Building peace through gender in Dakar

29 students have just completed a Masters program in gender and peacebuilding at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. The program is run jointly by the university the United Nations Peace University in Costa Rica, and Femmes Africa Solidarité, an NGO that supports the inclusion of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The 29 graduates are made up of 15 women and 14 men and come from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, to name a few. According to Vera Songwe, World Bank country director in Senegal, “Africa cannot have sustained growth without peace and without the participation of women, who make up 50 percent of the work force.”

As I’ve written before, even people who have Masters and PhD’s in peace studies think that “gender” means “women,” and fail to consider that men are also gendered. The courses offered as part of the program include gender and human rights, gender concepts and postcolonial theory, history of sexual rights, and masculinities and violence. The nearly 50% distribution of enrolment between men and women indicates just how important it is for both men and women to consider, and be considered, in gender mainstreaming as part of peacebuilding initiatives.

Women are affected by conflict just as much as men- from girls who are abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers to women who have to bear full responsibility for their households when their husbands are drafted. It’s impossible resolve conflicts without considering what women go through and how what women need differs from what men go through and what men need after the end of a violent conflict.

Djenebou Diallo, an Ivorian graduate of the program, says “Today, thanks to this master’s, I’ve become a different person, with new ambitions for Africa as a whole and my country in particular.”

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