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Women's low input in follow-up to regional pact decried

Women are often the victims of armed conflicts in Africa's Great Lakes region yet they are underrepresented at the UN-sponsored meetings to implement a declaration signed in November 2004 by heads of state in the region on regional peace, security, democracy and development, a UN official said on Wednesday. "No women representatives were at the peace and security thematic task force [meeting]," George Ola-Davies, the spokesman for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), told IRIN on Wednesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, during an ICGLR gender experts' strategy workshop. "All eleven participating countries sent [male] generals and colonels," Ola-Davies said. "They may know about war but women know something about peace." Women do also play roles in the conflicts, the UN Development Fund for Women's adviser on peace and security, Hoddan Addou, told IRIN at the workshop. "Women combatants and women who are associated with combatants number in the thousands," she said. Disarmament and demobilisation programmes often forget women, Addou said, "particularly when they do not have weapons". She added, "Commanders often exploit the women during conflicts and they become stigmatised by society. Then when it comes to reintegration packages, what women get is often inadequate or nonexistent." Ola-Davies said gender issues featured in all the themes of the declaration; peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration; as well as humanitarian and social issues. "What we are doing in this workshop is developing strategies to ensure that gender issues are effectively integrated into the policies and projects that come out of the declaration, and that women get to participate," he said. The countries that signed the declaration are Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Each country sent two representatives to the gender workshop, which is set to end on Thursday.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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