The vulnerability of women in times of conflict has long been an agenda for many countries. Women around the world have been amongst the major victims during and post conflicts.
Unlike the previous years, the world has recently started reflecting the positive contributions of women in the reduction of violence and to peacebuilding.
Various organizations globally have tried to address the role of women in conflict resolutions. At the international level, the UN has played a leading role in promoting the subject of ‘gender equality in conflict resolution’ by organizing the UN World Women Conference, of which the first took place in Mexico in 1975, followed by a second one in Copenhagen in 1980, a third in Nairobi in 1985, and the fourth in 1995.
The Beijing Conference, which is the Fourth World Conference on Women, in this regard played a significant role in bringing the issue of gender and internal conflict to international attention.
According to UN Women, “Women’s participation in mediation is essential for achieving lasting, positive peace, which goes well beyond just the silencing of guns. Women are crucial partners in economic recovery, social cohesion, and political legitimacy, and women’s participation in a mediation process can help ensure that more and diverse members of the community become engaged in peacekeeping”.
Understanding the role of unison in resolving conflict, Ethiopians have been practicing cultural conflict resolution mechanisms that comprise both men and women for years.
As a society that has such a longstanding cultural conflict resolution system known as ‘Shimgelena’, it is worth to continue giving more emphasis on involving more women to the system. Needless to say, those women, who have participated in the Shimgelena, have played an undeniable role in conflict resolution in the nation.
Constituting over fifty percent of the population, the role of women should not be left out in times of crisis. A simple example could be the functions of Oromo women in Gadaa system.
In Oromo Gadaa system, there are indigenous women institutions like Wijjoo, Ateetee, and wayyuu by which women safeguard and secure their interest both in the family and in the community. Thus, indigenous women’s socio-economic institution of Arsii Oromo has been embedded and manifested in Wijjoo which in turn is entrenched in Gadaa System. Therefore, this work deals with Wijjoo institution which is very vital in authorizing women in relation to the social, economic, and political orders of Arsii Oromo.
In the same token, women in Somali also played a role in times of conflicts in stabilizing situations and searching for peace in the system of indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms among the Issa and Gurgura communities of Somali.
These women play different roles in addressing conflicts either along with men or alone and the male-based institutions address conflicts on an equal basis irrespective of gender and other differences.
They, at least, play indirect roles in supporting, advising, and condemning men in the peace process and teaching children and women in the families and the villages about the importance of peace.
In some communities, women serve as a symbol of peace. A study which was conducted on “Ye Shakoch Chilot (the court of the Sheikhs) revealed that traditional institution of conflict resolutions play a very significant role in the day to day lives of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. Due to the limitations in the legal system to fully provide the judicial needs of the nations and matters of corruption, the state legal system officially incorporated elements from the traditional institutions of conflict resolution in the state courts.
Though the involvement of concerned institution is inimitable to stabilize some of the instability arose in some parts of the country at different times and occasions, the roles that women, as well as women organization, could play should not be undermined.
Thus, women should not only be taken as victims in disputes but as capable actors who could play an essential role in conflict resolution. Thus, we should be involving more women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes.