Mainstreaming for Gender as well as promoting women’s, children’s and LGBTI rights

SALO’s work respects the various international, regional and national Protocols, Frameworks and Legislation that promote the mainstreaming of gender, children and people with disabilities. SALO further promotes the empowerment of women and respects the promotion of rights for LGBTQIA+.

SALO mainstreams gender-sensitivity in all its initiatives (following the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and SA, SADC and AU policy positions on gender equality) but given the centrality of gender-relations and gender-related effects of conflicts, this initiative places a particular focus on women. Gender-related concerns addressed through SALO’s processes include:

  • The marginalisation of women in most formal conflict resolution processes in Africa, including their under-representation in the diplomatic sector;
  • Gender-based violence as a tool used by armed and political groups within conflicts;
  • Masculinity as a normative framework in both conflict and conflict resolution processes, as opposed to more inclusive dialogue approaches;
  • The double marginalisation that comes with a LGBTQIA+ identity.
  • The double marginalisation that comes with women with disabilities

SALO uses the following strategies:

  • Ensuring a critical mass of women in our activities;
  • Including women in decision-making fora and on our public platforms;
  • Highlighting issues of gender roles, relations and gender balance in our work; and
  • Conscientising around patriarchy in its normative and cultural forms.
  • Taking into account the impact of conflict and violence on women, as well as women’s contribution to conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Endeavouring to bring women into African peace processes

SALO is committed to increasing the impact of women’s positions and perspectives in political transitions in Africa and thereby increasing the depth of national reconciliation and stability. SALO achieves this through the facilitation of neutral and inclusive spaces for dialogue and the building of consensus on modalities of women’s inclusion and issues of concern to women in the respective country’s transition process. These dialogues take place in informal and formal forums, allowing for the gradual development of positions, networks and mutual knowledge as a basis for sustained debate and reconciliation.

In SALO’s various dialogue forums, we aim for equal representation of both women and men among our participants and, where possible, panellists. One of the aspects of SALO’s dialogue approach is to enable increased access to and exchange between civil society groups and government decision-makers in political transitions and peace processes. SALO ensures that women’s groups and perspectives from civil society are included and brought to the fore in such exchanges.

The political role and position of women has also been an aspect of SALO’s dialogues on the transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As noted by Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, thenSouth Africa’s Special Representative to the DRC, at a SALO workshop on 1 February 2012 in Pretoria, “The coming parliament [in the Democratic Republic of Congo] must take a fresh look at the gender issue and take into serious consideration the factors and issues affecting women. Care should be taken to ensure the mistakes almost allowed during the Congolese Dialogue, in which women were not allowed to come together to express their views as to how the country should be governed, should not be repeated.”

The 2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security recognizes that civilians – particularly women and children – are the worst affected by conflict, and that this is a threat to peace and security.  Resolution 1325 calls for women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution initiatives and the integration of gender perspectives in peace building. Since Resolution 1325, supporting the important roles women play in peace building and the mainstreaming of gender in peace building has become a standard and necessary best practice of international peace facilitation. According to the United Nations, mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally.

When a country enters a political transition out of conflict, true stability depends on an entrenchment of the new political order in broader society, and especially in the population’s acceptance of its legitimacy. Such legitimacy requires the inclusion and participation of all major population groups. Peace-building and state-building interventions often focus on the inclusion and incorporation of all groups who might be a threat to stability through the potential for renewed violence, e.g. a focus on armed or economically powerful groups. Such an approach tends to exclude women from peace and state-building processes, as most potentially stability-threatening groups tend to be male-dominated.

More recently, however, it has been understood that groups with a potential to support stability through facilitating inter-group dialogues, entrenching non-violent and inclusive practices in everyday life, and shifting attention to the (re)constructive aspects of social and economic development, are equally important to political stability. Women often have a disproportionate role in these regards. This recognition of women’s crucial roles in entrenching peace is in addition to the overall framework of human rights, which, not least, gives women the right to equal representation and voice in political processes which influence their lives.

The inclusion of women in peace building and political processes more generally is still highly contested in many contexts, however. Often, women’s exclusion or marginalisation is justified in the name of religion, culture or traditions. South African organisations have an important role to play (for example, in Somalia) as they can illustrate that the inclusion of women as equal political players (including Muslim women, who occupy some significant positions in South Africa) is not merely a ‘western’ imposition’, but an African reality.

There are different understandings of what roles women can and want to play and what concerns in their societies they want to focus on. A crucial first step for any organisation purporting to support and facilitate women’s inclusion in political processes is to ask different groups of women what issues they would like to engage with and in what ways. For example, formal peace processes often do not engage with forms of violence beyond overt ‘public’ violence between opposed political groupings, while women are also affected by various forms of violence which are seen as ‘private’, including rape, domestic violence, and structural violence such as enforced extreme poverty, illness or ignorance due to exclusion from basic services. Some women may choose to focus on bringing these wider understandings of violence into the mainstream peace building process, while others may choose to engage with the existing mainstream territory of security, constitutional and institutional development and governance.