Lyn @ WACC-AR Seminar on Media, Gender Justice and Peace-building 14 -15 March 2011

After two days of talking and listening, a group of nearly 30 Christian communicators were brought to silence at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The reality of their seminar topic, and the result of failure of the processes they were deliberating on, was shown in stark reality.

This visit came at the end of the World Association of Christian Communication- Africa Region (WACC-AR) Seminar on Media, Gender Justice and Peace-building held at EPR Guesthouse at Kiyovu, Kigali, Rwanda, From 14th to 15th March 2011. WACC is a global network of communicators, journalists and activists committed to using communication media for social change.

For two days the group from all over Africa reflected on the role of the media, and particularly of Christian media, in peace-building and in ensuring gender equity in peace-building processes and reporting thereof.

From the devotions, to the many diverse presentations, participants were made aware of the effects of violence and conflict and the impact of different forms of violence particularly on women.  A short summary of the different presentations will follow below.

The presentation reflecting on the situation in Rwanda and the visit to the Genocide memorial reminded me in a particular way of the situation around HIV.  We heard about rape (particularly rape by men who were known to be HIV positive) as weapon of war, and the role this plays in the spread of HIV in the region. 

There are however more fundamental thoughts that keeps going through my mind.  The atrocities in Rwanda were only possible because one group viewed another group as “other”, “less human”, “unworthy” – is this not also what happens with HIV?  We stigmatise people we view as “other”!  

I also think of the press in South Africa, and the way recent news reports emphasise difference (especially racial difference) – I hear warning signals!  In Rwanda one group could refer to another as “cockroaches” – and then it becomes easy to “step on” someone, to destroy them. I pray that we in South Africa, and people working with HIV everywhere, will be more careful of our language and “othering”!

(Photo's and official communique will follow)

You can read the official communique from the seminar here.

Report from Seminar

Welcome from Rev. Achowah Umenei, WACC-AR President.

Dr. Tharcisse Gatwa, General Secretary of Council of Protestant Churches in Rwanda introduced: Bishop Samuel Kayinamura, Methodist Church of Rwanda who lead the devotion from Ezekiel 45:9.

He emphasised the key focus on violence in this verse, and the effect violence has on the victims and the perpetrators. He associated the violence in the time of Ezekiel with the violence in Africa at this time.

The first response could be passiveness or cowardliness.  He referred to the words of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, who aligns passivity to accomplishes of injustice and violence

The second would be counter violence – some would say this is better than passivity, and that this has something positive, as violence is not accepted. The principles Jesus teaches asks us not to respond to bad with bad - Matt 5:39. Martin Luther King Jr says counter-violence will increase violence, you will kill the one who hates, but you will not kill hatred. Darkness cannot take away darkness, only light can take away darkness.

The call of God is to respond to violence with non-violence, saying no to violence or doing bad things to others.  Ghandi says that this is where the future of the world lies.  Respect is key to non-violence

We need to say no to violence and to counter-violence, this is not submission or degradation of the human, it is to resist the negative and use the power of love, with action of truth, justice and peace.

Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Council of Protestant Churches Rwanda, in his welcoming remarks emphasised the importance of this particular seminar being held in Rwanda and the importance of gender reporting in the context of violence, conflict and post conflict situations.  He highlighted the importance of media and Christian media as transformative tool and the vast learnings possible from the people of Rwanda


Rev Dave Wanless introduced WACC, a global network of communicators, journalists and activists committed to using communication media for social change.


-            People’s humanity
-            Importance of culture
-            Importance of participation through hearing all voices
-            Creating community for social change

Conference Participants

Lyn’s Comments: My notes from the presentations will follow. As usual, I emphasise that this is my notes, and that I might not always represent the speakers accurately.  I apologise if this happens, and will link to the full presentations as soon as this is available (I will add photo's later):

On the global stage: UNSCR 1325 and subsequent UN resolution on women’s involvement in conflict and peace building - Dr. Sarah Macharia (WACC Global)

Dr. Macharia reminded participants of the recent 100th celebration of International Women’s Day, where women worldwide gathered on bridges, to highlight the role women can play in building bridges of peace in times of conflict and to call for greater participation of women. She highlighted linkages between media discourse and local, national and international policies.

She reminded participants of a number of international policies and frameworks that have been enacted and the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) of WACC that took place in 108 countries.

UNSCR 1325 was adopted in 2000 and was a landmark framework on the participation and representation of women in media. This resolution binds UN states to take special steps to prevent violence again women, include them in peacekeeping and peace building forces and processes and entrenches women’s participation in peacekeeping negotiations.

