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Want Solutions? put Women at the Table!

The theme for this year’s international women’s day is “Inspire Inclusion.” This seems like common sense when translated into plain English. Yet, in much of the world it is unthinkable that women are included in decision-making.

In her book about the ways women are caught up in conflict*, Christina Lamb points out that the places where war drags on for years are also the places where women have low status. If there are high levels of domestic violence or child marriage in peace time, there will likely be gang rape during conflict. Yet, it is rare that women are involved in ceasefire negotiations in much of the Middle East, or Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Myanmar. Wars drag on in traditional conservative societies because men fear losing face or having to compromise, whereas women know that daily survival is all about compromising and leaving their fragile egos to one side.

Lamb also finds that the legal systems that recognise the damage done to society during a conflict tend to have women judges involved. Where only men sit in judgment, rape is not considered important enough to be included in the charges against members of a militia or terrorist group. History teaches us that if a peace deal is to be successful, it also must deliver justice. That includes acknowledging that terrible things were done to civilians. It is often only women judges and lawyers who are prepared to deliver that justice.

How is Network for Africa putting women at the table?

The good news is that the women involved in Network for Africa projects are putting themselves in charge.

  • Survivors of conflict gain in confidence as they learn to manage their trauma.

  • Women caring for family who are physically or mentally ill find a voice when they join a mutual support group, knowing they are no longer isolated.

  • Women are proud of their independence when they learn a skill and start a business, making money to provide for their families.

  • Women chair many of our village savings and loans schemes, organising their community to plan for the future.

  • Those who have known violence find an inner resilience thanks to the solidarity offered by group counselling sessions.

  • Our project staff provide female role models: women make up 50% of our peer support counsellors, and our Ugandan partner BNUU is run by the remarkable Florence Adong.

N4A's mission is to support survivors of conflict or genocide and their families, in communities in sub-Saharan Africa who have been left behind after the fighting stops, and the humanitarian aid moves on, to recover from trauma and rebuild their lives. We respond to what these communities tell us they need, and equip community leaders with the skills to identify those most in need, so we can offer appropriate and sustainable support. We form long-term partnerships with local NGOs, working with them to provide mental health support so survivors can tackle the deep-rooted psychological consequences that often block their recovery, and livelihoods to enable them to break the cycle of mental illness and poverty.

*Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: what war does to women, by Christina Lamb. Please note this is a tough read, but an inspiring one.

“The power of these women comes from what Dr Martin Luther King called a deep sense of somebody-ness”

Network for Africa


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