Formal peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives continue to ignore or marginalise issues of gender, and young women’s involvement in formal missions and talks remains low, studies have shown.
A recent study by the Institute of Young Women Development revealed that most people in Mashonaland Central are unaware of the existence of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, which are two of the five independent commissions set out in Chapter 12 of the Constitution.
According to the research, 80.4 percent of the research participants indicated that they did not know of the existence of these two Chapter 12 Institutions.
The two’s main roles include conflict resolution and peacebuilding. However, in Mashonaland Central’s Mazowe, Guruve, Bindura and Shamva Districts, most people end up resorting to backroom conflict resolution systems, which in most cases are unfair where young women are involved.
IYWD’s Knowledge Management, Documentation and Advocacy Coordinator Tinotenda Chihera told 263Chat that more needs to be done to capacitate the commissions to enable them to carry out their constitutional mandates.
“During our meetings with the two, it was brought to our attention that they lack financial resources to carry out their mandate which in turn jeopardizes peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts.
“If we look at the NPRC, it only convened four meetings since its inception in Mashonaland Central and the main reason for this was that they did not have the capacity to meet and discuss. This then makes it difficult for them to resolve a lot of conflicts in the province.
“The NPRC comes to an end in 2023, now after holding four meetings, do you think they would have done anything to resolve the various conflicts here, no. Hence, they are underutilized and under-resourced. More needs to be done from the top,” Chihera said.
To make matters worse, only a few of the participants brought complaints to the NPRC and ZHRC for various reasons including lack of awareness of the existence of the commissions.
Statistics from the Complaints Handling Department of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission show that the Department has only received 20 complaints from Mashonaland Central since its inception
Part of the research also indicates that: “It can be concluded therefore that these institutions, which are supposed to support and promote democracy as stated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, are little known by the people that are supposed to be not only knowing them but using them. This is notwithstanding the alleged impartiality and alleged capture of these institutions by the Executive, impairing their independence.”
Mashonaland Central province remains one of the areas with the most conflicts ranging from political, economic and social.
Political violence is, especially, rife during election campaigns and has negatively affected young women’s participation in politics.
The IYWD and other players played a key role in encouraging young women to run for public offices in 2018, which saw an increase in the number of women in general, vying for political offices.
However, with the Chapter 12 commissions essentially not on the ground, there are fears that ahead of the 2023 elections, more violence will be perpetrated against women and there will be no justice for them.
ZHRC’s Executive Secretary, Delia Mazambani said it essential for citizens to know about their rights before they approach different institutions for conflict resolutions.
“Key issue has to be the knowledge of our rights as enshrined in the constitution. If we have awareness of our rights we will know where to go to seek help. People need to know which ways they can get help. They need to know which institutions to approach for a different form of conflicts,” Mazambani said.
NPRC General Manager responsible for victim support gender and diversity Agnes Nhengo said despite resources constraint, they have been making inroads in conflict management through raising awareness for various community groups.
“Our aim is to dialogue with people who have issues to be resolved particularly women, vulnerable people and youths.
We dialogue on the importance of peace
“We have been engaging with women on conflict management and the interventions that they would want to see and address,” she said.
Nhengo noted that the commission is tasked with monitoring key areas where conflict may arise due to various issues and they have developed a system that will be monitoring conflict ahead of the 2023 elections.
“We also do peace monitoring, which is monitoring possible occurrences of conflicts and providing recommendations where we see that conflict issues are imminent or where they have happened, we seek redress.
“Ahead of the 2023 elections, there are possible issues of conflict which are happening because of socioeconomic issues in the country.
“As a commission, we are developing an early warning and early response system which is supposed to alert the community on possible issues that may arise,” Nhengo said.
Meanwhile, part of the IYWD research also revealed that: “The ongoing Pfumvudza program wherein communities are getting inputs from the government also epitomizes structural violence in that the lists of the beneficiaries for this program is male-dominated.”
In addition, the report suggests that endemic sexual violence against women and girls is perhaps one of the leading reasons which have prompted arguments for a gendered approach to peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
Concurrently, a gendered approach also sheds light on sexual and gender-based violence, both during and after conflict.
There has been a marginal increase in the number of women involved in formal peace talks, protection of women and girls from sexual violence is, in theory, a priority for peacekeeping operations, and women’s peace coalitions have grown in strength and are now increasingly able to get women’s concerns on the agenda of peace talks.
A further strand of a gendered approach to peacebuilding and conflict resolution is the requirement that women must be involved at all levels and all stages of the peacebuilding process
Reconciliation efforts are essential in conflict-affected contexts at national and local levels, at the political level and at the social, community-level Community-level reconciliation involves efforts to promote intergroup relationships, to build trust and to challenge stereotypes and perceptions of the ‘other’ and of one’s own group
Community-level reconciliation, essential in conflict-affected contexts, involves efforts to promote intergroup relationships and to build trust.
These processes are related to the development of social capital, which alongside the reduction of horizontal inequalities, is a key component of social cohesion.