The Women’s Situation Room (WSR) was initiated and established by the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) with the support of a coalition of Liberian women and youth organizations including the Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) & the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).
The WSR is a political process that mobilizes women in collaboration with youth to ensure their active participation in peaceful and democratic electoral processes in Africa as a peace and security measure in accordance with UNSCRs 1325, 2250 and 2419. It engages all electoral stakeholders in consultative engagements to commit to ensuring peace before, during, and after elections. The women and youth are also involved in advocacy, observation, intervention, mediation, coordination, analysis of the political and legal issues and their impact on the elections, observation of polling processes and documentation of the entire process in a coordinated manner.
Emphasis is placed on the inclusion of youth, especially the disenfranchised and disadvantaged youth who sometimes acts as perpetrators of violence. These young women and men are trained as peace monitors and peace ambassadors to contribute to a peaceful electoral process. The WSR is not intended as a punctual intervention but aimed at achieving long-lasting effects. Therefore, it does not end with the announcement of election results but includes relevant follow-up activities as deemed necessary by the women and youth in the country of replication.
The WSR since its inception has offered a unique opportunity to apply ‘citizen diplomacy’; an informal form of conflict resolution, aimed at de-escalating conflict by reducing anger, fear, and tension and by improving communication and mutual understanding among all actors and stakeholders during elections. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported the first ever WSR during the Liberian Elections in October and November 2011. Since then, it has been replicated in seven countries, some more than one. These include Senegal (2012), Sierra Leone (November 2012; March 2018), Kenya (March 2013), Nigeria (March 2015), Uganda (February 2016), Ghana (December 2016) and Liberia (October 2017).
GIMAC at the AU adopted the WSR as best practice, and asked President Sirleaf (left) to be Champion of the WSR
The WSR has been adopted as Best Practice in Africa by the Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) of the African Union (AU) in January 2012. The AU asked for the WSR to be replicated in all countries having elections across Africa and designated H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the Champion of the WSR. The AU also gave an award in recognition of the WSR as an outstanding peace and security mechanism on the continent during its 50th Anniversary celebration. On 15th June 2016, the President of the United Nations Security Council; Mogens Lykketoft, endorsed the WSR at its 717 meeting in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled: ‘Women and Peace and Security’;
“The Security Council emphasises the important role that women and civil society, including women’s organisations and formal and informal community leaders, as well as religious leaders, can play in exerting influence over parties to armed conflict. The Security Council welcomes women-led prevention initiative such as the Women’s Situation Rooms throughout Africa, which have helped to prevent or mitigate the eruption and escalation of violence, inter alia through observing and monitoring, and by engaging stakeholders in constructive dialogue and peace advocacy”
A core element of the WSR process is the mainstreaming of youth into every component of the process. Youth from ECOWAS countries mobilize community and gang youth to advocate for peaceful elections. The ECOWAS Youth Peer Peace Process focuses on youth from both the formal and informal sectors by building their capacity to engage their peers in peaceful responses to contentious elections.
To ensure that in accordance with UNSCRs 1325, 2250, 2419 and the AU GIMAC mandate, women in collaboration with youth, play active and substantive roles in ensuring and sustaining peaceful elections in all countries in Africa.
- To provide a platform for women’s groups to strategize, plan and respond rapidly to elections related issues in a coordinated manner.
- To establish a network of peace activists across Africa who are equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to prevent and respond to political and electoral violence and emergencies before, during and after elections.
- To successfully replicate the African Union Best Practice as part of the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) in African countries having elections.
- To strengthen women’s solidarity beyond borders and showcase their ability to constructively launch preventive measures to ensure elections take place in a manner that fosters an enabling environment and is an all-inclusive process.
The WSR is 100% convened by women and youth movements, coalitions, groups and networks.
The Women’s Situation Room is not a room but a process that mobilizes women and youth to ensure their active participation in peaceful and democratic electoral processes as a peace and security measure. This is achieved by rolling out systems and structures through which the essential activities of the WSR are replicated. These culminate into the setting up of a physical Situation Room where women are involved in real time intervention and mediation, political and legal analysis, observation of the polling process and recording and documentation. The capacities of women and youth are enhanced through trainings on electoral and constitutional laws to ensure the electoral process in each country is better understood in order to ensure their involvement is impactful. The WSR does not also reinvent the wheel but rather collaborates and partners with existing initiatives in each country, to manage human as well as financial resources in a coordinated manner. The WSR does not end with the announcement of election results but includes follow-up activities by the women in the country of replication.
Theme of the WSR
“Peace is in our hands”. This promotes a collective process, gives value to the power of women and youth by recognising and capitalising on their contributions in building and maintaining peace to facilitate a non-threatening and violence free environment for elections for all.