Claske DIJKEMA, Grenoble, June 2006
An online course on gender and conflict transformation
This document gives information about the content of the online course on Gender and Conflict Transformation through the eyes of three of its participants. It discusses in detail one specific course that has been taking place in 2006 to give a better idea about the content and the benefits of participation.
The Network University organises bi-annually a course on Gender and Conflict transformation for women active in NGO’s in conflict area’s. The course is developed by a group of international gender experts from Greece, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In the course that took place from 9 January to 3 February 2006 in total 26 people participated from countries as diverse as Philippines, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Liberia and Gambia to name a few.
Each couse a certain number of scholarships is given out by IFOR Women’s Peacemaker’s Program.
The following participants have benefited in the February course: Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, Sri Lanka , Lily Igbinosun, Nigeria and Antoinette Chandali Kambogo, Rwanda.
Below you can find more information about their profiles and experiences;
Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, Sri Lanka
Zinthiya founded an NGO that addresses the conflict of Sri Lanka and the associated violence and human rights abuses that are taking place. Since any form of political activity or criticism of the government in Sri Lanka can be harmful to individuals within the country, a group of women organised themselves outside of the country to call for co-operation of the diaspora. She explains he work in her own words:
”We undertook a campaign to call the politicians and other figures of power in the international community to put pressure on the warring parties of Sri Lanka to stop violence and come to the negotiating table. Initially we did not get the response we were looking for as we realised that we were not strategically organised but were reacting to incidents and hence we were not getting results. Our campaign was organised and run by women. We worked and networked mainly with women’s groups and we focused on the effect that conflict had on women and children. We also acted in solidarity when similar issues were highlighted by other groups. We have published research evaluating the situation and reporting to our networks and groups.”
She is further a research associate at the Loughborough’ Midland Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice and prepares her doctoral thesis on “Women and conflict a cross cultural analysis in relation to Sri Lanka”. She would like to understand better the situation in Sri Lanka which has seen the recruitment of a large number of women and girls as combatants and where many women have become direct victims to the conflict though gender specific violence and displacement.
Zinthiya’s aim is: “to gain the necessary skills from this training and on returning to my country when I complete my research (early 2007) to work towards training women in conflict transformation”.
Lily Igbinosun, Nigeria
Lily Igbinosum is a lawyer, based in Abuja, Nigeria. She has a degree in Law and was called to the Nigerian Bar in February 2003. She has a special interest in women, youth and children’s issues. She also works as freelance journalist for some Nigerian dailies, covering subjects concerning women’s position in Nigerian society. She has chosen the course on Gender and Conflict Transformation to further develop her interest in women’s issues and integrate her experience in her work both as lawyer and as journalist.
Her motivation in her own words: “Recent developments prove that there is no limit to how much knowledge and study we recquire about the changing global world and especially about the sensitive issues of Gender and Conflict resolution in the world today. As a graduate I have been opportune to play a part in the development of our society through community development programmes. I have written articles on many of the societal issues, the latest of which was published in a National Nigerian newspaper on a topic relating to the Role of women in our society. I am therefore specially interested in this online course because of the subject in question, which will help me equip myself for the future to come and also help me interact better on the subject and educate other young people.”
Antoinette Chandali Kambogo, Rwanda
Antoinette Chandali Kambogo is a trained midwife and daily confronted with the gendered impact of warfare in her function as nurse at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In her instroduction she chooses to present firstly her family situation and then her professional situation (which i think is interesting)
“I am female aged 40 years and single. I am the 4th born of my mother and father with only one brother. Since I lost my mother when I was a baby, I don’t know my mother and I was brought up by my father. My father remarried later and had twin girls but currently he is also no longer alive. I grew up in a refugee camp where I attended primary school.”
“Professionally I am a registered midwife and have had training in registered general nursing for one academic year. In the past I have done a lot maternal and child health clinics and vaccinations, HIV/AIDS care and counselling including home care visits. I have also done teaching in clinical midwifery and general principals of nursing care and health education. I am currently working for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as a nurse for the medical support program for potential witnesses and victims of sexual violence, many of whom have contracted HIV/AIDS, in witness management team of the office of the prosecutor.”
The course content and its results
These very diverse women participated in the course over a four-week period, with each week having a specific focus. The focus of the first week is on conflict analysis, the second week’s focus is on looking at a conflict with gender lenses and in the third and fourth week the shift is made from a more theoretical perspective to an action-oriented perspective. In week 3 participants share with others their experiences and what they have learned from them. In the fourth week they write an action plan about future action they plan to undertake. For a more detailed description of the course content, please have a look at www.netuni.nl/demos/genderconflict/. The course activities that participants undertake are as following. Each week, participants read course text, make one or more assignments and participate in an online discussion. They can approach their coaches with questions any time. In order to give a good as possible idea about participants’ contributions and their evaluation of the course, I will show below the questions and a result of one of each week’s assignments that the scholarship participants submitted and a comment evaluating the week’s course material.
