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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: Women's Anti-War Coalition

Africa: Women's Anti-War Coalition
Date distributed (ymd): 990114
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the Declaration of African Women's Anti-War Coalition, formed at the Workshop on Women in the Aftermath of Civil War held in December 1998 in Dakar, Senegal. It also contains excerpts from the conference report (omitted portions with more detail are marked with ...). For the full conference report see the web site of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For additional information on the workshop, you may contact Meredeth Turshen, Department of Urban Studies and Community Health, School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903; Telephone: 732 932 4101 X681; Fax: 732 932 0934; E-mail:

The Co-Chairs of the Anti-War Coalition are Anu Pillay, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (
and Codou Bop, Women Living under Muslim Laws (

Declaration of African Women's Anti-War Coalition
Dakar, Senegal
13 December, 1998

We, the participants of the West African Workshop on Women in the Aftermath of Civil War held in Dakar, Senegal from 11-13 December, 1998,


  • The objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the central concern of which is human beings and the defense of their human rights, as well as the African Charter on nation s rights and human rights
  • The constitutive acts of UNESCO and the World Health Organization
  • The recommendations of the World Conference on Human Rights (held at Vienna, June 1993), of the World Summit on Sustainable Social Development (Copenhagen, March, 1994), of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, September, 1994), of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, September, 1995),
  • The International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),
  • The resolution on the cultures of violence and peace adopted by the 28th session of the UNESCO general conference held in November 1995, and the resolutions adopted during the 49th and 50th sessions of the World Health Assembly in 1996 and 1997 which recognized violence as a public health issue


  • The rapid spread of conflicts throughout Africa which have severe consequences for populations in general and for women and children in particular
  • the increase in violence, particularly against women and children, and the specific nature of the violence against women
  • the inadequate and insufficient commitment and political will on the part of governments and international agencies to defend and protect women's human rights during conflicts and in the aftermath
  • the lack of appropriate government-supported mechanisms to address the consequences of violence against women and ongoing violence in the aftermath
  • the persistent gender inequalities in African societies which continue to deny women access to resources and to redress of wrongs


  • the responsibility of the state to protect all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, in this case women and children
  • that an understanding of violence against women and action to end this violence should begin with local and regional initiatives
  • that reconciliation and the alleviation of poverty are not enough to facilitate healing in the aftermath
  • that there is a need to be proactive during peacetime to sensitize and educate women, children and the general population including the armed forces to the consequences of warfare

We, the participants, therefore recommend:

to all governments:

  • that they make a firm commitment to end conflicts worldwide and particularly in Africa
  • that they take full responsibility for the facilitation of holistic reconstruction (social, psychological, physical and economic) of society, taking particular note of women's needs for special reparations
  • that they recognize and enforce national, regional and international laws and treaties pertaining to the protection of women and children

to international agencies and Northern industrial governments:

  • that they acknowledge the roles they play in creating or supporting political conflict for their own interests
  • that they compensate victims, particularly women and children, and
  • that they work towards the prevention of conflict in the future

We, the participants, have therefore resolved to:

  1. Establish this network of African women opposed to war, which we have named the African Women's Anti-War Coalition
  2. Support the Declaration of Algiers adopted at the International Colloquium on All Forms of Contemporary Violence and the Culture of Peace on 22 September 1997 and all other such declarations and initiatives
  3. Use the African Women's Anti-War Coalition to:
    1. Put pressure on states, through solidarity with other national and international agencies, to end present conflicts and to prevent future conflicts
    2. Lobby for support for women in the country that is in conflict
    3. Assist with training and sensitization programs for human rights, healing and education
    4. Popularize rights and the gendered nature of problems that women face during and after conflict
    5. Receive and disseminate information regionally and internationally.

