Friday, April 27, 2007

This is simply amazing...

Angolan woman carries firewood through a marked mine field.

And now for a complete change of subject. Donald Steinberg formerly served as US Ambassador to Angola, NSC Senior Director for African Affairs, and Special Representative of the President for Global Humanitarian De-mining. That is, he is a big time U.S. Africa policy wonk. He now is head of the New York office of the International Crisis Group.

Steinberg wants the world to know why the 1994 cease fire he helped negotiate in Angola between the government and a rebel movement Washington had once supported did not work out.

Addressing an audience of African scholars on the Lusaka Protocol in late 1994, I was asked about the role of women in its negotiating and implementation. I responded that there was not a single provision in the agreement that discriminated against women. "The agreement is gender-neutral," I proclaimed, somewhat proudly.

President Clinton then named me as US ambassador to Angola and a member of the Luanda-based Joint Commission charged with implementing the peace accords. It took me only a few weeks after my arrival in Luanda to realize that a peace agreement that is "gender-neutral" is, by definition, discriminatory against women and thus far less likely to be successful.

He lists ways that excluding women led to failure:
  • "Most telling was the failure to insist that women participate in the Joint Commission itself. As a result, at each meeting of this body, forty men sat around the table. ... Not only did this silence women's voices on the hard issues of war and peace, but it also meant that issues such as internal displacement, sexual violence, abuses by government and rebel security forces, and the rebuilding of social services such as maternal health care and girls' education were given short shrift - or no shrift at all."
  • The peace failed to take in to account that much of the violence of the war had been sexual abuse, especially rape. It sought to normalize society through amnesties. "Given the prominence of sexual abuse and exploitation during the conflict, including rape used as a weapon of war, these amnesties meant that men with guns forgave other men with guns for crimes committed against women."
  • Women whose lives had been as much disrupted by the war as any soldier's were simply ignored. They weren't "combatants" under the agreement. "The thousands of women who had been kidnapped or coerced, mostly into the rebel forces, were largely excluded by their leaders, since most of them were exploited as cooks, messengers, bearers, and even sex slaves."
  • "Even such well-intentioned efforts as clearing major roads of landmines to allow the more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes backfired against women. Angola was plagued by up to a million landmines planted by a dozen separate military forces throughout its conflict. But road clearance de-mining efforts preceded the de-mining of local fields, wells, and forests. So as newly resettled women went out to plant the fields, fetch water, and collect fire wood, they faced a new rash of landmine accidents."
Read the whole thing.


Jane R said...

Zow. There's about as precise a case as anyone could make (a case for about six different things besides the one S. is making, but that one too, of course). This is an acute confirmation of what the Beijing conference pointed out.

If anyone ever doubted that gender makes a different in matters of life and death...

Nell said...

One of the most appealing things about your blog is the high odds of encountering something valuable that's not to be found in the rest of my reading rounds. Thank you for this and much else.