Three key supporting UN resolutions followed after 1325. UNSCR 1820, signed in 2008, recognises conflict related sexual violence as a key global security issue and calls for mechanisms to address this. 

A number of international and regional resolutions and processes support this and national action plans should support these resolutions. Although women have always been involved in local peace processes, only 7% of participants in formal peace building processes are women. Women’s roles are not acknowledged at the formal and media level and are often locked out of formal peace keeping processes, but they still participate as activists.

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) of WACC has been operating since 1995 and have teams of volunteers evaluating news media reporting across different disciplines in a large number of countries, looking for gender bias and stereotyping in reporting. Last report was published in 2010. Peace is one of the topics covered. As media to a significant way shape reshape and reinforce knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards groups, this programme is very important.

GMMP 2010 Results on peace reporting:

- 56% print, 22% radio, 22% TV – implications for advocacy
- subjects of news: 21% female, 79% male
- stories with women as central focus, 9% globally: 5% in Europe, 3% in Asia and 14% in Africa
- Gender stereotyping (exaggerating) – 30% neutral, 65% reinforces, only 5% challenges
- Highlighting gender inequality – Only 4%! 96% ignore opportunity to address inequality

Dr Macharia recounted an unusual news report from the Standard newspaper in Kenya of a group of local women whose peace efforts transcended local clans, barriers and borders and the way this report was presented. This kind of reporting should be encouraged

Role of civil society

- Become involved!

- Initiate dialogue with newsroom editors, congratulating them on good projects and using the statistics,

- Take part in media monitoring programme,

- Developing critical media reading and listening skills – read between the lines, ask questions about who is left out and why.


The impact of conflict on women: Why are women a particularly vulnerable group in situations of conflict? Ms Claudine Kpondzo

Ms Kpondzo started by identifying what we see as conflict, noting that it is normal, inevitable, necessary and can build or destroy relationships. Although we are on the one hand very familiar with conflict, we view it as undesirable, negative and something to be eradicated.  However it can be viewed as the birth pains of a system in need of change and offers the potential to transform and bring about positive growth.

Conflict was defined as a state of human interaction where there is disharmony, or a perceived divergence of interest, needs or goals. There is a perception that interests, need or goals cannot be achieved due to interference from another person or people, conflict is between people and is a state or relationship characterised by disharmony.  There is competition over what is perceived to be limited resources and involves some level of confrontation which may escalate to violence. Unmanaged conflict can eventually escalate into widespread destruction or devastation.

Conflict can however also be positive, as it offers the opportunity for resolving unbalanced power and relations.  It can lead to greater awareness and growth and it is a way of solving problems. Conflict is an immutable force of society – we have the choice to view it positively and work constructively with it, or to view it negatively and avoid it.

Functions of conflict

-            Can build new relationships

-            Help establish identity and independence

-            Helps parties asses each other’s power and work to redistribute power

-            Safety valve mechanism which helps to sustain relationships

-            Creates or modifies rules norms laws and institutions

-            Conflict is NOT violence

Ms Kpondzo invited participants to describe who they understand a “Woman” to be, and went on to highlight some of the results of a study of rural women.  Although the group identified women mainly with positive attributes, the study showed that women view themselves negatively and think that they are not part of society but only there to take care of everyone, to give all without taking anything and that they do not receive respects, care or protection. They view themselves as expendable and replaceable.

Effect and vulnerability of conflict on women

-            Breakdown of communication

-            Terrible impact on families and communities – instead of thinking of welfare and development, people think about how they could harm the other, or solidify thei own position

-            This is even more severe in violent conflict – mobility is endangered and this limits access to basic commodities and services

-            Physical vulnerability

-            Used as war trophies, war arms and to stop procreation

-            Women may not be included in normal development activity and opportunities, and might therefore already be economically and otherwise vulnerable prior to conflict

-            Physically – rape, slavery, abuse, maids and sexual toys to war lords

-            Emotionally –

o   consequences of rape, STI and HIV, undesired children,

o   cannot share her shame

o   pain of seeing husband and children enrolled in war and in danger

o   pain of becoming what you do not want to be

o   pain of loved ones going hungry

o   helplessness

o   feeling of uselessness and powerlessness

o   forced sex work for survival, and subsequent humiliation and rejection if she survives

-            Morally

o   losses moral integrity, respect and being role model

-            Spiritually

o   Seek spiritual homes to get away from the bad past and find forgiveness

o   There is new vulnerability

In media women are portrayed as fleeing from conflict with children on their back or by their side, pictures of women searching basic requirements

Way forward

-            Include women in prevention, management and transformation of conflict

-            Dissemination of resolutions and policy documents so that women are aware of their rights

-            Women should be educated to know that they should benefit from their work and build capacity in every domain

-            All of us should learn that there are alternative ways to solve problems and reach agreement than violence and should make sure that we teach this to children.


