This work is part of our support to the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC) network which aims to promote the increased participation of women in formal and informal peace processes. The WMC network connects women with a broad range of mediation knowledge and experience, and provides opportunities for the members to learn from and support each other. Under the Strategic Mediation Fund, small grants have been awarded to mediation initiatives led by members of the WMC network. Kat French, the Project Manager for Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth says,
“These small grants allow members to carry out activities to increase the participation of women in peacebuilding locally and nationally, and directly fund their mediation work. Through this project we also hope to reduce some of the common barriers that prevent women and women’s organisations from accessing essential funds. This is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic as many of the women are at the front line of halting the spread of the virus and combating increasing tensions in their communities and further afield.”
WMC members are receiving grants for projects across the Commonwealth including in Fiji, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and Uganda. The overarching aim of all of the projects is to support women to take part in local mediation and peacebuilding efforts. The specific activities have been tailored to suit the needs of the different contexts and range from conducting dialogues with conflict parties and creating safe spaces for women to come together to share their experiences of violent conflict, to mediation training and conflict analysis workshops. Importantly, activities have also included an advocacy component and have allowed the women involved to develop or strengthen their relationships with authorities or decision-makers.
Justina Mike and Lantana Abdullah received a joint grant to work with women in Kaduna and Plateau States in Nigeria. Their goal is to support women to undertake a conflict analysis of the situation in their communities so that they can advocate for more sustainable solutions to the violence. The training will also give the women the opportunity to take part in local mediation steering committees which have traditionally not included women. Justina says,
“There is a real lack of giving women the opportunity to participate. We need to enable women to be part of mediation and peace processes. If only women were given the opportunity like their male counterparts.”
The grants are awarded to projects that aim towards lasting impact, even if the project activities themselves cannot be sustained beyond the end of the grant period. Esther Omam Njomo has received a grant to support her work with women in southwest Cameroon and she is using the funding to train women to become peace ambassadors in 12 communities affected by conflict. The women are being trained in community-based conflict resolution and mediation, and will be provided with the skills and opportunity to engage with local authorities to discuss ideas to de-escalate tensions between communities. Esther says,
WMC empowered me on mediations skills which today I am passing on as a gift to grassroots women so that they can actively play a part in problem-solving within their communities and families to avoid the escalation of many forms of conflicts.
An important feature of the WMC network is that it provides opportunities to enable the members to share their diverse experiences with each other. Those women with grants are able to discuss the lessons learned from their work with the rest of the network, and reflect on the value of the projects implemented, as well as the Strategic Mediation Fund mechanism itself.
Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, in support of the commitments made during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018.