Much of what has been written about women and gender in the DRC conflict over the past decade has focused on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon or tactic of war. While this continues to be a major concern affecting many thousands of mostly women and girls in the DRC, this study understands such violence as an expression of profound social inequalities, as well a symptom of conflict. From this perspective, tackling such inequalities is part of what is meant by tackling the root causes of conflict, including through greater participation by women at every level in peace processes and peace building.
This report takes as its point of departure the adoption of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and region and the appointment of Mary Robinson as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa. It is often observed that periods of transition from conflict to peace offer opportunities for women to participate in the rebuilding and reshaping of societies in transitions, especially through women’s extensive engagement in civil society. Such windows of opportunity can close quickly however. Once ‘peace’ is formally concluded, traditional patterns of social organization are often reasserted, closing off women’s access to decision-making roles and positions of influence in public life.
The overall objective of this project, therefore, is to provide timely, well-documented information on the ongoing implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, with a focus on women and gender. We aimed to review the first year of operation of the PSC Framework as it unfolded. In particular, we wanted to identify key gains made, as well as challenges and opportunities that exist for women’s leadership and participation, and for bottom-up civil society engagement more generally, therein. As such, the resulting report is also intended to support the efforts of women and other civil society actors to engage with and monitor progress in the implementation of the PSC Framework.
This report is based on a review of relevant policy documentation at international, regional and DRC levels (listed in the reference list) and on several semi-structured interviews by email with key informants, including eleven women civil society leaders in the DRC with the assistance of a translator (respondents are listed in Appendix C).