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Women emerge as champions for peace in the Casamance

October 21, 2015

Women broke the silence. Then, more and more women decided to talk, and when they did, they proposed solutions to bring peace to the Casamance, a region in southern Senegal where a low-level civil war has been waged since 1982. 

Through support and training, the Program for Governance and Peace (PGP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has played a pivotal role in transforming women in the region from spectators to advocates of peace and social stability. 

PGP, implemented by FHI 360, operated in Senegal from 2010 to 2015 to improve democracy, good governance and national reconciliation. PGP supported the Platform of Women for Peace in Casamance (Plateforme des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance, PFPC), an umbrella organization representing 170 women’s groups with the mission of bringing together the energies, skills and expertise of each of the members to propose solutions to the region’s crisis. 

PGP supported the Panos Institute for West Africa, a partner organization, to provide communications training. “We’ve overcome our communication weaknesses,” one trainee said. “I used to be unsure of myself in front of the press. Now I know how to engage them. It’s time to use these new skills to find a solution to the conflict.”

Additionally, female journalists participated in a PGP-supported training to learn oral testimony methodology, a technique that assists interviewees in expressing their life stories. These newly trained radio hosts gave voice to many women whose suffering had long been silenced, including rape survivors and women who lost their husbands and sons to the violence. 

Women became more engaged and committed to the peace process as a result of the training, showing unprecedented confidence in expressing their views in the media and in public forums to influence the negotiation process. The Platform convinced all nine candidates in the 2012 presidential election to sign a memorandum that committed them, if elected, to start the peace process. The Platform also organized three regional forums to raise awareness of their progress and the remaining challenges to the peace process. One national television reporter noted, “They [the Platform] have clearly found their voice.”