I am taking time to reflect on the just ended policy and practice dialogue held on the 1th of May in Harare. The dialogue was a result of a partnership between UNDP Zimbabwe and UN Women Zimbabwe
The dialogue attracted more than the envisaged 50 participants, and representation was from all invited individuals and institutions. There were representatives of various academic institutions, church and civil society organisations, but of special interest was the representation from government and related security sector institutions in Zimbabwe. There were representatives of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (OHNRI), representative from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD), representatives from cabinet, from parliament, from the military, the police, the criminal investigations department, the police legal services, the prisons and the correctional services. The presence of government and its related institutions, especially the security sector institutions helped to demystify the misconceptions commonly held by opponents of peace that the government of Zimbabwe does not permit security sector dialogues and any other efforts related to the strengthening of security sector operations. I have many a time been in spaces where I was censored and warned against using terminology such as ‘security sector’, ‘negative peace’ ‘positive peace’ ‘security sector strengthening’, security sector transformation’ to mention a few. The reasoning behind these censors have been that the government of Zimbabwe is not open to debate on security sector transformation, but the events of the 14th of May helped demystify these wrong sentiments and put their propagators to shame. Secondly, this representation showed how keen the government is to engage with all other stakeholders in the process to build a sustainable peace in Zimbabwe. Rightly so, the Deputy Representative of UNDP, Denise Findlley Antonio, in her closing remarks thanked the government of Zimbabwe for “…. laying a solid foundation for enhanced women participation in key democratic processes including peace building. The participation of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, the ONHRI, Women’s Caucus, G20 and the broader Women’s Coalition is testament to that. The constitutional provision for the establishment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is also a recognition by the Government and people of Zimbabwe of the importance of peace as an enabler for sustainable development.” Denise Findley Antonio’s remarks can be accessed on https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/chibairo/posts/36960
In the context of all this, one can safely say that Zimbabwe is slowly realising the need for a transition from the negative peace created by the Global Political Agreement towards a positive peace as various stakeholders work hand in hand to build blocks towards ensuring long lasting processes for sustainable peace. Negative peace refers to the absence of violence. When, for example, a ceasefire is enacted, or a peace agreement is adopted and implemented, like in the case of the GPA, a negative peace will ensue. It is negative because something undesirable stopped happening (e.g. the violence stopped, the oppression ended). It is also negative because the elimination of violence does not follow that there is absolute peace, there could still be some structural differences such as those between women and men, and the gender based violence currently obtaining in Zimbabwe, such as the Gumbura case, the mini skirt case and even the unproportioned representation of women on governance and other processes. Positive peace on the other hand refers to among others, enabling the practicing of peacebuilding and conflict resolution as a foundation for building peaceful interpersonal and institutional relationships. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, and as noted above, the current initiatives by the government of Zimbabwe to permit building a peace, as well as their mere deliberate willingness to dialogue openly and freely on peacebuilding is a sure indication of the possibility of this transition.
In such moments, it is no longer befitting for Zimbabweans, especially women, to continuously hammer and rap on old narratives that promote divisiveness along political party lines and ideologies, narratives that seek to unearth old strife and not necessarily for the benefit of the nation but for the benefit of selfish individual pursuits. It is a highly strategic moment for Zimbabwean women to do self-introspection about the roles that they play to influence positive peace processes in the country. This brings me to the rare and powerful reflections shared by Sthembile Mpofu of the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation, reflections that left genuine women asking themselves a host of questions about the need to confront their personal hypocrisies and transform themselves for the sake of peace, and that also left many participants there present close to tears. Sthembile’s reflections called on women to reflect on the role they play in inciting, perpetrating and perpetuating violence in their societies, and questioned women’s moral authority to take a stake and claim on the conversation of women’s roles in peacebuilding unless they desist from violence themselves and act only as change agents for bringing community and social cohesion.
“When we as women have power and influence at any level in our society are we any less corrupt or divisive than our male counterparts, are we any more transparent or fair in our dealings. Are we kinder, more empathetic, do we hold society’s interest at heart any more dearly than our male counterparts.” Sthembile’s reflections can be found on https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/chibairo/posts/36959
UN Women, in their opening remarks, called on the government of Zimbabwe to support gender sensitive security sectors, arguing that this issue should be seen as neither a foreign import nor a contestation between women and me, but as the right politics towards achieving the set objectives of Agenda 2063. Read UN Women’s opening remarks on https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/groups/leadership-group/posts/36957
Ashley Chisamba from the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe questioned why our society is always willing to give women leadership roles in the domestic sphere but hesitant to do the same in the private sphere. Likewise Colonel Garira of the National Defence College called on UNW omen to deepen research and analysis on the traditional and home grown methods of women’s roles in peacebuilding, especially focusing on the roles of women in mediating conflict in the homes, in the communities and in the traditional chief’s courts. Madame Pamhidzai Thaka of the Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Forum noted how grassroots women’s efforts are contributing to enhancing women’s roles in peacebuilding through the work they do as vigilante groups in the women’s peace committees, and also as part of the traditional justice system where women have successfully claimed their stake and involvement in certain parts of the country. She called for the involvement of rural women at future peace dialogue for a, and also for the need to establish linkages between work done at community level with work done at national level.
William Tsuma, Dialogue Advisor with UNDP gave statistics revealing the glaring lack of women’s representation in peacemaking processes. Very few mediation processes have deliberately and equally involved women at peace tables, even at the level of the UN peacemaking processes. He noted that effective gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes requires a shift of mind-sets and adoption of positive masculinities by men world over as the starting point. See William’s presentation on https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/groups/leadership-group/posts/36958
William Tsuma noted how the views and sentiments aired by different stakeholders at the dialogue will be channelled into policy on establishing an ongoing conversation on women’s roles in peacebuilding in Zimbabwe, as well as on building a national programme on peacebuilding and conflict transformation, noting especially the forthcoming week of peace and the need to harness the whole country towards recognition of its importance and of highlighting best practices especially at community level on peacebuilding, as well as on strategizing how these can be fed into effective national processes.
Mrs Zembe, from the ONRHI highlighted the government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to establishing the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission as required by the Constitution, highlighting that the setting up of the Commission was at an advanced stage. She emphasised the need for women from all classes to be involved in peacebuilding initiatives, and also called on grassroots women to be part of the early warning systems for peace in Zimbabwe.
During tea break I had occasion to chat with Superintendent Precious Chinamasa of the Zimbabwe Prison Services, who strongly feels that peacebuilding efforts in Zimbabwe should never preclude the assessment of the plight of female prisoners and their young children who also become inmates by virtue of their dependence on their mothers. For Officer Chinamasa, once off interventions at the Prisons services will not bring the much desired sustainable peace. She rather called for long term initiatives, and her dream has always been establishment of an open prison system for female inmates, arguing that male prisoners have such a facility in Zimbabwe. You can ready my previous interview with Officer Chinamasa on
Overall the policy and practice dialogue was highly successful. The enthusiasm demonstrated by government and all other stakeholders needs to be followed up closely with more and more sustainable programmes that promote debate and dialogue on peacebuilding.
Readers can view the policy and practice dialogue photo gallery on https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/groups/leadership-group/posts/36963