Week 1: Conflict analysis
Week 2: Gender analysis
Week 3: Strategising
Week 4: Preparing for action
Week 1: Conflict analysis
This week, articulation of participants’ experiences with conflict is the starting point for discussing basic conflict dynamics and tools for resolution. Participants describe their own point of view in a conflict situation of their choice. In a role-play participants experiment with mediation as a tool for conflict resolution.
Choose a conflict (local or national) to analyse in terms of the conflict framework and tools you have learned so far. Analyse this conflict by using the Iceberg Model (positions, interests and needs) or the Conflict Triangle (attitudes, behaviour and structures) or the Conflict Parties/Actors (primary actors, secondary actors and third parties). Please fill in the three text boxes with half a page of text for every box.
Debate topic: Mediation Role-Play
CASE STUDY - Consider this situation:
In the small village of Wonga there is a bus stop. The men in the village take the bus from there to work. One day a businessman, Mr Daruwalla, (Hindu for booze-dealer) opens a small liquor store close to the bus stop. His business picks up nicely and he is making good money. The women in the village see that their money for the family is being drunk away at the store. They organise into an action group to get rid of the store. « No Alcohol », their spokesperson, is Mrs Dry [no alcohol]. The women’s group gathers into an angry crowd and goes to the store. They complain that their husbands are wasting all their money on drinking. Mr. Daruwalla says that the men are free to choose what to spend their money on. Just before the women’s group are about to tear the store down Mrs Solvital (solve it all) appears to mediate the conflict.
Owner: The liquor storeowner, Mr. Daruwalla, and his family.
Women: The representative of the women’s group, Mrs. Dry.
Mediator: The mediator Mrs. Solvital
Antoinette: “The aims of the week were achieved- the conflict analysis tools were very helpful and applying them to ‘my conflict’ enabled me to put theory and reality together.
I think the section on Techniques for conflict resolution needs to be expanded and more examples given where appropriate in particular the section on ‘win-win’ (Zero sum and non-zero sum outcomes.”
Week 2: Gender analysis
Following a practical and a theoretical track, participants will look this week into the question why gender matters in understanding conflict. Both paths will arrive at a discussion about the different roles women and men play in conflict. Can the explanation for this difference be found in nature or nurture?
Some aspects of gender relations seem to change more obviously than others during a conflict situation. What changes are there in the everyday roles and behaviours of men and women? Women take on greater roles in providing for their families, and often acquire greater economic power. This may give them some greater bargaining power within the household. Men, on the other hand, often find it more difficult to adapt to new circumstances. How do you see this in relation to your conflict? Do women gain greater bargaining power and do they use it? Write minimal one page and maximal one and a half page looking at your conflict through ‘gender lenses’ and answer the questions asked. What impact does your conflict have on men and women - on their roles, their identities and their social position and rights? How would you describe your conflict in relation to superficial and deep-seated changes in attitudes and values? What changes are there in the everyday roles and behaviours of men and women?
Debate topic: power and decision-making
The debate is introduced as follows: Some feminists say that men are likely to dominate over women. They start with the view that gender is an important dimension in understanding conflict. They tend to believe that war results fundamentally from a view of the world that justifies male domination and permits women’s oppression to be maintained. But feminism, however, is not just a way of analysing power relations, but also a set of strategies for changing them. On this topic we will have a discussion in the forum. We would like to know what you think. Do you think women would make a difference and change the international agenda in politics and peace negotiations if they were equally in power as men? How would it change and why?
Antoinette: “[During this week] I did understand especially how gender is affected by conflict and likewise gender affects conflict and as such a gender perspective in conflict resolution should be impacted by the contribution of effects of conflict on each gender or which gender was mostly affected or suffered effects of conflict. With this I feel that the module had to emphasize more on gender differences in causing conflict, supporting it and resolving it. Because I imagine if the course was not on line and the participants had to be in class, the long debate that would be on whether men are naturally aggressive and women naturally peace makers.”
Lily: “I have appreciated very much the nature nurture debate and other people’s input as to what makes women more peaceful than men or peace loving even if it wasn’t by nature that they are peaceful and on the other hand what makes men more aggressive than women even if naturally they are not born aggressive.”
Week 3: Strategising
This week’s focus will be on women’s active roles in conflict transformation. A number of local and global strategies will be discussed, representative of the writers’ experiences. Participants will share their own strategies with the group and will collaboratively build a collection of strategies that inspire for action.
In the course text of week 3, we have provided you with a number of strategies, tools, techniques and approaches that OTHERS have used over the years as a means of transforming conflict. In this assignment we will ask you to share an example of how YOU have contributed to conflict transformation or how you have organised for change. What issue have you addressed and what strategy, tool or approach have you used to do this? The strategy or actions do not necessarily have to be successful as long as you have learned from them. Please answer the questions in the boxes concerning the action you have undertaken.
