An ICAN and WASL delegation participated in the Tunis Forum on Gender Equality held April 24-26, 2019. The forum focused on Women, Peace and Security as one of its four themes, culminating with a set of ten recommendations on WPS to inform meetings with the aim to inform actions next year for the 25 anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 20 anniversary of UNSCR 1325 as well as a review of the UN sustainable development goals.
ICAN took a creative approach with its design of the session “How Does Civil Society Do Women, Peace and Security?” using a marketplace format, where attendees could walk around the space to engage with four different tools that civil society uses to advance the women, peace, and security agenda, followed by a spotlight on each tool and questions and comments from the audience. ICAN program director Melinda Holmes moderated the dynamic session which featured several WASL partners as speakers.
Abir Haj Ibrahim from Mobaderoon-Active Citizens in Syria introduced the Better Peace Tool and showed the first animation, describing how she has adapted it to the Syrian context. Hana Faidi from the Libyan Women’s Forum described the development of their Islamic Peace Tool which addresses the religious dimensions of conflict and peace . In addition, Oxfam representative Fatma Hameed discussed the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Yemen with animations and a national campaign, and ICAN’s senior program officer Stacey Schamber presented the programmatic guidance from Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration from Violent Extremism. Watch the video recording of the session here.
Samira Ibrahim from Neem Foundation in Nigeria and Khedija Arfaoui, feminist researcher from Tunisia, spoke on a panel titled “What is a Feminist Peace?” along with H.E. Margot Wallström, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ms. Ibrahim described how she doesn’t use a label like feminist but rather equips women with skills including psychosocial support to enable their leadership in peace processes. “A healthy woman is a healthy society” she said. Dr. Arfaoui shared how her lifelong stance against the death penalty has not changed despite her personal experience losing her son and daughter-in-law to a terrorist attack, pointing out that we have to stay true to our convictions and that a feminist peace should not include the right to take a life under any circumstances. You can watch the session here.
During the session, “Why Gender Equality is Essential to Sustain Peace,” Juliana Suescún Gomez, from Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), Colombia and Dr. Amina Rasul, President of Philippines Centre for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Philippines shared their perspectives. Ms. Gomez articulated that gender equality matters because women understand peace and security from an everyday perspective, stating that “men tend to learn resistance, while women learn resilience.” Dr. Rasul described that despite The Philippines’ leadership on women’s rights, in minority Muslim areas the experience has been quite different. She realized that secular women may not be the best advocates in that context, so her organization established relationships with religious leaders to promote women’s rights and participation at a community level. You can watch the session here.
In addition to helping curate the WPS sessions and sponsoring part of our delegation, ICAN also organized a roundtable on gender and return from violent extremism co-hosted by UNDP and SOS Terrorisme and supported an interactive theatre performance organized by WASL member Mobdi’un – Creative Youth and performed by youth from Kram Ouest neighbourhood who chose to address the topic of sexual harassment in public spaces.
Tunisian scholar and WASL member Dr. Amel Grami moderated the roundtable “Advancing a Holistic and Gendered Approach to Return, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration from Violent Extremism” which was opened by Randi Davis, director of the UNDP Gender Team, who highlighted the need for an evidence-based and gendered approach when examining the nuanced topics of disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration and emphasized the value of learning from civil society practitioners who have been doing this work. During the roundtable Hafidah Benchehida from Algeria and Nancy Yammout, director of Rescue Me, from Lebanon discussed the issues that returning women and girls face as well as the way gender shapes the processes of radicalization and recruitment, and thus rehabilitation and reintegration. Ms. Holmes highlighted how understanding and addressing the experiences of returnees is critical to effective prevention. Farouk Mellouki, president of SOS Terrorisme and Nizar Chouk, a magistrate overseeing terrorism cases in Tunisia described that while the legal framework was updated to reference international human rights standards, there is no specific article which addresses return, and that a lack of knowledge of the issue leaves Tunisian society fearful of returnees.
ICAN and WASL look forward to continued collaboration and input into the recommendations for shaping the future of the WPS agenda in 2020.