Feb 2019

Expert women mediators hold first network meeting

Women mediators from across commonwealth countries met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week, to exchange experiences of their mediation work and discuss the development of their new network.

Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC) – a unique network supported by Conciliation Resources – brings together mediators from different countries and diverse backgrounds. The workshop in Kuala Lumpur brought together women mediators from locations including Jammu and Kashmir, Zambia, Canada, Sri Lanka and Cyprus. The women brought with them a rich array of experiences and expertise – ranging from mediating conflict formally as part of official peace process, to bringing armed groups into a peace process, and mediating community-level conflicts.

While in Malaysia, members of WMC discussed the future development of the network and shared some of their learning and challenges. They also took part in practical mediation simulation and cultural activities. 

I have met a lot of women this week who are working at different levels of mediation. It is not the same talking to somebody on the phone, but when you have seen someone and heard about their work, it is easier to connect to them. I now know who I can turn to when I need support. I have already learnt a number of new things!

Patricia Mwaka Mphanza Ndhlovu, Executive Director for Young Women’s Christian Association in Zambia

The network aims to provide opportunities for the women to learn from and support each other, and most importantly, advocate for greater recognition for and participation in mediation for women mediators globally. Despite the fact women play an active role in mediating conflicts at all levels, their role is often not acknowledged or supported. At an international level, only 2% of mediators are women.

We are facing a global crisis with so many conflicts around the world. It is more important than ever that women mediators are recognised. I think women bring a different perspective to peacebuilding, negotiating and mediating. They are often left out of peace processes, but they are doing a lot of work at the grassroots level, within communities, within families. They need to be brought into the official processes to share these perspectives.

Magda Zenon, women, peace and security activist working in Cyprus

Although different mediation networks exist, WMC is unique in its global reach, and focus on connecting high-level processes with the grassroots. The Malaysia workshop was the first in a series of meetings designed to shape the network. Future workshops are planned for later in the year in Nigeria and the Pacific.

I think there is a tremendous need for the WMC network. There are many of us who are doing mediation and peacebuilding in various parts of the world and feeling sometimes isolated or disconnected from other people who can give us new ideas and energy for the work we do. Nothing else in the world currently exists that brings women together across nationalities and across regions of the world.

Sara Cook, Lecturer at the Conflict Transformation Certificate Program at St. Mary’s University, Texas

WMC members also attended a reception at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. This work is funded by the UK Government, in support of the commitments made during Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018.