“I joined the working group as an independent expert. The team has 13 members, 4 are women, including a gender advisor recruited by UN Women. Transitional justice refers to the transition societies that went through conflicts, war, human rights violation etc make towards peace, sustainable development, democracy & respecting human rights. It includes accountability of those who committed human right violations, truth-finding and publicizing, reparation, reconciliation, amnesty, and institutional and legislative reforms.
Reconciliation alone is not enough; if there is no accountability for perpetrators, it may take back to conflict and human rights violations. Thus, the six elements of transitional justice should be implemented concurrently or sequentially to ensure sustainable peace. For instance, when it comes to survivors of conflict related sexual violence, it would be critical to ensure accountability for the gross human rights violations, for survivors to tell their truth, to document cases and to prevent it from happening again as well as to bring reconciliation in the society by making perpetrators ask for forgiveness from those who were wronged. The reconciliation could be implemented at individual, institutional or national level. The other is the issue of reparation for instance for those who were displaced, lost their property, sustained bodily injury, or were exposed to trauma, different types of reparation mechanisms could be implemented to compensate individuals and communities. This might include putting institutions like rehabilitation centers, GBV response centers, availing education and health services or memorials for the benefit of the society. Women also face psychological and economic violence, those also need remedials.
The first task undertaken by the working group was drafting of a green paper outlining policy options for Transitional Justice. It was launched in March 2023. Since then, 60 consultative meetings were conducted at regional and national level to gather inputs on the policy options. Among the meetings was women only consultation organized in collaboration with UN Women. There were also conflict related sexual violence survivors only consultations in Mekelle and Bahirdar cities of Tigray and Amhara regions as well as consultative meetings with internally displaced persons and refugees. These consultations are still ongoing with children, child rights representatives, persons with disabilities, academicians, civil society organizations, political parties as well as national and international experts and diverse group of people. An attempt is being made to make the process gender inclusive. One of the requirements for the consultative meetings is to make participants 50% women. This is not always possible, sometimes women are less but sometimes more than 50%. But in all the meetings, one group is women only during focus group discussions to enhance participation of women. Women’s participation in national level peace negotiation Ethiopia is minimal. Even though there are positive developments, they are not enough. If we look at the Pretoria agreement for instance, and peace brokerage attempt in Oromia region, women’s participation is almost nonexistent.
There are initiatives by CSOs that are positive, such as issuing statements, pushing for women’s participation etc. Among these are national coalition for women’s voice on national dialogue, this is progress but still participation is not enough. We need to consider women as part of the solution in peace making process, not as victims/survivors only. They can also be instigators. We must not undermine their potential. Whenever there is peace negotiation, including traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, gender integration must be mandatory, the aim should always be for gender parity. Institutions and national initiatives that are formed for peace and reconciliation, their selection criteria must be inclusive and participatory. Women need to participate in peace processes starting from design stage.” As part of its broader commitment to support the transitional justice process in Ethiopia, UN Women is working with the Ministry of Justice/Transitional Justice Working Group of Experts to ensure a gender-sensitive and gender transformative transitional justice process that puts into account the specific concerns, needs and priorities of women and girls as well as a meaningful and active participation of women and girls survivors of Conflict Related Sexual Violence at all stages of the transitional justice process in a safe environment.
To this end, UN Women so far has undertaken various activities including hiring a gender expert consultant to be part of the working group of experts as well as supporting consultations with women including those impacted by conflict to deliberate on policy options for transitional justice. The consultations took place in Bahirdar, Bishoftu and Mekele with women from diverse background including women rights organizations, women advocates, feminist groups, female media professionals and academia, female survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, many of whom had undergone rehabilitation addressing physical, psychological, and social aftermaths, and had been reintegrated into their communities.