An overview of the situation of women in conflict and post-conflict Africa
Conflict and post-conflict environments in Africa present unique challenges and opportunities for women. While violence and war periods have negative effects on women, it is suggested that ‘peace time’ has implications for women as well. For most women, the end of war and conflict is marked by the excessive effects of trauma and shame. There are still numerous accounts of rape and forced marriages that undermine the social position of these women in society. Due to these circumstances, many women struggle to participate effectively in the affairs of their societies. The lack of skills or education among many of these women means that their access to economic opportunities is greatly challenged. It is critical that the implications of conflict on these women be clearly understood. Furthermore, the post-conflict environment must also be interrogated, as there are concerning social, psychological, physical and economic implications that continue to challenge women.
While the achievement of peace is critical, and violent conflict must be avoided at all cost, this paper seeks to interrogate women’s experiences of not only conflict, but also of ‘peace’. It is contended that while war has implications on women, peace following conflict has implications for women as well. These implications are both negative and positive. It follows that it is not enough to sign a peace agreement. These agreements in themselves do not necessarily result in security and holistic peace, and a constant interrogation of what peace means to different populations must be done. In this regard, this contribution is a modest attempt to review the situation of women in conflict and post-conflict Africa.