Darfur: amid mass rape allegations, UN-backed event promotes role of women in peace processes

Young residents at a new settlement occupied only by women and children at the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Darfur. UN Photo/Albert González Faran

Young residents at a new settlement occupied only by women and children at the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Darfur. UN Photo/Albert González Faran

Darfur, 22 November 2014 – As it continues its investigations into the mass rape of 200 women and girls in North Darfur, the United Nations-African Union hybrid mission in Darfur this week organized a forum focusing on the importance of integrated gender perspectives and women leaders in all peace processes – from peacemaking to peace building.

In a press release, UNAMID today announced it held a Global Open Day forum bringing together more than 140 women representing the five states of Darfur to discuss the role of women in peace.

The event, convened in El Fasher, North Darfur, on 20 November, stressed the significance of consolidated efforts related to women, peace and security as laid down by UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts while also calling on all parties to conflict “to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict.”

“The Global Open Day is an opportunity to reinvigorate our efforts to realize the vision set out in Resolution 1325,” said Mohamed El-Amine Souef, UNAMID Head of Office, Sector North, while adding that such annual meetings provide an opportunity to reaffirm that sustainable peace is possible only with women’s full participation, integration of gender perspectives, women in leadership roles, and their daily, equal presence in all peace processes, peacemaking and peace building.

The Global Open Day forum comes amid allegations of a mass rape in Tabit, which is located 45 kilometres south-west of El Fasher. Last week, UNAMID declared it had initiated an investigation in the area but said that its team had found no evidence confirming the claims and received no information regarding the purported acts. Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they “coexist peacefully” with local military authorities in the area.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants presented recommendations that included providing livelihood activities and micro-economic and capacity-building programmes targeted at empowering Darfuri women economically and socially and to have more presence of the UN Country Team in Darfur, the UNAMID press release noted.

Tensions have been simmering across Darfur over the past few months. In October, an attack on UNAMID peacekeepers by armed militants claimed the lives of three peacekeepers.

The UN estimates that some 385,000 people have been displaced by the conflict between the Government of Sudan and armed movements in Darfur since the start of 2014. The world body has repeatedly called on all sides to join negotiations aimed at achieving a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive peace for the people of Darfur, which has witnessed fighting since 2003.

UNAMID, formally established in 2007, has been mandated to protect civilians, support humanitarian assistance, monitor and verify implementation of agreements, contribute to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, and assist in the political reconciliation following the 2003 civil war between the Government of Sudan and militias and other armed rebel groups.