Investing In African Women In Times of Peace

   •    June 10, 2015


Photo: Kate Holt/AusAID

Women often take on different social, political, and economic responsibilities during the upheaval of war. In some cases, after violence ends, they maintain these new roles and claim a larger space in public life. Take Rwanda, for example. In the 20 years after the genocide, women rose to positions of influence. The country currently ranks first in the world for female representation, with women accounting for nearly 64% of the lower house of parliament.

But what if women were targeted for investment before a crisis hit? What if they were already at the table—ready to respond to and mitigate the problem—before it happened?


Ambassador Princeton Lyman, senior advisor at USIP, moderated a panel with Ambassador Matos Sumbana of Mozambique; Kamissa Camara, senior program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy; Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda; and Jacqueline O’Neill, Director at The Institute for Inclusive Security. 

At a US Institute of Peace panel on May 26, African ambassadors and other experts, including the Institute for Inclusive Security’s Director, Jacqueline O’Neill, discussed the need to support women in times of peace.

“We shouldn’t be waiting until a crisis to invest in women’s leadership,” O’Neill said. “It’s not a project and it shouldn’t be projectized. It’s a long-term investment strategy.”

For instance, the US government supported women’s development and leadership skills in Sierra Leone significantly prior to the Ebola crisis. When the outbreak hit, these women were well-positioned to  respond. They bridged communication gaps between people in their communities and national authorities, and increased the roles women and other community members played in practices such as managing burials, tracing contacts, and providing psychosocial services.

These types of networks are difficult to create in the midst of violence. A better approach is to invest in women’s leadership now and continue cultivating it over the long term.

Watch the full event—hosted by the US Institute of Peace, the African Union, and the African Ambassadors Group:

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