"Together, women and youth can accomplish much in peacebuilding”

Communal election in Guinea. Photo: DR

Communal election in Guinea. Photo: DR

2 Oct 2019

"Together, women and youth can accomplish much in peacebuilding”

On the occasion of the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel (WGWPS-AOS), which took place from 24 to 25 June 2019 in Dakar, UNOWAS Magazine met with members of the Group, which aims to be a coordination tool for the implementation of United Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 2250 (2015), and an inclusive platform where women and youth become actors in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Ten years! The Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel (WYPSWG-WAS) has just reached ten years of existence.
In a very emotional atmosphere, women and young leaders from various countries in the region, members of the WYPSWG-WAS and their partners gathered to celebrate the tenth anniversary WYPSWG-WAS.

"We've come a long way!"  said Lydia Umar, President of Gender Awareness Trust (GAT), from Kaduna, Nigeria. "It is with great joy that we celebrate this anniversary,” she added. The Women, Youth, Peace and Security Working Group in West Africa and the Sahel has done a lot at the regional level."
This opinion is shared by many and especially by Ms. Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, who co-chaired the official ceremony of commemoration of the tenth anniversary, with the President of the Economic and Social Council of Senegal, Mrs. Aminata Touré, the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Senegal, Mr. Theo Peters, and Mr. Mohamed Ndiaye, representing Mrs. Ndèye Saly Diop Dieng, Minister of Women, Women Family, Gender and Child Protection of Senegal.

For Ms. Sandhu-Rojon, the WYPSWG-WAS has brought significant added value to the region. "This is a result we can be proud of. It is also an important achievement that must be safeguarded, particularly in a regional context that continues to face complex challenges," she emphasized at the official ceremony.

A multi-stakeholder platform for peacebuilding

The Women, Peace and Security Working Group in West Africa was set up on April 29, 2009. This group is the culmination of a series of brainstorming meetings initiated by UNOWAS between 2007 and 2009, on the implementation of the Resolution 1325 (2000) in West Africa. The Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) emphasized the importance of the full and active participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding and peacekeeping.

Initially, the group covered only West African countries, but after the addition of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) to the mandate of the United Nations Office for West Africa, Chad was added.

"The WYPSWG-WAS is a platform to support and coordinate country initiatives for the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security," said Gaspard Onokoko, leader of the Agora Research Group for Education for Children's Rights and Peace and one of the first men to participate in the activities of the working group.

For Ms. Agathe Telou, Gender Adviser for UNOWAS, the WYPSWG-WAS "is a reference mechanism for sharing information, knowledge, experiences, good practices, lessons learned, analysis, monitoring and assessing the efforts of countries and actors for the effective implementation of the Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000) and subsequent in the region. This group therefore has the "primary role to create synergy and coordinate actions while supporting its members, in their efforts to mobilize resources to carry out activities at the national level, in accordance with their operational mandate", she underlined.

Involvement of young people

"It was later that the youth joined the working group," said Mr. Aliou Oumarou, President of the National Youth Council of Niger and the Panafrican Youth Union (UPJ). "You know our countries are going through serious security crises and demographic problems which are interlinked, among other things, to the lack of jobs for young people. The United Nations has realized that when we combine the efforts of women and youth, we can only achieve lasting peace and development ", he added.

The group has been extended to young people, following the adoption of the Resolution 2250 in 2015, which calls for a greater involvement of young people in all peace and security initiatives.

"With the involvement of young people, there is a new dynamism and we have made a very relevant contribution," says Sophie Ndiaye, Secretary General of the National Youth Council of Senegal (CNJS). This position is supported by Ms. Lydia Umar, member of WYPSWG-WAS, who gives the example of Nigeria where "young people are changing things", before concluding that "women and youth together can accomplish a lot in peacebuilding.”

For his part, Aliou Oumarou, with a very committed tone, specifies that "the future is in Africa and Africa is lucky to be the youngest continent with more than 60 percent of its population who is under the age of 25 and this is an asset that we will we will build upon in this working group".

Achievements and challenges

The commemoration of the tenth anniversary was also an opportunity for the members and especially for UNOWAS and UN Women, the two coordination structures, to take stock and make concrete recommendations that will help to reorient and boost activities of the working group. It should be noted that the working group is so successful that it is used as best practice in other regions.

"The WYPSWG-WAS is now represented in all countries of the region and this is a great achievement for us," said Ms. Telou of UNOWAS. The group also focused on building the capacity of its members and developing coordination and synergy between actors "through thematic exchanges sessions on topics related to peace and security in the region", concluded Ms. Agathe Telou.

In addition, the working group supports the holding of inclusive, peaceful and credible elections through "the participation of women and young people in electoral processes via the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring electoral violence" mentioned Diago Ndiaye, Regional President of the ECOWAS Women's Peace and Security Network (REPSFECO).  "the group has initiated lobbying for the involvement of women in mediation and peace negotiation processes," she said.
However, for Ms. Ndiaye the Working Group is facing weaknesses related mainly to a lack of resources. "We are facing a lack of financial means to carry out our activities," she noted. Same statement by Mr. Gaspard Onokoko who argues that "strategies must be found to mobilize resources," adding “that as far as young people are concerned, opinions are unanimous: we should equip them so that tomorrow they will be the leaders who must carry the prevention, the management and the resolution of conflicts, as well as building of peace in the world ".

It is with some satisfaction in the light of all that has been accomplished within the WYPSWG-WAS, that all actors are looking forward to the next 10 years. "In the next decade, challenges will be met in our region," declared said Mr. Oumarou, with a hopeful look. Confidently, he continues: "Africa has all the resources to develop but the issue of insecurity undermines efforts. That's why every woman, every youth should be turned into a development bomb for the continent. "