, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.  

This has also been recognised by international organisations involved in peace-building. It is therefore a welcome development that this Resolution provides a useful framework for action and strategy to domesticate and integrate gender perspectives in programs of peace and human security. 

In this regard, we call for women and girls to be included into all formalized peace processes, negotiations, the formulation of peace accords and reconstruction plans.

South Africa believes that the full implementation of this Resolution requires the resolve of all countries, acting in partnerships with civil society and communities. We already have an active South African solidarity movement in this area of women in conflict and post-conflict reconstruction and development

The AU has also taken concrete steps for the implementation of this Resolution, as well as Resolution1820 (on sexual violence in conflict).  The intention of these measures is to assist in integrating gender policies, programmes and activities on conflicts and peace; and ensure that women participate fully in conflict resolution and management processes.

In this regard, we have noted with great concern that in recent years, rape has emerged as an instrument of war, as seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This has resulted in forced impregnation, forced abortion, trafficking, sexual slavery and the intentional spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/Aids.

We are heartened that the United Nations, the African Union and other sub-regional organisations, have all condemned the violation of women as a tool for war. We also know that women and girls may also be manipulated into taking up military or violent roles, such as girl soldiers and female suicide bombers, as a result of propaganda. 

We recall that during the1993 United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, held at Vienna, it was recognized that violence against women during armed conflict is a violation of human rights. We also recognize conclusions arrived at during the 1998 Commission on the Status of Women, which highlighted the importance of gender-sensitive justice; the specific needs of women affected by armed conflict; the need to increase women’s participation in all stages of peace processes, including conflict prevention, post-conflict resolution and reconstruction; and disarmament issues.

Therefore, as we meet here today, we have to celebrate the various important initiatives aimed at increasing the participation of women within formal peace processes. It is in that spirit that we should remain supportive of the recommendations of the UN Study on “Women, Peace and Security”, which highlighted, amongst others, the fact that we need to ensure that our:

  • Governments, integrate gender perspectives into the terms of reference of Security Council visits and missions to countries and regions in conflict; and use all available avenues to brief Security Council members on the gender issues in the conflict situations concerned;
  • Ensure that all peace accords brokered by the United Nations systematically and explicitly address the consequences of the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, their contributions to the peace processes and their needs and priorities in the post-conflict context; and,
  • Ensure full involvement of women in negotiations of peace agreements at national and international levels, including through provision of training for women and women’s organizations on formal peace processes.

As I conclude Chairperson,

The exclusion of women from political decision-making is a major impediment to the realisation of sustainable peace.  South Africa has committed itself to mainstreaming gender in conflict resolution.

The changes in post-apartheid South Africa have had indeed major implications for women’s lives and opened new opportunities for gender equality and empowerment. 

I thank you!


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