Workshop Summary – Pieces of Peace – The Role of Ethiopian Women in Peacebuilding

On this year’s International Women’s Day event hosted by AWiB and facilitated by Earuyan Solutions, members of the association and other attendees gathered at Mosaic Hotel to discuss the role of women in peacebuilding.  The event commenced with an introduction by Metasebia Shewaye Yilma, the 2018 President of the association, in which she urged attendees to appreciate what they have achieved as women, which, as she rightly mentioned, is and should be a daily part of our lives rather than something we talk about once a year.

After Billene Seyoum, Managing Director of Earuyan Solutions introduced the agenda of this particular event, Stella Sabiti, the guest speaker, took the stage to say a few words about peacebuilding. As was mentioned by Billene, there has been an international push for women’s inclusion in peace and security; women are considered to have many strong qualities and socialized traits that have been forged by the multiple roles they occupy in society and can contribute to peacebuilding. The question then is: how can we leverage these qualities for peacebuilding?

Stella first asked attendees to consider what peacebuilding exactly means. Focusing on the ‘building’ part of the word, she emphasized the necessity of specialized roles coming together in order to build any complex system. Drawing an example from the most banal of objects—the tablecloths in the conference room—she noted that it was made from interwoven threads, some of which face one way and some another. That difference, according to Stella, is what enables the tablecloth to exist, much like individuals different from each other enable a complex social tapestry to exist. The interweaving of these different individuals, each with their own lives and specialized roles, is what peacebuilding, at its core, is about.

After her engaging introduction to peacebuilding, Stella shared a short poem about the complexity and contradictions of being a woman, leaving attendees with a nugget of truth they were all too familiar with: despite her many strengths, a woman’s weakness is that ‘she often forgets what she is worth’.

True to Billene’s words, the discussion that followed was interactive and focused more on getting attendees’ inputs on the role of women in peacebuilding.  For the first 10 minutes, they were urged to discuss what traits they exhibit or observe in society that they consider feminine or masculine and which of these traits either support or threaten peace. As they shared their answers with each other, they identified similar traits considered feminine (emotional intelligence, multitasking, resilience) and masculine (physical strength, rationality, straightforward thinking). While some identified some traits, both masculine and feminine, as threats or supporters, many also noted that some traits could be both.

The next round asked attendees to identify what qualities they, as women, can leverage for peace. Most commonly mentioned were compassion and emotional intelligence, which enables women to see things from different perspectives, forgiveness, patience, which is characterized by not rushing into decisions or conclusions, and being detail oriented, which helps women in being good negotiators.

Finally, attendees were asked to come up with a specific trait that they will leverage for peacebuilding in the coming year, which they shared with an audience member from a different table. The event closed on an optimistic note as attendees left with a heightened sense of purpose and a more concrete idea of how they can contribute to peacebuilidng in these increasingly trying times. 

Summary by Helina Yigletu, Earuyan Solutions Junior Associate 

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