Around 90 women from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya and Rwanda have gathered in Butembo, in eastern DRC's war-torn North Kivu Province, to discuss and promote the role of women in conflict management.
The aim of the workshop is to share experiences in order to enhance women's roles in peace and rehabilitation processes in their own social environments. Their recommendations, which were published on Friday, included the organisation of campaigns to increase public awareness and respect for women, the adaptation of customs favouring women within their own communities, and better coordination among women in the region.
Recommended strategies included civic and political education for all, the integration of women in decision-making processes, and the improvement of living conditions so as to preclude the elites from fleeing their countries. Participants also underlined the need to increase regional trade among local populations, and strongly warned against the recruitment of children by armies and militias.
The participants, who are all members of local associations or regional NGOs with a peace component in their programmes, are expected to implement the recommendations within their own organisations. Regional activities will also be planned for International Women's Day 2003.
"We could feel the intense emotion created by the context of suspicion among our countries," one participant commented. "But we have strength and determination enough to break the barriers in order to promote dialogue and mutual support inside the conflict zones."
The local NGO UWAKI North Kivu was the main initiator of the workshop held 12-14 October. It was financed and technically supported by the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development (CCFD, France), the Canadian Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, with the help of PREFED (Programme regional de Formation et d'Echange pour le Developpement - Kigali, Bujumbura, Bukavu, Kinshasa), International Alert UK, and Search for Common Ground (USA), and other foreign sponsors.