When we started our peace movement in Liberia in the heat of the civil war in 2003, we were called toothless bulldogs. But we proved that women's active participation in a peace process can make a significant difference in the effectiveness and longevity of peace agreements. It all began with seven women before it became the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace - a mass movement of Christian and Muslim women committed to ending the war and achieving sustainable peace.
It is not that women are naturally more peaceful than men; rather they are committed participants in peace processes that affect the entire spectrum of a society. If a peace process is left in the hands of military men or warlords whose expertise is war, we shouldn't be surprised if the result denies the needs of average citizens.
A peace process enables an examination of the impact of conflict on the entire community and creates a roadmap for addressing the social, political and economic causes of such a conflict. It is not a one-size-fits-all - what worked well in Liberia, for example, may not work in Rwanda. While lessons can be learned from each situation, the key inescapable point is that a peace process must be led by local actors, including women.
In April 2019, I had the opportunity to spend time with officials of women's organisations in Cameroon. The women recounted horrific stories of rape, the hacking off of hands by armed groups and the abduction of young children for the purpose of turning them into killing machines. Their families faced malnutrition and other health challenges. In whole regions of the country, schools and businesses have been closed, as communities live in fear of armed attacks.
While these sufferings and human rights violations are going on, world leaders and the international community are struggling to find a solution to the Cameroon crisis. Well-intentioned as these efforts are, they err in sidelining women.
Cameroonian women understand the root causes of the conflict in their country and the dynamics that continue to fuel the crisis. The international community should assist in strengthening the solidarity between women in the anglophone and francophone regions of Cameroon, enhance their leadership capacity and help speed the momentum for peace.
In Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and other parts of the world, we must ensure that women's peace and democracy activism is rewarded not just with jobs and political leadership but also with the...