11 to 13 December 1998,
CESAG, Dakar, Senegal


[Excerpts only -- for the full conference report see the web site of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (

Over and over again, women'speak of violence in their experiences of war, of how war entrenches violence in their communities, of how violence is experienced differently by women and men. Societies become militarized in civil war and the militarization lingers afterwards. The military sow a culture of violence in long wars that is hard to eradicate. This violence makes life difficult and dangerous for women, especially with the diffusion of cheap small arms. And violence against women does not stop when treaties are signed to end the war; in fact violence escalates. What can we do to protect ourselves during conflict and in the aftermath? How can we prevent violence? How can we help women to heal from the trauma?

This bilingual Workshop, with participation of women from Liberia, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, was opened by Cheich Tidiane Diop, Chef de Cabinet of the Senegalese Ministry of Family, Social Action and National Solidarity at 9 am on 11 December 1998 at CESAG in Dakar. He said that, as we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women can hope to live in a world without violence, that citizenship is not symbolic but must signal the full and active participation of women, and that this meeting would benefit women in conflict all over the world.

With Codou Bop (Women Living Under Muslim Laws-Senegal) presiding, the participants introduced themselves and described the organizations they represent, positive aspects of their work, and the challenges they face (see attached list of participants). Several women had sent papers in advance, which were copied and circulated in the packet of materials everyone received; others came with short statements, which they read out. Participants represented a range of disciplines and training (law, medicine, psychology, social work, etc.). Each laid out her specific goals and objectives for the Workshop (for example, to share experiences, network, and find ways to alleviate poverty).

The Workshop organizer, Dr Meredeth Turshen (School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey), welcomed the participants and thanked the Ford Foundation, the West African Research Center, the Committee on Health in Southern Africa, the Workshop Advisory Board (1), and Women Living under Muslim Laws (Senegal) for their financial, organizational, and intellectual suppport in planning this Workshop.

[ (1) The Advisory Board comprised Professor George Bond, Director of the African Institute, Columbia University; Jennifer Davis, Director of the Africa Fund; Dr. Paul Farmer, Director of the Institute of Health and Social Justice, Harvard University; and Dr. Jack Geiger, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.]

This Workshop was conceived as a follow-up to work undertaken with Clotilde Twagiramariya of Rwanda on our book, What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa . The participants were invited to share their experiences and provide information on what happens to women in the aftermath of civil war, which is even less well known than women's experiences in wartime. What are women's specific needs in the wake of war? When so many women are displaced persons or refugees, which institutions and what kinds of organizations can respond to their needs? These questions are particularly acute after civil wars in which health and education services and service personnel are often military targets. In the current economic climate, which emphasizes private sector solutions and self-reliance, women have limited expectations that governments can or will provide the services they need.

Workshop Objectives

The initial objectives of the Workshop grew out of discussions with the organizers (2) of the Conference on the Aftermath: Women in Post-war Reconstruction to be held in 20-22 July 1999 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, represented at the Workshop by Anu Pillay.

[(2) The organizers of the Johannesburg Conference are Dr Sheila Meintjes (Political Studies), Anusanthee Pillay (Student Affairs), and Lilian Kimani (Public and Development Management) of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Dr Meredeth Turshen (School of Planning and Public Policy) Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.]

Motivated by a belief that women's common experiences of suffering offer the best hope of reconciliation, the first objective is to bring together women on all sides of civil conflicts to initiate a dialogue on healing.

In the belief that we can learn by comparing international experiences, the second objective is to develop a multidisciplinary understanding of healing and transformation, and to develop as many different ideas as possible to address the diverse problems of aftermath experiences.

Similarly, we believe that we have much to learn from the many disciplines and professions that we represent to develop theories that will enable full healing and empowerment among survivors in grass-roots organizations.

A fourth objective is to develop strategies to influence the process of democratic representation of women's interests in achieving durable peace.

Finally, mindful of how war changes relations between women and men, between women and their families, and between women and their communities, we seek ways to further the social transformation of those relations in the context of the state and society.

The Agenda

On December 12th the Workshop opened with a plenary session to hear Mme Aichatou Ben Wahab, who represented AGADJI, and Zara Elh Mamadou dit Alitane of TANAT (both nongovernmental organizations); they spoke of the participation of Touareg women in the Niger rebellion and their experiences in the aftermath. A lively discussion followed on how the rebels were dealt with, their political and social reintegration, the status of so-called minorities, the role of foreign powers, and how women were forgotten in the aftermath.

