Take Five: Engaging grassroots women enhances the localization process of UNSCR 1325

Robinah Rubimbwa, is the Executive Director of Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT), an implementing partner of UN Women in Uganda. For over a decade, Robinah has developed training tools and manuals on localization and engaging young women in community-level peacebuilding, among others. Robinah is a member of Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC), a network hosted by Conciliation Resources which connects women with a broad range of mediation knowledge and experience.

Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Robinah Rubimbwa, is the Executive Director of Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT), an implementing partner of UN Women in Uganda

Robinah Rubimbwa, facilitating the CSO consultation on WPS and Peace Building architecture review with local and national peace builders in Uganda in March 2020. Photo credit: UN Women / Aidah Nanyonjo.

A look back at 20 years of UNSCR 1325! What does this mean for you as a champion of UNSCR 1325 in Uganda?

My journey with WPS dates back to 1998-2001 when I served as a Rapporteur for Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange for their Peace Institutes that brought together women peacebuilders from conflict-affected countries across Africa and Asia. During this time, we visited women living in IDP camps in Northern Uganda and that was a turning point for me. The women needed food and health care for their children above everything else. Motherhood could not be postponed till the war was over. Having lived in exile for 7 years, I related with their experiences and decided I wanted to be involved in the kind of work that supported women.

In 2009, as the Executive Director of Centre for Women in Governance, I produced a radio play to increase public awareness on R1325. Uganda had ended the war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and it looked like a good idea to focus the radio play on communities that had been directly affected by the conflict in Northern Uganda and in Central region specifically Luwero. With support from four grassroots women peacebuilders in Uganda, we developed a radio drama series of 12 episodes, which was produced in English and translated into 3 local languages. We established five women’s listenership clubs in each district, provided each club with a radio set and batteries to enable women to come together, listen to each drama episode, discuss it and then call into the talk show with observations or questions.  The drama focused on the peace women wanted and needed to return to their homes. The series became so popular that while they were to run over a 3-month period, most radio stations broadcast the series for up to three years.

Why is the Women Peace and Security agenda important in Uganda and what will it take to realize women’s full participation?

Ugandan societies are highly patriarchal, leaving little room for women’s voice. Social norms and cultural practices that tolerate violence against women and discrimination based on gender, make women powerless.  Though the 1995 Ugandan Constitution is gender-sensitive, we need R1325 to actualise its intentions and increase women’s voice and power. Realizing women’s full participation requires political will, sustained funding for all State and non-State actors involved in the implementation of WPS, and a critical mass of women who will say enough is enough and demand accountability. 

What has been the key achievement in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 over the last 20 years in Uganda?

Women have been central in advocating for peace and played a critical role in influencing the signing of the peace agreement between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Government of Uganda in 2006 bringing to an end the over 2-decade war that ravaged Northern Uganda. When the first Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) was passed in 2007, women CSOs mobilised to ensure its implementation was gender-sensitive and the results have informed policy decisions at national and district levels since 2009. There is now increased awareness of WPS in key Ministries, Departments & Agencies, as well as Local Governments. A total of 9 District Local Governments have customised the NAP and developed Local Action Plans that address WPS issues at the community level. Uganda also has a national coordinating mechanism for WPS at technical and policy levels.

What difference has the NAPs and the localisation strategy made in the implementation of WPS agenda in Uganda?

In 2013, 2014 and 2016, Uganda was cited in the UN Secretary General’s report to the Security Council as a best practice notably with the localization of the NAP. The localization strategy has made local government leaders cognizant of issues that undermine the peace and human security of women and girls as well as issues that hinder their participation. This has enabled them to design and implement strategies that promote gender equality and women empowerment. Districts that implement localization, have put in place measures to eliminate the drivers of GBV and promote girls’ education, have developed ordinances that protect the property rights of women and put in place peace committees from the district to local levels to address conflicts. 

What needs to be done to leverage the participation of women in peace processes?

Leveraging women participation in peace processes calls for good political will in implementation of the NAP on R1325; integrating peace education in the education curriculum; consistent and sustained funding for women CSOs involved in peacebuilding work; transforming the militaristic and  patriarchal culture in security sector institutions to a more gender sensitive sector that respects human rights and the contribution of women in decision making; and protecting women peacebuilders from needless attacks and suspicion to allow them space to do their work.