Last week was the 10th anniversary of the UN resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which marked an important landmark in the move towards a more gender-sensitive approach to development.
The resolution emphasizes the importance of including women in the conflict resolution process, and commits members to the protection of women's rights in post-conflict settings.
Studies consistently show that women and children suffer the most during conflict situations, as can be clearly seen in the aftermath of Uganda's civil war, and the recent atrocities committed in the DR Congo.
This disparity is worsened by the fact that women are rarely at the negotiating table where peace agreements and post-conflict strategies are developed. It is the goal of resolution 1325 to reconcile this disparity by ensuring that women are included at all stages of conflict negotiation.
Towards this goal, Uganda's national action plan of 2008 has been an important step forward. The plan places emphasis on directly increasing the representation of women, as well as controlling gender-based violence both in post-conflict and in peacetime settings.
While Uganda's 2008 national action plan marks an important implementation of the resolution, there are a number of implementation gaps which prevent the plan from making real change within communities.
In a recent panel discussion, delegates from the European Union and the United Nations met with activists and Members of Parliament to discuss Uganda's successes and challenges in this area.
Among East African nations, Uganda's affirmative action programmes have given it a strong reputation on women's rights.
While panelists commended Uganda's commitment in this regard and recognized a number of key legislative successes, several speakers expressed a need for stronger implementation in the field and a more community-based approach.
“We not only need to engage women in the peace process, but we must equip them with the skills they need to make a difference,” Maria Mutagamba, the minister of water and environment said.
She went on to state a need to sensitize communities on their rights so that they can demand accountability in implementation.
“The most important thing is exposure. People need to know what this resolution guarantees to them,” Mutagamba said.
Panelists further emphasized the need to create a policy of zero-tolerance for gender-based and sexual violence.
“Uganda has come a long way. But I think as a country we need to do more to put facilities into place for people who are victimized,” said Jose Soler, deputy ambassador of the European Union. “Even in times of relative peace, people still use sexuality as an instrument of violence and control.”
As northern Uganda recovers from the long-running civil war and conflict still affects Uganda in places such as Karamoja, it is essential that the needs of women are considered at all levels of reconstruction.