We then broke into small groups to discuss the five major themes of the Workshop [Violence against women, Women organizing, From reconstruction to transformation, Healing, Relation of State to Society]

On the morning of December 13th, with Etweda Cooper presiding, the participants met to consider and adopt the following report, which reflects the workshop discussions.

Violence Against Women
Protecting women during conflict and in the aftermath, preventing violence, and healing from the trauma

I. A typology of violence against women

We started with a discussion of Elizabeth Bai-Marro s paper on violence against women (see annex), in which she divided violence into two categories: domestic violence and sexual violence. She talked of the protective strategies that could be used during and after conflict and offered some suggestions for prevention and healing, which are discussed below.

The group agreed that it would be useful to outline a typology of forms of violence that occur during and after conflict. In this typology we noted that the violence inflicted on women is different from the violence to which men are subjected and that the violence against women is both explicitly and implicitly sexual. The typology we drew is a veritable alphabet of violence against women. ...

II. Protecting women against violence

We returned to Elizabeth's suggestions for protecting women during conflict: she said that women'should have recourse to the regular defense force or army of the country (buttressed by a strong women's platform in the parliament); a crash course in basic self-defense; and the assistance of a neutral party willing to minister to both sides. After conflict, women can be protected by immediate provision of food and clothing, by involvement in work programs, and by establishing camps for homeless women.

The group raised the following questions and discussed the following points:

  1. What is the responsibility of the state in protecting women and children?
  2. What are the responsibilities of citizens?
  3. Should we not look to such social forces as human rights organizations instead of defense forces (army and police)?
  4. Could women's organizations be encouraged to put pressure on international human rights organizations?
  5. There is a need to sensitize the army
  6. There is a need to establish pressure groups and lobby groups
  7. We need to be proactive during peacetime and to sensitize and educate women and children

Participants made the point very strongly that this Workshop should plan something concrete and sustainable that they could take back to their countries. The group discussed the urgent need to create the beginning of a strong network that could do the following:

  • Put pressure on states through solidarity with other national and international agencies
  • Lobby for support for women in the country that is in conflict
  • Assist with training and sensitization programs of healing, education, etc.
  • Popularize rights and the gendered nature of problems that women face during and after conflict
  • Receive and disseminate information

Other possible activities discussed were:

  • Writing formal letters to government leaders and international agencies informing them of the creation of the network
  • Coordination of actions in different countries
  • Compilation of country reports into a regional newsletter

III: Healing

Healing and Reconciliation

While there is an urgent need for reconciliation in nations emerging from conflicts, there is also the need for repentance and some forms of punishments, as well as rehabilitation programs for ex-combatants. For example, excombatants were successfully reintegrated into military, paramilitary and other societal structures in Niger. This is not the case in Sierra Leone. ...

Discussion of Strategies for Reintegration


Healing from the Trauma of Violence

Participants discussed the following points about treatment and healing:

Alleviation of poverty and reconciliation are not enough to facilitate healing. The example of inadequate support provided after testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was cited. Many participants said that while we have to forgive we should not forget, in order to prevent a recurrence of events. People do need to talk openly and honestly about what happened in order to conscientize ourselves and others. ...

At the end of the Workshop, the group unanimously adopted the Declaration that creates the African Women's Anti-War Coalition/Coalition de Femmes Africaines Contre la Guerre (see annex). The group named Codou Bop and Anu Pillay as Cocoordinators of the Coalition, and the following women as national contact persons and alternates: Barbara Koffa and Etweda Cooper (Liberia), Aichatou Ben Wahab and Zara Elh Mamadou dit Alitane (Niger), Marguerite Coly Keny and Marie Jeanne King (Senegal), and Margaret Nelson-Williams and Elizabeth Bai-Marro (Sierra Leone). ...

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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