Gender means the roles, relationships, experiences and expectations of men, women, boys and girls that are constructed by society on the basis of their sex. These different roles and relationships, influenced by local contexts and other forms of social differentiation, such as age, ethnicity, class, caste, religion and socio-economic status, are an important basis for understanding the dynamics and impact of conflict.
Violence during conflict is often based on gender, especially sexual violence, which is often used as an instrument of terror or torture to destroy communities. Other forms of gender-based violence include the forced conscription of boys into militias, the targeted killing of men and boys who are seen as potential combatants, and the forced marriage or sexual slavery of women and girls.
The term gender is often incorrectly seen as being synonymous with women. However, it is also important not to focus solely on the stereotype of women as victims – their role in conflict as combatants, informers and protagonists for violence is far more complex. Men and boys are not always aggressors. In many conflict zones, women’s rights and their role in building peace have been undermined or ignored.
While women make up more than half the population in Africa, they hardly feature in the processes of re-establishing peace and security, democracy and development in the region. The Gender programme intends to address this by promoting a gender-sensitive approach to issues of democratization, security and development and the understanding that in building peace it is vital that all sectors of society participate.
The Human Rights section will monitor and report on the implementation of international and regional instruments signed and ratified by Africa states, as well as monitoring the work of regional and inter-governmental bodies on the promotion of the culture of rights. Sensitizing rights holders through targeted training and engaging the duty bearers through advocacy and research.