September 2020 - As formally recognized by the groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), sustainable peace is more likely to be achieved when women and girls are empowered to meaningfully take part in peace process at all levels and in all capacities. Yet, despite several global commitments to increase the representation and participation of women in mediation and peacebuilding processes, women and girls' contribution to peace is often rendered invisible due to limited and inadequate support for their work.
Aware of such challenges and with the generous support of the State of Qatar, UNITAR conducted a pilot project aimed at identifying innovative ways to leverage the digital space in support of women and girls' contributions to peace. The pilot project was particularly designed to investigate the specific mediation and peacebuilding challenges that young African women mediators face in building and sustaining peace in their communities and propose digital solutions that could best support their work.
This innovative initiative is driven by global and continental priorities and normative frameworks, including the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, the African Union (AU) 2020 theme of the year: Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa's development, as well as the AU Agenda 2063. Also, the project is in line with UNITAR’s cross-cutting priority on Women’s Empowerment in Fragile Contexts – recognising the synergies between SDG 5 (Gender Equality); SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions); and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Furthermore, the project adopts a human-centred and innovative design methodology that not only places the needs of beneficiaries at the core of all efforts geared towards the development of the digital solution, but also enables enhanced collaboration with youth mediation and peacebuilding networks all across the African continent.
In July 2020, as a first step of the pilot project, UNITAR conducted an inclusive needs assessment with 46 youth peacebuilders (76% female and 24% male) from 22 African countries. This inclusive need assessment - conducted through questionnaires and online focus groups - was particularly aimed at both providing a clear understanding of the specific challenges facing young African women mediators in their work and identifying the innovative digital solutions that could be designed to holistically address those impediments.
Following this first step, a series of online design thinking workshops was held on 8th, 9th and 11th September 2020 to generate innovative ideas and prototypes of the digital solutions. This highly interactive and innovative phase of the project was conducted in collaboration with 4 African youth peacebuilding networks, namely, the Pan-African Youth Union, the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Africa and Middle East, the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN), and the Cameroon Youth Mediators Network.
These initial steps made ever clearer that all meaningful efforts geared towards supporting young African women mediators needed to be holistic and sustainable over time. As such, UNITAR proposes to develop three interrelated and innovative digital solutions in support of young African women mediators.
- The first digital solution will consist of the establishment of a digital community of practice for young African women mediators to enhance experience sharing, collaboration and peer learning on mediation and peacebuilding processes.
- Secondly, UNITAR proposes to provide targeted capacity building and capacity development packages, specifically aimed at strengthening the knowledge and skills of young African women mediators.
- Finally, the third digital solution will relate to the enhancement of technological innovation on mediation and peacebuilding to address the specific challenges that young African women mediators face in building and sustaining peace in their communities.
Bringing this pilot project into full development will truly contribute to advance women and girls’ contribution to peace by leveraging digital innovation to empowering young African women mediators. Furthermore, the project presents great opportunities to enhance the digital literacy of both direct and indirect beneficiaries as well as contribute to improving access to the digital space for mediation and peacebuilding processes.
To accelerate the implementation of this innovative project, UNITAR is seeking to build strategic partnerships with institutions, networks, and individuals who share the project’s vision to empower young African women mediators through innovative digital solutions. To learn more and/or to become our partner, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
In the meantime, stay tuned and follow our newsletters and social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube) for more updates on how this groundbreaking project unfolds. The journey is just starting!