Involving women in peace building: Lessons from DRC. Mr. Descartes Mukukya (FEPADE)

Mr. Mukukya spoke of the work of FEPADE (federation of women for peace and development) in the remote areas of South Kivu in the DRC.

He gave a short history of conflict in DRC. At present more than 70% of the population in DRC is female!  Although men are the ones who went to fight, it had severe effects on women in the country and women were very poorly represented in peace building processes and peace building conferences. Few expert positions were taken by women. It became clear that it would be impossible to have an inclusive and lasting peace process without meaningful involvement of women, but it was not clear how to do this or implement UNSCR 1325. This was complicated by the large number of tribes and the historic political and other inequalities between tribes.  Intermarriages between tribes created a situation that traditional ‘opponents’ were now family. The women have an important role to play to ensure that thie traditional conflicts don’t blow up.

It is necessary that women become aware of the role they can play, but this is difficult when large percentages of these women are illiterate.

Organisations such as FEPADE become strong advocacy organisations to ensure that there is greater involvement of women. Education of girls is the important first step to ensure empowerment, economically and in other ways, of women so that they can play their appropriate role in dealing with conflict and political issues

In post conflict situation there is no situation that can be seen as ‘apolitical’. If we are talking about peace and reconciliation, all parts of society should be involved. Women should be organised and capacitated to play their full role. Development necessitates working together as men and women in order to address social, political economic and cultural issues.

Reporting on violence against women and girls in conflict situations

Ms Flora Kayitesi represented ARFEM, the Rwanda Women Journalist Association, an organisation highlighting women’s issues in the media and encouraging young girls to enter the profession. They use the slogan “there is nothing to fear” (during the genocide the media played a role in inciting violence – causing fear and distrust against the media and against entering the profession).

ARFEM is member of a partnership of women’s journalist organisations, which meets annually in South Kivu and has the opportunity to meet with victims of sexual violence – women who have been humiliated and stripped of their dignity. These journalists go back to their areas after this visit and develop a series of documentaries highlighting the issues in the correct gender sensitive way.  This is part of a campaign to end violence against women, especially sexual violence in conflict areas such as the DRC, where she reported that nearly 500 women are raped every hour as a weapon of war.

ARFEM is also working in partnership with Radio Maedeleo to work for access to ARV for women who were infected through rape in DRC:

-        Preparing series of documentaries calling for access to ARVs which will be aired on main radio station in Rwanda. (Radio is the most accessible medium)

-        Accessing victims is not easy as they are often in rural areas, where there is a problem with transport

-         Media houses not interested in sexual violence

-          Language barriers exist

-          Few journalists interested in travelling to DRC

-            There are poor feedback systems to determine how effective the process is.

Women journalists should be sensitised as only they can really reach out to highlight the plight of these women.

Day 2 Tuesday 14th March 2010

Devotions were led by Rev Dave Wanless, WACC treasurer from Jos 5:9. He reminded us that in Lent we are reminded that God’s grace is enough for us.  Going towards the feast of Passover and Easter Sunday, through the period of lent and the pain of the Passion, we are reminded of the ‘enoughness’ of God!

Engendered peace building  Ms Sandra Tumwesigye (ISIS)

Ms Tumwesigye spoke about the peace process in Uganda after 20 years of war.

-            There were many attempts to reconcile – a woman was key in many of the processes

-            There was distrust and interference from other countries, including neighbouring countries

-            Progress led to government and the Lord’s Resistance Army signing a ‘Cessation of Hostilities’ agreement.

-            However, the Final Peace Agreement was not signed and the process came to an halt

In the follow up process there was an attempt at “Engaging to ‘engender’”

-         Women activist challenged the definition of peace – and questioned if the end of fighting mean sustainable peace

-         They asked where women and gender experts where in the process

-         They were concerned at the lack of focus on women’s needs and interests

The Women’s Priorities identified included:

-         Security for Internally Displaced Women upon their return.

