Did you hear the United Voices of Diaspora Women?


Final Presentation Project United Voices of Diaspora Women

By Ato Bob*


On the sunny Wednesday morning of 14th September a large group of mostly African women in their colourful dresses gathered at the Nieuwspoort Press Centre for a presentation. They were there for the Final Presentation of the Project United Voices of Diaspora Women and present the Manifest UNSCR 1325 of Diaspora Women to members of the Dutch Parliament.

Present at this presentation were first of all mostly African women of various African Diaspora NGOs, representatives of other Diaspora and Dutch NGOs and several members of the Dutch Parliament, which by the way is next door to Nieuwspoort.

Organized by the Association African Sky, the Project United Voices of Diaspora Women was the response to the United Nations Resolution UNCSR 1325 and the NAP (National Action Plan).

Project United Voices of Diaspora Women

The mainstay of the project were the thirteen Empowerment & Leadership training sessions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, but also in Zaandam, Voorburg, Spijkenisse, Veenendaal, Lelystad and Istanbul. This resulted in more than two hundred women from Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Soudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia and Uganda benefitting from this project.

What is UNSCR 1325?

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council formally acknowledged through the creation of Resolution 1325 the changing nature of warfare, in which civilians are increasingly targeted, and women continue to be excluded from participation in peace processes. UNSCR 1325 addresses not only the inordinate impact of war on women, but also the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict management, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace.

UNSCR 1325 is a landmark international legal framework that addresses not only the inordinate impact of war on women, but also the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict management, conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

The experiences and roles of men and women in war are different. In these differences, women offer a vital perspective in the analysis of conflict as well as providing strategies toward peace-building that focus on creating ties across opposing factions and increasing the inclusiveness, transparency, and sustainability of peace processes.

Resolution 1325 has changed the way the international community thinks about peace and security.

“Too often, women’s roles are marginalized because they are not seen in terms of their leadership. We must see women as leaders, not victims. We must also view their participation not as a favour to women, but as essential to peace and security.”

Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State at the 2010 Conference on Woman and War.

“The main question is not to make war safe for women, but to structure peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict.”

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, president of the Security Council when Resolution 1325 was passed.

What are the four pillars of Resolution 1325?

Resolution 1325 has four “pillars” that support the goals of the Resolution, which are: Participation, Protection, Prevention, and Relief and Recovery.

This means a.o. increased engagement in decision making, conflict resolution and specifically for the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence. It also calls for improving prevention of violence and strengthening women’s rights under national law; and supporting local women’s peace initiatives.

In a statement in 2005, the Security Council called upon U.N. Member States to continue to implement Resolution 1325 through the development of National Action Plans (NAP).

What happened at the Final Presentation of the United Voices of Diaspora Women?

Elizabeth Bereket, Empowerment & Leadership Trainer, introduced herself as the Chair for the occasion and gave an overview of the programme for the Final Presentation.

Stella Ismail, project coordinator, welcomed those present and used a power point presentation to inform the audience about the project. The focus of the project was the awareness of Diaspora Women of the importance of UNSCR 1325 and the local Empowerment & Leadership training sessions in various locations in The Netherlands.

Zaina Karekezi, originally a refugee from Rwanda and now a young successful attorney, related her personal story and struggle to overcome being undervalued. Her determination enabled her to step up instead of remaining at the lower level that was given her. She gave her audience the motto: ‘Keep proving to yourself constantly that you can do it’

This was followed by a panel of three women from different Diaspora NGOs.

Juliènne Doppenberg-Difukidi, Chair of Tosangana Foundation, Muna Mohamed Chair of Halgan Foundation and Mary Kuek Board member of the Sudan Union for Women and Children told their life stories and personal dedication to their aims.

What I found they had in common was supporting and inspiring parents who gave them the opportunity be educated and to achieve their aim in life.

“When you come from a conflict or war zone and you have to educate your children in Holland, it is like a second war.” Mary Kuek expressing the cultural differences in bringing up children.

Dr.Shukria Dini, Founder and Director of the Somali Women Studies Centre – SWSC, who had been specially flown in, gave an almost mini-seminar and report on what the SWSC had been able to do, both at the international and local level. She related a.o. about an impressive outreach program to all regions and great many villages in Somalia. This extremely well and convincingly spoken, Canada educated Somali women was also encouraged by her father who told her ‘go fly your own wings’ when she fled in the early 90s.

Presenting the ‘Manifest UNSCR 1325 of Diaspora Women’ to the Dutch politicians present was the ‘icing on the cake’. This manifest lists almost twenty recommendations in the line of the UNCSR 1325 on e.g. taking Diaspora women activists serious and engaging Diaspora Women in Holland in policy making and to how better protect Diaspora Women against abuse, violence, discrimination and exclusion.

When so asked by Elizabeth Bereket, MP’s Ingrid Caluwé (VVD), Roelof van Laar (PvdA) and Harry van Bommel (SP) admitted that they were well aware of the knowledge resource of the Diaspora Women (and community) and found it important to engage them. They appreciated the manifest, but could not assure that this would be taken into account of the upcoming party election programs.

The event ended with the handout of certificates to trainers and a group photograph.

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on atobobhensen@hotmail.com