The Role of Ethiopian Women in Peace-building Efforts: Evidence from Some Conflict Hotspots

The Federalism, Diversity Management and Rule of Law Policy Studies Department of the Policy Studies Institute in collaboration with researchers drawn from Addis Ababa University and Ministry of Women and social Affairs presented a research proposal titled The Role of Ethiopian Women in Peace-building Efforts: Evidence from Some Conflict Hotspots on April 12,2024 at the premises of PSI.

Dr. Tilahun Tefrra from the Policy Studies Institute is leading this research proposal, which includes the research team Dr. Trsit Sahle, Dr. Abyot Teklu and Dr. Desalegne Amsalu from Addis Ababa University and another researcher from Ministry of Women and Social Affairs. The presenter of the research proposal, Dr. Desalegne Amsalu said that Ethiopia is a diverse nation with a rich history and vibrant cultural tapestry. However, alongside its cultural heritage, the country has faced persistent political conflicts and wars, stemming from various causes such as differing approaches to state-building and localized conflicts based on resources and identity.

Dr. Desalegne stated that Ethiopia's complex dynamics have given rise to diverse governance conceptions and practices, leading to tensions and clashes. These conflicts, rooted in differing ideologies, power struggles, and historical grievances, have posed significant challenges to Ethiopia's stability and development. Despite its cultural diversity and potential for progress, the country continues to grapple with the complexities of its ongoing pursuit of peace, unity, and sustainable growth.

Dr. Desalegene Amsalu, Addis Ababa University

Dr. Desalegne noted that the persistence of violent conflicts indicates that Ethiopia has encountered difficulties in designing and implementing effective formal peacebuilding initiatives, particularly in the resolution of political conflicts. Customary peacebuilding mechanisms have also proven inadequate in addressing complex and chronic political conflicts. He stated that one contributing factor to this challenge is the limited inclusion of gender-sensitive approaches in peacebuilding efforts. The exclusion of women and their perspectives in peacebuilding processes in Ethiopia may have undermined the effectiveness and long-term viability of peacebuilding endeavors. Dr. Desalegne stated that scholars argue that peacebuilding is inherently complex thus necessitating the integration of gender sensitivity and the revisiting of peacebuilding approaches.

Dr. Desalegne stated that the problem with peacebuilding in Ethiopia can be observed at two levels: policy and practice. At the policy level, despite the existence of key documents and strategies, such as the 1995 FDRE constitution and international conventions, which reflect the country's commitment to constructive peacebuilding, a comprehensive peacebuilding policy framework is still lacking. The absence of such a dedicated policy framework is viewed by some as a significant drawback in achieving national goals.

Dr. Desalegne mentioned that the inclusion of women in peacebuilding processes is of utmost importance due to their significant role and impact. Women, who make up nearly half of the global population, possess the potential to contribute as advocates, peacekeepers, relief workers, moderators, and observers in peace-making procedures. Their unique perspectives, experiences, and skills can greatly enhance and inform peacebuilding efforts, leading to more comprehensive and sustainable outcomes.

Dr. Desalegne  elaborated that one crucial aspect is the generation of insights that promote formal inclusivity in peacebuilding processes. Recognizing that women constitute a significant portion of the population, their active involvement ensures that diverse perspectives and experiences are represented. By formally including women in peacebuilding efforts, a sense of ownership and legitimacy is fostered, not only in the peacebuilding process but also in other sectors of social, economic, and political dimensions. It is therefore important to examine the policy and legal landscape of peacebuilding in Ethiopia and assess the extent to which existing policies and laws address women's inclusion.

Additionally, Dr. Desalegne emphasized that it is important to explore and document the unique experiences and perspectives of women in peacebuilding. Women's participation has been shown to increase the likelihood of sustainable peace, as they often prioritize the well-being of families, communities, and future generations. Studying the experiences of women involved in peacebuilding in Ethiopia allows for valuable lessons to be learned and shared, including success stories and challenges faced. This knowledge exchange can contribute to the broader field of peacebuilding and facilitate the replication of effective approaches in other contexts. Sharing experiences also promotes learning and collaboration among different stakeholders, fostering a collective understanding of women's roles in peacebuilding. Therefore, it is crucial to explore and identify effective strategies that leverage women's potential for building resilient and inclusive societies in Ethiopia.

