This week at work I attended a Lessons Sharing Event with the Uganda Land Alliance and Saferworld. The event was arranged to address a growing awareness that, in order to understand the nature of conflict and design effective peace-building responses, it is necessary to think about gender. Not just whether someone was born as a male or female, but to think more deeply about traditional gender roles. The ways in which societies pressure, and expect, their men and women to behave can either drive conflict or serve as resources for reconciliation, and it is an angle that is often ignored in the peace-building process.
This meeting focused on research that the ULA and Saferworld had done in Moroto district in Karamoja. To give an example of the gender lens that they were studying, in Moroto, men are expected to be able to pay a bride price in cattle and other livestock before they can get married and be initiated as a “real man” in their village. However, when economic hardships fall and a man’s ability to pay this bride price is threatened, this can lead to cattle grabbing and violence can escalate. Furthermore, when economic hard times hit the area, and men's traditional role as a breadwinner is diminished, cases of domestic violence become more frequent and severe. The researchers also noted that, too often, women were not considered relevant to the peace-making process, despite their traditional, essential role as caretakers and workers of the land.
Half-way through the meeting, they distributed toolkits which provide a methodology for conducting a participatory analysis of conflict issues from a gender perspective, along with members of conflict-affected communities. The toolkit walked its users through a step-by-step approach on understanding the process, gender norms and behaviors, and gender analysis of conflict. It also left room to be adapted to new environments. That said, it is still a pilot process and will continue to be tested and refined over time.
It was an interesting meeting, and the lessons they shared certainly apply elsewhere, besides just in Karamoja. I used to work as a paralegal on domestic violence cases in New York, and conferences that I attended there also noted how much more prevalent domestic violence becomes during hard economic times. And, it is fair to say that women are too often excluded from the peace-building process in many more parts of the world. I believe the toolkit may indeed be useful at gathering data on gender roles in conflicted areas. But, of course, the next step of what to do with the data--how to actually channel that information into peace-building--remains a hard question.
Other than that meeting, it’s been a busy week in the office preparing for next week’s trainings in the field. I will be spending all of next week in Kitgum, attending SAFE’s trainings on land rights and conflict mediation. I am looking forward to seeing a new part of Uganda and gaining a first-hand perspective on SAFE’s work on the ground!