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Year 2000,
International Year for
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Education for a Culture of Peace

Peace, Human
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Women and a
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Women Organize for Peace and Non-Violence in Africa

Zanzibar Declaration : Women of Africa for a Culture of Peace

The Women's Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa

Women Organize for Peace and Non-Violence in Africa

"International Women’s Day 2000 can become the starting point for a new era of women’s rights, if only we choose to make it so. The 20th century saw women enter public life en masse for the first time, as voters, workers, students, officials and professionals. Now, at the start of the 21st century, the challenge facing us is to make this the age when the right of girls and women to education becomes a reality, and when women participate to the full in leadership and decision-making."

Koīchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO

INTRODUCTION

Throughout the African continent many national, regional and sub-regional women’s groups are actively advocating peace and creating alternative communication networks that are opening new spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and new forms of solidarity. These innovative and inspiring initiatives must be strengthened and given visibility.

UNESCO’s role in this context is primarily to help bring to the forefront women’s best traditional and modern practices for peace, to assist in the processes of capacity-building and empowerment, to facilitate co-operation and help amplify African women’s voices for peace. In order to succeed in this task, broad partnerships are needed - between the UN-system, governments, different institutions and mechanisms, including non-profit organisations.

A major step in this direction was the Pan-African Women’s Conference on a Culture of Peace: "Women organise for Peace and Non-Violence in Africa" which was held in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania on 17-20 May 1999. It was organised by UNESCO in co-operation with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Organisation for African Unity and the African Women Committee for Peace and Development. Support for the Conference was also provided by other regional and United Nations organisations such as the UNHCR, UNDP, UNIFEM, ILO and WHO and NGOs including the Advocacy for Women in Africa, the Forum for African Women Educationalists and the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

The Conference was organised to support African women’s quest for peace and their strong determination to be involved in political decision-making in order to help solve problems at the roots instead of utilising stop-gap measures in emergency situations. This is in step with UNESCO’s conviction that it is more humane, less costly and more efficient to undertake preventive measures than to intervene after suffering and destruction have occurred.

Faced with the ever-increasing number of armed conflicts and persistence of violence world-wide, and acknowledging that women’s visions, talents, skills and experience have been under-utilised in decision-making for far too long, the ultimate goal of the Conference was to provide a forum for African women to co-ordinate their actions for peace so as to effectively and significantly impact decision-making processes on the continent and serve as an early warning mechanism. This goal was achieved: the forum gathered some 300 women ministers, parliamentarians, researchers, educators, journalists, bureaucrats and peace activists from 49 African countries and observers from some 10 non-African countries.

The participants were able to develop a common understanding of the impact of violent conflicts in Africa, notably from a gender perspective, and formulate forward-looking strategies for African women’s action to build a culture of. peace in Africa and beyond. Participants shared information on their best practices for peace, including lessons learned regarding African women’s traditional role in mediation and reconciliation. On this basis, participants outlined the appropriate operational mechanisms that will allow African women and women’s organisations to strengthen their role and their partnership with men in order to build a culture of peace and non-violence.

Women from conflict areas made strong appeals for cease-fires and peace, and also used the occasion for intense political networking to seek reconciliation strategies and build bridges. As a result, several women’s peace missions were planned.

The Conference was part of UNESCO’s major initiative and transdisciplinary project Towards a Culture of Peace and more specifically of the Women and a Culture of Peace Program which was established after the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). It was also an integral part of UNESCO’s Special Project on Women and a Culture of Peace in Africa (1998-1999) which was developed in accordance with the decisions of the governing bodies that have listed women, youth, Africa and the least developed countries as priority groups. Furthermore, the Conference was a follow-up to the UNESCO Audience Africa Conference (1995) which invited Africans to state their priorities within UNESCO’s fields of competence: education, science, culture and communication.

Grateful to all those who contributed to the success of the Zanzibar Conference, and seeking to continue this momentum, we hereby invite all interested partners to assist in the implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration, "Women of Africa for a Culture of Peace", and the Women’s Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa, both of which have been given political support by the OAU Summit of Heads of State and Government (Algeria, July 1999) and by the 30th General Conference of UNESCO (Paris, November 1999).

The historic opportunity presented by the International Year for the Culture of Peace (2000) and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001 - 2010) must be used effectively to strengthen the Pan-African women’s peace movement to stop violent conflict and war.

Ingeborg Breines
Director
Women and a Culture of Peace

 

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