The Board convened virtually on 12th May 2020 with the purpose of making strong advocacy for Great Lakes women, in several areas as the world battles COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants expressed concerns that women in the Great Lakes region of Africa are facing various social and economic challenges at this particular time.
The Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, Mr. Huang Xia, who was the Chair of the meeting, expressed this concern saying that women are the most victim of the social-economic effects of the pandemic.
He stated: “COVID-19 is increasing the vulnerability of people who are already in fragile situations, thereby increasing poverty particularly among women and girls . .”
The 12th meeting of the Advisory Board set its agenda to include mobilization of the regional and international community to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and to preserve the achievements recorded in relation to the Women, Peace and Security component; participation of women in the political and electoral process in the region; and engagement of member states to ensure prevention, protection and economic recovery and implementation of the Regional Action Plan.
The meeting discussed the COVID 19, its impact on women, the girl child and other vulnerable groups of the Great Lakes Region as well as the efforts to preserve the gains relating to Women, Peace and Security (FPS), The meeting was also an opportunity to review the operationalization of the Regional Action Plan of resolution1325 (2000) of the Great Lakes Region and to examine the role of Gender Ministers in national, regional and international response to the ongoing health crisis as well as participation of women in forthcoming elections.
“In the great lakes region, women are the most active in business, especially informal sector. When borders are closed, and movements restricted, they cannot generate income. Therefore they cannot provide family basic needs such as food, health services, to mention, just a few," said Ambassador Eliane Mokodopo, the Director of Gender in International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and member of the advisory board.
She said that due to this situation, many families emptied their stores which caused problems for most of the families.
Marguerite Mutumwinka, the Chairperson of COCFEM GL, a Consultative organization of 13 Umbrella of Women Associations in the Great Lakes Region (Rwanda, Burundi and DRC) said that this economic impact brings another challenge that will still affect the woman.
From Rwanda, Mutumwika said that the lockdown did not only affect women financially but also created condition for increased domestic.
She raised a concern about a potential increase of gender-based violence (GBV) in some countries of the region under COVID-19 lockdown.
Need to ensure peace and security for women during and after Covid-19
The 12th Advisory board recommended member states to establish national, regional, and continental mechanisms to ensure peace and security for women and girls.
“There is a need to work in synergy in order to initiate a common front to identify actions that should be implemented at the national, regional and continental level to fight against COVID - 19," suggested Ambassador Mokodopo.
"We recommended to Ministers of gender in the region to meet and assess how to take into account gender into all mechanisms of protection, prevention and treatment of COVID - 19. This will reduce both the long term and short term negative impact of the pandemic among women in the region."
The advisory board recommended to States in the region to think about gender in all their socio-economic planning as their efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 aftermath.
“For example, keeping in mind that both boys and girls have stopped their studies due to the lockdown, we recommend to our governments to assess how COVID-19 affects both girls and boys," Mutumwika proposed.
Mutumwinka further proposed: "We assume that consequences of stopping studies can be more harmful to girls than they would be to boys. Our governments need to put in place strategies to prevent unwanted pregnancies among girls who currently cannot go to school.”
Other recommendations made to the governments in the region are to sensitize men and women to share responsibilities and tasks at home to reduce the heavy domestic work normally done by women.
They suggested also putting in place strategies to secure fund for women in order to allow them restart their financial activities when countries start the new normal.
The Advisory Board for Women, Peace and Security for the Great Lakes Region was initiated in 2013 under the support of the office of the UN special Envoy to provide recommendations on issues related to women, peace and security.