Debate topic: Sharing strategies for action
You will find short descriptions of the actions or strategies that participants have described. You choose at least two topics that seem interesting to you and you read the full assignment text in the assignment page. You can find the page by going to the ‘course tools’ (at the top of the page) and you click on ‘assignments’ to enter the assignment page. On the right side of the assignment page you will see ‘view results sent in by others’. Thereafter you formulate one or two questions regarding the described action or strategy and you react to the questions posed in the forum concerning the action that you have described.
Antoinette: “I am happy with strategizing because in a way it even teaches us about strategizing in every thing we aim at reaching. Especially in any conflict that I would wish to resolve or mediate especially on some individual level and community level.”
Zinthiya: “I described my groups activities in this week. this gave me the opportunity to examine how we worked and also other experiences of the members. This was very useful as it was directly linked to my work and what i wanted to get out.”
Lily: “This is the one week in which I participated in the forum very actively and I learnt a lot from all the others participants. The material from this week plus the assignment gave me insight on other possible strategies that I can use in my work. I greatly appreciated the resource material on gender mainstreaming and its importance. This weeks material helped me and inspired me to convince my colleagues and the administration to have gender as one of the main objectives of our new strategic plan. Originally it was just mentioned in passing and women were simply ‘added’ into the programmes and activities of the council, so I could not carry out specific programmes and activities and because most of the staff are not skilled in gender, a lot of gender issues would be missed out. Now I feel comfortable and convinced that the laid out strategy will enable us actually mainstream gender practically and not on paper.”
Week 4: Preparing for action
After having understood some of the dynamics in a conflict situation, and getting to know some strategies addressing those, participants prepare for concrete action. Each participant designs and reviews an action plan. Suggestions for improvement to two of the action plans are central to this week’s discussion.
Your assignment is to write an action plan for your organisation. The goal of this action plan is to make a contribution towards the peaceful resolution or prevention of violence.
Debate topic: Acting in conflict:
The debate is introduced as follows: In section 4.7 you will find a case study concerning the situation in Chiapas, Mexico. Imagine this is the area you and your organisation are operating. What strategy or tool provided in this course would you use to address women’s human right violations? Since it is both the government, the army and the paramilitary groups violating these rights how would you do this? Do you know of any other strategy or tool that you think would be useful?
Zinthiya: “For me the most interesting part was week 4 I really liked the way the conflict was analysed and the pillars supporting it was presented,. It gave me the opportunity to look at my problem more analytically. I liked the assignment, because it made me think how i want our group to deal in the future and the action plan which we had not given much attention. I am yet awaiting my evaluation and hope to use the feed back to draw up a good strategy for our group.”
Lily: “I learnt a lot from the best practices and local examples given. The process of building a strategy and the pillars tool of analysis is a very useful tool and the assignment has helped me come up with an action plan that I believe we shall be able to implement as an organisation if we get the funds.”
How did Antoinette, Zinthiya and Lily evaluate the collaborative tools, like the forum discussion, participant profiles and the chat function?
Antoinette felt that: “these did their part very well because the forum makes it possible for participants to react to their fellows’ ideas and likewise react to the questions promptly ». Of the opportunities the course provided, she liked best « the power of knowing each other ». « You know when you get to know each other, you understand each other better and can accept each others suggestions and even accept each others comments and work together in resolving conflict.”
Zinthiya notes that: “it was a good method, especially for women like us who have a lot of responsibilities and can’t get out of our home to attend real-life training.”
Lily comments that: “Although it was not always easy to have connection at the time of the debate, these tools were a perfect means of enhancing this experience and the forum is a very good method of providing an opportunity for interaction.”
Antoinette mentioned in her evaluation that the material provided and experience in the course will help her in her daily work because “it has given me like guidelines in resolving conflict and has made me aware that conflicts have to be understood if they are to be resolved peacefully because when resolving you must make the parties in conflicts to realise how they interacted before the conflict, how the conflict came about, who were involved, the after effects of the conflicts and their expressing the need to end the conflict peacefully.”
Zinthiya adds that: “the material will certainly help me in my work. As for insight yes I liked the last assignment which gave me knew knowledge and also the additional links this will help me set up my project.” At the end of the course Zinthiya contacted one of the coaches to review the project proposal she wrote and which she was asked to present to a British funder. She equally was interviewed by a local radio station about her actions to address the Sri Lankan conflict and her experiences with the online course.”
A general course outcome was that two participants took the initiative to set up a online group to continue to exchange information about latest gender issues. Three participants of the course now function as resource persons for a geographical area.
Anyone who after reading is interested to participating in this course can have a look at: www.netuni.nl or can contact Claske Dijkema directly firstname.lastname@example.org.