Women political activists in conflict areas must be protected

1 September 2021

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, has called for the protection of women in countries affected by conflict. Minister Pandor was speaking during a virtual event themed “Ensuring Protection for Full and Equal Participation in Peacebuilding and Political Spaces”.

“All women must be protected and should enjoy security from any form of harm. In fact, all political activists should be able to exercise their democratic right to protest and exercise all the civil and political rights we enjoy as South Africa by virtue of our Constitution,” she said.

The event was organised by the International Peace Institute and hosted in partnership with the Kenyan, South African, Swedish and the United States governments.

According to the department, the event focussed on the “protection of, and discrimination faced by women political activists, women peacebuilders, and women human rights defenders, particularly in conflict-affected environments”.

Minister Pandor said the international community has a duty to protect women and to create specific frameworks to guarantee their safety.

“We are disturbed by the inability of the international community to protect women who face threats. We believe that it’s important we look at the international frameworks that we have under the auspices of the United Nations because when we framed international law, humanitarian law, diversity was not incorporated into the key frameworks.

“So there is a need to look at how we might adjust in order to ensure that categories of persons that have not been incorporated, included or referred to in existing international frameworks enjoy reference in appropriate conventions and regulations so that there are institutions that have a legal mandate to ensure their protection,” she said.

Dr Pandor said women political activists should not have to “rely on the good graces of international friends in order to survive”.

“It must be part of the recognition of any government that it attaches to instruments of protection and that it is a requirement - by virtue of being part of the global family - that those instruments are respected not just in word but in practise. This we believe would be a means of ensuring greater protection for women activists, women peacemakers, women peace builders all over the world,” she said.