The event was hosted by the new institution for the network, the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics (LSE WPS), the WMC and Conciliation Resources, with the keynote given by the High Commissioner of Rwanda to the UK, His Excellency Mr Johnston Busingye. This was also an opportunity to mark the transition of WMC hosting and support responsibilities from Conciliation Resources to LSE WPS. It highlighted the daily responsibilities, challenges and successes of the panel of expert women mediators, from those with experience of mediation at the international level to those working within communities, and was chaired by LSE WPS Director and WMC Steering Committee member, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini.
The WMC network brings together women mediators from across Commonwealth countries to learn, support and share best practice in peacebuilding and mediation in community, national and international spaces. As panellist and WMC member Magda Zenon said: “The network is priceless. It gives us access to people that we may not otherwise have had access to.”
During the panel discussion, speakers highlighted how crucial it has been for the WMC to be recognised politically, giving legitimacy to the network and its members. This is fundamental to achieve the deployment of network members and increase the participation of women in peace processes at all levels.
“Political and official recognition of the network changes the game fundamentally.” - Elizabeth Solomon, WMC Steering Committee Member and Director, Mediation Board of Trinidad & Tobago
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Mr Johnston Busingye, spoke of the journey the country has taken in restoring peace after 1994’s genocide. He praised the role of women as peacebuilders in rebuilding society, adding: “We are permanently indebted and grateful to strong the women peacebuilders and mediators who continue to contribute immeasurably to our development journey.” Rwanda will host the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which focuses on innovation.
The opportunities to learn from one another were highlighted as a major factor in the success of the network. Women peacebuilders with less experience across different levels of mediation saw immense value in the shared knowledge of experienced peacebuilders across a variety of contexts.
“It gave me affirmation to my work, and the resources, training and inspiration from my colleagues in the network.” - Sumaiya Tanim, Early career practitioner-researcher in the field of Peace & Development
How do we create better enabling environments for women mediators?
The Beyond the Vertical report concludes that increasing the visibility and recognition of women mediators, while simultaneously ensuring their protection offers women mediators the possibility of conducting mediations in the ways that they see fit, which can often lead to new approaches to the resolution of conflict.
In addition, the report recommends:
- Ensuring their political access through influence and sponsorship
- Resourcing – and using as a resource – women mediator networks
- Providing easily manageable and flexible funding
- Transforming restrictive masculinity and femininity norms
- Building equitable and gender-inclusive institutional cultures
The report’s findings build on the 2020 report ‘Women Mediators: Bridging the Peace Gap’, which highlighted the diverse and vital contributions to peace made by women mediators across community, national and international spaces, and presented key challenges faced by women mediators, as experienced by WMC members.
Conciliation Resources has had the privilege of supporting the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC) network since its inception in 2018. The WMC now embarks on the next stage of its journey to achieve its vision of the increased participation of women in peace processes.
We will continue to champion the work of the WMC, its members and women mediators around the world. Sustainable peace cannot be achieved unless everyone is included. Women, young people, persons with disabilities, marginalised groups and indigenous people must have an equal seat at the table to create meaningful steps to resolving conflict. Find out more about our work to ensure peace processes are inclusive here.
Watch the recording of the event below