Mediation matters: A need for more women - Hindustan Times
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Mediation matters: A need for more women

Jun 08, 2024 11:45 PM IST

The new government must eliminate institutional barriers for women mediators. A key step is ensuring adequate funding and training.

Now that the elections are behind us, it’s time for political parties that relied heavily on the women’s vote to find ways to involve women in decision-making, not just as recipients of welfare schemes. Recently, Indian Army Major Radhika Sen received the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year award from the UN Secretary-General. “A gender perspective in UN peacekeeping is essential for an effective, inclusive, and sustained peace process. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict, facing increased risk and abuse. The need is to mainstream women in nation-building, particularly in security and governance,” Sen said on receiving the award.

Thane, India - May ,20, 2024: Womens participating in the voting process at a polling station in Thane A womans voter appears for voting at a polling station at road no 22 in thane ,in Thane, in Mumbai, India, on, Monday, May,20, 2024. ( Praful Gangurde / HT Photo ) PREMIUM
Thane, India - May ,20, 2024: Womens participating in the voting process at a polling station in Thane A womans voter appears for voting at a polling station at road no 22 in thane ,in Thane, in Mumbai, India, on, Monday, May,20, 2024. ( Praful Gangurde / HT Photo )

Against the backdrop of conflicts abroad (Ukraine, Gaza) and at home (Manipur), we need to look at the role women can play in peacemaking, not just peacekeeping, given outsized adverse impact conflicts have on women. In this context, UNSCR 1325 has been instrumental in providing a platform to nurture peace, emphasising the crucial role of women in peace-making. This resolution underscores the importance of women’s participation in all aspects of peace-building and conflict resolution. India, given its efforts to integrate women into peacekeeping, has the potential to bring more women into peacemaking. There has been a noticeable absence of women in peace talks in Gaza, Ukraine, and Manipur. India should create a cadre of mediators with strong women’s representation to address the complexities of today’s conflicts and promote collaborative and proactive conflict resolution.

Meenakshi Gopinath, director of Women in Security, Conflict Management, and Peace (WISCOMP), said, “While the discussion around mediation has gained momentum in India, around the globe several women’s networks for mediation have created new bonds of solidarity and opportunities for co-learning. Of the 24 members of the Mediation Support Network, one of the most active global networks of NGOs supporting mediation, only eight are located outside Western Europe and North America. There is a need to reinforce the idea based on the perspectives and experiences of the Global South, which offers a rich canvas of traditional and contemporary practices in mediation.” Susan Ferguson, country representative, UN Women, India, adds, “Women are often instrumental in bringing about peace at the grassroots level during conflicts, but then not involved in formal peace negotiations. We need women in both these tracks, as men alone cannot find durable peace solutions.”

At a recent WISCOMP-IIC dialogue on Conversations in Mediation, Neha Sanghrajka, senior conflict sensitivity advisor at the United Nations and senior advisor at the Geneva Centre for Security, said, “Women have played a significant role in mediation through networks. Wherever they have participated, they have utilised these networks to foster collaboration and support among women mediators. These networks are crucial in creating an environment conducive to peace and conflict resolution.”

Mediation can only work if it is aligned with the local environment and must involve a risk mitigation strategy. To its credit, the UN has made several efforts to get more women to the negotiation table. India’s new government can learn from global best practices, particularly from Africa, where the number of women in peace-making talks has risen substantially.

The new government must eliminate institutional barriers for women mediators. A key step is ensuring adequate funding and training. If India can raise an effective cadre of women mediators, it would not only benefit the country but also serve as a resource for other nations facing conflicts. Using the NGO and grassroots network of women’s groups, the government should strengthen women mediators’ capacities and areas of expertise. This would be the next step following the accolades Indian women peacekeepers have earned worldwide.

The views expressed are personal

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