-         Right to own and access land

-         Support for reintegration and rehabilitation of former combatants, abductees, new families, children born and orphaned in captivity

            -         Women’s marginalisation and economic exclusion

Subsequent Efforts and Achievements

-            Capitilized on visit of UNIFEM Chief of Africa

-            Formation of Uganda Women’s peace coalition

-            Peace march, peace torch

-            Lobbying

-            Specific consultation and meetings with women’ leaders gathered women’s views on justice accountability and peace in order to influence the negotiations – video documentary – peace at all costs

-         Women Peace coalition provide background information to parties to talks, drafted their own position on issues

-         Collaborated with other organisations including Amani Forum

-         Countrywide mobilization to build solidarity with women; Peace Caravan, signature campaign, media coverage

-         Peace Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda (PRDP) was conceived with the overall goal of peace and consolidation

-         Problem – no gender analysis, women not included, No attention to women’s need and priorities – eg GBV, sexual and reproductive health, psychological health, land and property rights, access to justice, girl education, women’s economic empowerment

-         Women’s Task force for a Gender Responsive PRDP created

o   Needs assessment

o   Participation in PRDP governance structures

o   WTF invites to apply for govt special fund for peace building

o   Awareness raising

o   Capacity building and advocacy – gender sensitive indicators and recommendation for result matrix, implementation guidelines and communication guideline

o   Finally it remains important to acknowledge the degree to which gender inequality increases the likelihood of conflict and addressing women’s post conflict needs ensures sustainable peace, recovery and development


Churches involvement in conflict resolution Dr. Tharcisse Gatwa (CPR)

Dr Gatwa highlighted that ‘every square meter of this country felt the blood of a human being’ and that the church failed in its role prior to, during and after the genocide.

He highlighted Partnership/Hospitality as a theological model in church mediation This was based on the churches’ mandate to act as agents of reconciliation, justice and mercy; and the New Testament  perspective of peace which includes:

-            Breaking barriers and divisions of nations, cultures, races and classes

-            Unmasking dominance, reducing it to responsible action (call from Paul to bring master in partnership with his former slave)

-            Engaging in conflict resolution is entering into a process of overcoming an exclusive “wall mentality” and building community.

-            These processes are slow and need careful preparation and relationship building

According to Dr Gatwa, the Rwandan conflict was ‘shaped into ethnic ideology’.  The process owes to the many historical, cultural, colonial, political and missionary narratives. This “marrying” of different versions of history with myths, facts and reality would legitimise, reinvent and magnify the past in the passion to monopolise power, thus setting up a justification of power and difference. Suffering and emotional resentment of past generations were constantly renewed. One group would celebrate their identity, in their own boundaries, rarely taking into account the frustrations, the injustices, the marginalization and the harm experienced by the other group.

He explained that racial identity in Rwanda was a “colonial ascription” and that colonial power elaborated and offered ideological tools to formalise and enforce these differences.  The factors of integration were eliminated, differences were accentuated and this was elevated to racial status.

In Rwanda a “bad” media campaign (fuelled by government) promoted an ideology of hatred and stereotypes based on the theory of difference, denomination and oppression of one group over the other– greater polarisation

Dr Gatwa regretted that the role of churches in the mediation process was “Too little, too late”!

Gender Based Violence in post conflict situations such as Rwanda. Ms Zaina Nyiramatama, (HAGURUKA)

Ms Nyiramatama identified Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s and men’s ability to enjoy rights and freedom on basis of gender equality, but emphasised that this is more often directed at women.  It includes acts that inflict mental, economical, physical, or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivation of liberty and human rights.

The consequences to women include lack of self esteem, illness such as HIV, psychological disorders, hopelessness, isolation and lack of initiative for self development and national development. It is important to remember the gender based violence is a power issue, and is most common in domestic situations.

Some of the good practices in Rwanda include:

-            GBV committees sensitising the general population,

-            Government, security forces, CSO,  churches encourage denunciation of perpetrators of violence,

-            Schools provide daily updates on GBV,

-            Women economic empowerment

-            Community policing and awareness

-            IMPURUZA (SOS) strategy

-            Praise and rewarding people who denounce GBV

-            Media involvement

-            Free hot lines

-            Isange (welcome) Centre


-            Involve all

-            Increase awareness of parents and teachers

-            Children should know rights and how to take protective measures agains violence

-            Avoid youth being idle

-            Women should change their attitude of life dependence on men

-            Effective enforcement of law and protective rights

After the last discussion session, the group visited one of the many genocide memorial centres providing a stark reminder of how a community and country can ‘fracture’ and loose all humanity.  It was particularly important for this group of communicators to focus on the role that communication played in creating the situation that fuelled the horror

The seminar was closed by greeting from WACC General Secretary Rev. Karin Achtelstetter, Dr Achowah Umenei, WACC-AR President and Dr. Tharcisse Gatwa, General Secretary of Council of Protestant Churches in Rwand.


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