Women and children are paying what they called the “stark cost” of conflict in countries across Africa’s Sahel region, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said.
Mohammed, who led an AU-UN peace mission to South Sudan, Chad and Niger from July 2 to July 7, however, said women could be agents for a “new paradigm” for peacebuilding and development.
“Across the three countries we visited, it is evident that women can be the agents of a new and necessary approach: a new narrative, a new paradigm,” Mohammed told the Security Council.
“With today’s conflicts greater in both number and complexity, it is more important than ever to find the path to peacebuilding and sustainable development for all,” she added.
The joint UN-African Union delegation to the Sahel was comprised of senior leaders from the international community, mostly women.
Also, Bineta Diop, the AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, the mission highlighted the “heart-rending and poignant realities” of women and girls in places such as the Lake Chad Basin region, where the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists have displaced millions.
She said the delegation met women who were terrorised by the extremists, or who had been married off while still girls.
They also encountered others who had stepped in to maintain livelihoods in the absence of men, as well as women religious leaders who were working to end child marriage and prevent radicalisation via extremist ideology.
Diop said: “Women are of course undeniably victims of violence. But that said, women are not just victims. They are also agents of change.
“They are intelligent and smart and have initiatives that they wish to share to respond to the challenges they are faced with.”
The Security Council adopted a landmark Resolution 1325 (2000) that has placed the issue of women, peace and security on the global agenda.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, who also joined the delegation, issued a challenge to the international community to mark the 20th anniversary of the Resolution in 2020.
Wallström called on the Council to ensure UN peacekeeping and political missions fully deliver on its promises, including making sure women are at the negotiation table, and that mission mandates include a perspective relating to women, peace and security, among other points.
“Missions like the one undertaken last week should become annual events, and every Security Council meeting should consider the women, peace and security perspective as an essential part of our work to end conflicts.
“I have no doubt that, if we were to do so, our motto of more women, more peace would become a reality,” she said.