Dr. Desalegne  argued that studying women in peacebuilding challenges gender norms and inequalities. Historically, women's contributions have been undervalued and marginalized due to restrictive gender norms, which are particularly strong in Africa, including Ethiopia. Research on the role of women in peacebuilding can identify and challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes by highlighting their roles and agency. Moreover, it empowers women by validating their agency, recognizing their contributions, and amplifying their voices. This empowerment not only benefits individual women but also contributes to the overall empowerment and advancement of women in society. Ultimately, it can lead to transformative change by promoting gender equality, empowering women, and breaking down barriers to their meaningful participation in all aspects of peacebuilding and beyond.

Dr. Desalegne underscored that previous studies conducted in Ethiopia have primarily focused on general dimensions of peacebuilding, often overlooking the lived experiences of a diverse range of rural and urban Ethiopian women. These studies have not fully captured the intricate realities and challenges faced by women in their day-to-day lives, especially following the rapid surge of violent conflicts in Ethiopia. In contrast, the proposed research aims to bridge this gap by presenting a well-researched and comprehensive exploration of women's roles in peacebuilding within the context of Ethiopia's conflicts.

Dr. Desalegne stated that the main objective of the study is to explore the role of women in peacebuilding processes in Ethiopia, with a focus on peacebuilding efforts undertaken in selected conflict hotspots between 2015 and 2023. The specific objectives of the study include identifying the peacebuilding initiatives carried out in various parts of the country during the specified period, examining the extent of women's participation in these efforts, and identifying the challenges and systematic barriers they face in engaging in peacebuilding processes. Besides, the study aims to assess the impact of women's involvement in peacebuilding, including their contributions to conflict resolution, reconciliation, and the establishment of sustainable peace in Ethiopia. Furthermore, the research seeks to investigate the existing policy and legal landscape related to women's inclusion in peacebuilding and provide recommendations to policymakers, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders on how to effectively support and enhance the role of women in peacebuilding processes in Ethiopia.

Dr. Desalegne, Dr. Abyot Teklu, and Dr. Tilahun Tefera elaborated the methodology for this study, which aims to examine the experiences, challenges, and achievements of women in 10 conflict hotspots in Ethiopia from 2015 to 2023. These hotspots were selected based on previous reports and encompass specific woredas, towns, or zones with a history of frequent conflicts. The study will focus on areas including Asossa, Gembella Town, Tepi Town, Derashe Special Woreda, Wondogenet Woreda, Shashamene, Harar City, Jigjiga, Semera, and Mekelle, chosen to represent diverse ethno-demographic and cultural characteristics and prevailing peace conditions.

The researchers explained that a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods will be employed. Key informant interviews will be conducted with government and NGO stakeholders at various levels, including woreda, zonal, regional, or federal levels. In-depth interviews will be conducted with individuals having firsthand experience or knowledge of women's role in peacebuilding, such as community leaders, conflict resolution institution members, and representatives of women's organizations. Additionally, a survey method using multistage cluster sampling will collect quantitative data from households in conflict-affected areas.

Data analysis will incorporate qualitative techniques, such as transcription, translation, and identification of patterns and themes from interview data. Meta-analysis will be utilized to synthesize findings from previous studies. Quantitative data from the survey will undergo processing and analysis using SPSS software, employing descriptive and inferential statistics. The researchers will enhance validity and reliability by employing cross-validation, triangulating data from different methods. Ethical considerations will be upheld, ensuring informed consent, confidentiality, and participant rights. The research findings will be disseminated through various channels, including academic publications, policy briefs, conferences, and workshops, contributing to knowledge and informing policy formulation on women's roles in peacebuilding.

The research team also presented the literature review of the proposal which offers a comprehensive review of the current knowledge and research pertaining to peacebuilding, the global participation of women in peacebuilding activities, and specific observations on the roles of women in peacebuilding within Africa and Ethiopia. Additionally, the research team presented the proposed timeline and budget allocation for the study.

Following the presentations, attendees of the proposal raised various questions and provided comments. The researchers addressed some of the questions and suggestions, assuring the audience that they would consider the remaining valid points for further refining the proposal.

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