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Featured articles on women, peace and security

For the 7th Tana Forum, held in April 2018, IPSS partnered with She Leads Africa to highlight a selection of prominent women working in African peace and security.

News

10 October 2018

For the 7th Tana Forum, held in April 2018, IPSS partnered with She Leads Africa to highlight a selection of prominent women working in African peace and security. The series of articles featured three in-depth interviews and one powerful opinion piece on the absence of female leadership at the highest levels of African politics. Since the Forum first took place in 2012, IPSS has served as it's Secretariat, working to gather African leaders and peace and security stakeholders to discuss African-led solutions to peace and security.

 

She Leads Africa (SLA) is a digital media company connecting smart young African women with brands and resources to help them live their best professional lives. The partnership between IPSS and SLA served as a non-traditional approach affording young women access into the world of peace and security particularly through the stories of these four successful women in the field.


 

Ms. Michelle Ndiaye is the Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme (a joint programme with the African Union Commission) at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) in Ethiopia. She is also the Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat, an annual high-level gathering of African decision makers in peace and security in Africa.

 

You play a leading role in peace and security, a field normally perceived to be a preserve for men. What is your take on this?

 

The area of peace and security has for a long time, been considered as an area where only men have a say. However, in recent times this perception is changing because of the initiative and role played by women.

 

Whether at a community level (grassroots level) or international level, women are voicing their concerns. There is evidence that shows that women play an important role as drivers of change in achieving sustainable peace and development.

 


For instance, women have been involved in peace negotiations in many African countries as well as led development efforts at the grassroots level. The Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016 is one example. I believe now is the right time for women empowerment and the right time to prove ourselves. Every woman should be able to reach the forefront in any field.

 

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Having implemented projects in 48 countries in Africa made me wonder what a waste it is that Africans do not know Africa.


 

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Ms. Ebba Kalondo is the spokesperson in the Chairperson’s office of the African Union Commission. Prior to that, she has held several senior positions in strategic and Risk Communications at the World Health Organization, Foundation Hirondelle, France24, and Reuters.

 

The AU is currently undergoing a process of institutional and financial reform. Why is the reform of the AU essential?

 

Our continuing existence in the new world we live and engage with depends on making our Organization more fit for purpose to better serve the needs and aspirations of the people of the Continent.

 

This is not a choice, this is a stark existential reality and an obligation to the founding fathers of our Union.


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Be the exception to the rule. Go to that meeting that no one invites you to, sit there like you belong and speak up.


 


 

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Ms. Nathalie Ndongo-Seh is the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has been recently appointed as the Resident Coordinator in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

 

What have you learned in your career about women in leadership? Any advice for women who aspire to leadership positions?

 

I have learned that women will always be held to higher standards than men and will need to constantly prove themselves; be informed (or better still, be knowledgeable in their area of expertise), be well-prepared, show resilience, focus and strength in all circumstances; inspire and motivate others; be genuine and align their actions with their words. Since there is no one type of leadership.

 


I also believe that, when necessary, there is nothing wrong in showing the caring and compassionate nature of a mother or a sister. As Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

 

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Women will always be held to higher standards than men and will need to constantly prove themselves.


 

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Ms. Nanjala Nyabola, a writer and political analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya for the Tana-High Level Forum on Security in Africa 2018.

 

Can the AU reforms process create room for women in the highest levels of political leadership on the continent?

 

The final round of negotiations for the AfCFTA, unfortunately, coincided with the resignation of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the first female president of Mauritius. There are now no female heads of state on the continent.

 

Before Gurib-Fakim, we had Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, Joyce Banda in Malawi and Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic.

 


If there are any unifying lessons to be learned from these experiences, it is that African women political leaders are often held to higher standards than their male counterparts and that much more work can be done to incorporate women into political governance on the continent.

 

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Outside of South Africa and Malawi, no woman has run for president in the Southern Africa region.


 

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