Over the past 10 years, a number of countries in the Great Lakes Region have undergone a process of political transition following a period of conflict. In countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there has been a significant improvement in women’s participation in decision-making following the period of conflict. However, a number of challenges exist that need to be addressed. These include: translation of the political gains into changes in women’s status at all levels of society; the issue of quantitative versus qualitative representation that clearly addresses the needs of women; legislative and policy reforms that support and promote women’s advancement; maintaining the gains; role and position of women in multiparty politics; establishing effective links between women politicians and the women’s movement and the contribution of women’s political participation to peacebuilding processes in the region.
The Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) and International Alert (Alert) have initiated a research project to assess women’s participation in political transitions in the four above-mentioned countries with specific focus on the mechanisms and processes that governments have put in place to promote women’s participation. The general goal of the research project is to assess the role of women in the political transition in each country to draw general lessons from issues of specific local relevance. The lessons derived from the process will be used to inform policy-makers, implementers and development partners to advance opportunities for women in the region to contribute to improvements in governance and building sustainable peace and security.
As a first step in validating the project idea, a series of preliminary consultative meetings were held in 2006 in the four countries with a sample of women’s organisations to discuss the project and agree on the implementation plan.1 Following the consultative process, it was deemed necessary to hold a regional consultative workshop from 28–30 August 2007. The main objectives of the workshop were as follows.
- Identify and discuss the main issues affecting women’s participation in political transition in countries emerging from conflict.
- Map out the specific country priority areas/issues for research and documentation.
- Identify and agree on the appropriate methodologies for research and documentation.
- Discuss Terms of Reference and identify a regional research Steering Committee.
The workshop was participatory and interactive in nature, employing multiple methods including plenary discussions, paper presentations, group work and brainstorming. It attracted 28 participants from the four countries in the Great Lakes Region. The main facilitators of the workshop were Prof. Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo and Dr. Florence Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi from the Department of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University. This report presents the workshop proceedings. The workshop comprised of six sessions with four main presentations on:
- The significance and importance of political transition in the four countries emerging out of conflict.
- Findings of the preliminary consultations.
- Feminist research methodology.
- The proposed way forward.