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Deeds not words

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An email I got today announcing Lesley Abdela as the winner of the 2009 UK Woman Political Journalist of the Year reminded me of how much I have enjoyed reading her articles in the past. So I had a brief look online to refresh my memory of some of my favourites. I came across 1325, in which Abdela asks “Why are women absent and warlords present when conflict-torn societies sit down for talks and rebuilding after war?”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on the one hand, and on the other question why, of the 32 portfolio ministries in the inclusive government, only 5 are held by women, Abdela’s piece makes for a timely read.

Women’s absence in setting the formal agenda is often due to “Parallel Universe Syndrome”, as I call it. Women representatives promoting peace initiatives are mostly in the informal sector – in NGOs, civil society and advocacy groups. They are clamouring to be included on equal terms and in nearer equal numbers in peace discussions and setting a peace-building agenda. Meanwhile, those with access to formal political and economic power are mostly men. The men-at-the-tables representing conflict areas are mainly warlords, mafia, men who want to grab money and power, and religious leaders with their own power agenda. They cynically negotiate the post-conflict agenda, using reassuring “international speak” to representatives of the international community who are also primarily male – diplomats, senior personnel in international organisations, high-ranking military officers, government ministers. Time after time, women watch the lightning-quick bonding by the international male and the indigenous male, to the exclusion of women on both sides.  Read more

As Sophie Zvapera asked last month, Where are the women?

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