by Michèle Pepe, IANSA Women’s Network, Ivorian section of the West African Action Network on small arms (WAANSA)
I would like to share with you how small arms are affecting women in Côte d’Ivoire and to tell you what we are doing about the problem. I will tell you how an Arms Trade Treaty can support the implementation of CEDAW and UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security.
Gender equality, security and economic empowerment are linked. Where there is poverty there is armed violence. Where there are guns there is poverty. It is a vicious cycle. Weapons directly prevent women from realizing our rights. They aggravate the discrimination we face.
I am from Côte d'Ivoire, and I know this personally because pro-government and rebel forces have raped and sexually assaulted hundreds of women and girls. Because the perpetrators continue to hold guns it is impossible for us to get justice. Impunity is one of our biggest challenges.
After the election crisis, sexual violence at gunpoint is being committed by all sectors of society, no longer limited to the armed forces. Outside of Abidjan, carjacking, and the rape of passengers is increasing. Easily available arms and lack of control from national authorities make this criminal violence possible. Every case we know about is the story of a woman or girl directly affected by discrimination maintained by small arms.
Côte d’Ivoire already has a thirteen twenty-five National Action Plan, but as you can see it is not being implemented. There is little political space for women. There are only six women ministers out of a total of forty and only six women Members of Parliament out of two hundred and fifty two.
Women’s groups are working on CEDAW and thirteen twenty-five, but they are limited to grassroots. A major problem is that local community activism cannot influence power and decision-making. This means our expertise is overlooked. Women’s political marginalization makes it difficult for us to hold the government responsible for failing to protect us.
We cannot collect data on arms transfers. Systems to control the traffic of guns are not efficient. International arms dealers have ways to get around national laws to supply arms to anyone who wants them. No arms brokers or traffickers have been brought to justice. We want the irresponsible arms trade to end.
As you can see the lack of international and national laws governing the arms trade is creating conflict cycles. This is why we need a legally binding gender-responsive ATT: to make CEDAW and thirteen twenty-five real and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals possible.
Women of Africa are making safer homes, communities and countries. We are experts in highlighting local and national issues on small arms and women. Disarmament, arms control, peace and security processes must reflect our voices.