Reclaiming women’s space at the peace table : the Peacebuilding Cyberdialogue as a model of using ICTs for peacebuilding
Mo is from
Aamira hails from Cotabato in
Thérèse is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She is a rape survivor. The DRC is one of a number of countries where rape has become a weapon of war. It is estimated that tens of thousands of rapes and/or mutilations have taken place in DRC during the past ten years (Cabrera-Balleza, 2005).
Impact of violent conflicts on women The experiences of Mo, Aamira, and Thérèse illustrate the impact of violent conflicts on women. Without meaning to reinforce women’s victim image further, I would like to speak briefly about this topic. Women are subjected to various acts of violence and there is increased insecurity and fear of attack that often prompt women and their families to flee. It is estimated that women and children make up 80 percent of the world’s internally displaced persons and refugees. They also flee because male members of their families or community have fled, are detained, or are missing in connection with the hostilities, or because the men have sent them away following the breakdown of traditional protection mechanisms. Many times, women flee into uncertainty and often into danger, as they have to fend for themselves and support their dependants with limited resources (ibid).
Women also have to bear increased responsibility for their children and elderly relatives and sometimes the bigger community in the absence of their menfolk. Sometimes, women also choose not to flee the fighting or the threat of hostilities because they and their families believe that the very fact that they are women and mothers will make them safe from the warring parties. They therefore stay to protect their families and provide for them. But the absence of their men and the general instability and lawlessness increase the insecurity of the women who are caught up in these situations, and aggravate the breakdown of the traditional support mechanisms upon which they previously relied (ibid).
Rape, forced prostitution, sexual slavery and forced impregnation are all criminal means and methods of warfare that have attracted more and more attention in recent years, mainly because of the widespread reporting of such acts in recent conflicts. Sexual violence has in fact always been used against women and girls--and to a lesser extent against men and boys--as a form of torture used to degrade, intimidate and ultimately defeat and chase away targeted populations (International Committee of the Red Cross, 2001).
Using ICTs to transform
women’s images in conflict situations
women bear the brunt of violent conflicts, they have also been at the forefront
of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building. They have taken
on different initiatives to transform the negative and stereotypical victim
image that is often attributed to women caught in violent conflict situations
to a positive and empowered image of stakeholders and active participants in
the pursuit for just and sustainable peace. However, the idea of using the new information
and communication technologies (ICTs) for facilitating dialogues towards peace
remains an unpopular concept among women involved in peace activism. This, despite
the many examples of how such technologies have been used to support grassroots
activism, networking and movement building. For the International Women's
Tribune Centre however, our long experience in using ICTs to get women’s
October 2005, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the adoption
of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark document that marks the
first time the UN Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique
impact of armed conflict on women and recognized their contributions to
conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building, we
The discussions during the Peacebuilding
Cyberdialogue were recorded and edited and were used to produce radio features,
public service announcements and radio drama in English, Luganda and Swahili.
These radio productions that highlight women’s role in peacebuilding and
reconstruction are currently being aired in different radio stations in
The discussions during the Peacebuilding Cyberdialogue were recorded and edited and were used to produce radio features, public service announcements and radio drama in English, Luganda and Swahili. These radio productions that highlight women’s role in peacebuilding and reconstruction are currently being aired in different radio stations in
The Peacebuilding Cyberdialogue represented an
important link in “grounding” the connection between policies proposed at
global level and realities confronting women at the local level. It was an effective
exercise in making local
the broader picture of
Within the broader picture of
Challenges and Recommendations Towards Effective ICT Usage in Peacebuilding
Amidst our excitement resulting from the positive feedback and extensive reach of the Peacebuilding Cyberdialogue, we would like to stress that the use of ICTs in enabling women to participate in peacebuilding and reconstruction processes is only meant to enhance traditional conflict resolution and peacebuilding techniques on the ground and help strengthen the peace processes that are already in place. The success of any effort to find lasting solutions to conflict are in danger of being undermined and ICTs might even serve to aggravate existing conflicts or create new ones if they are nor used carefully and sensibly and without any supporting structures and holistic frameworks necessary for facilitating conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The cases of abuse in ICT usage --particularly on the Internet, such as the propagation of hate speech and hate crime, as well as the spread of information to build and access weapons could attest to this.
We also need to continuously address the issue of access including affordability of the technologies, the availability and stability of basic infrastructures, and the need for sustained capacity building programs and easily available technical support. From our experience in the Peacebuilding Cyberdialogue, we came across a broad range of challenges. Some of them were:
- the lack of stable Internet connection that prevented women from the Pacific from participating;
intermittent power supply in
which prevented Ugandan women from joining the discussion in its entirety; Uganda
incompatibility of the technical set-ups among the participants--Timor Leste
women took so much time in logging on to the conference while women from
were not able to join at all; Germany
- the general lack of familiarity with the technology--some of the women did not even know how to sign on to the conference; and
- the slow Internet connectivity --some participants were only using dial up connection--for clear real time receptions, broad band was necessary.
In conclusion, there is a need to interrogate the
assumption that access to ICTs automatically ensures its adoption and consequently
leads to people’s empowerment. As social entrepreneurs, women’s organizations
In conclusion, there is a need to interrogate the assumption that access to ICTs automatically ensures its adoption and consequently leads to people’s empowerment. As social entrepreneurs, women’s organizations that useICTs in their advocacy work must be willing to invest in building and/or reinforcing societal frameworks that empower local communities in ways that enhance grassroots activism and bring forth new patterns of leadership.
Cabrera-Balleza, M. (2005). UN Security Council Resolution 1325--Translating the rhetoric into reality. Kvinner Sammen. Retrieved from http://www.fokuskvinner.no/Publikasjoner/Kvinner_sammen/2005/Kvinner_Sammen_3_05/4571 on April 20, 2006.
Fact Sheet: The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women (International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC, 2001)