#WhereAretheWomen of Cyprus? Cyprus Women Call for Inclusion in Political & Peace Processes

by Magda Zenon, wunru, 7 August 2017. Hands Across the Divide, Founding Member Cyprus Women’s Lobby, Vice President. 

Across the Divide Event
With the breakdown of the Cyprus
Peace negotiations in July of 2017, what is still apparent is that women and
the gender lens are still missing from the official negotiating table as well
as from the political discourse. While the UN, the SC and the EE continue to
call for the increase of women’s participation at the decision-making levels in
peace processes, and though we know that when women have been included in peace
negotiations, their contribution and perspective have often ensured that peace
accords address demands for gender equality in new constitutional, judicial and
electoral structures, the current situation in Cyprus remains unchanged. An
adequate understanding of the impact of the inclusion of the gender lens in
such formal discussions on Cyprus, is also not clearly understood and
continually ignored. Hence, #WhereAretheWomen of Cyprus.
Over the past 20 years various women’s organizations
have taken on the responsibility of educating and advocating on the rights of
both men and women. And though Cyprus currently has a comprehensive Strategic
Action Plan for the Equality of Men and Women 2014-2017, put together under the
auspices of the Gender Equality Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, this
does not reflect the existence of frozen conflict in Cyprus. 
The responsibility to educate the society on the
inclusion of women in the peace process as well as trying to change the
discourse from ‘ethnic and nation-based’ to ‘diverse and inclusive/human-based’
has been taken on by small groups of dedicated women; Hands Across the Divide,
the first bicommunal women’s NGO on the island formed in 2001which had a vision
of seeing gender equality integrated into the peace negotiations in Cyprus; the
Gender Advisory Team formed in October 2009, which worked in collaboration with
the UN Good Office Mission in Cyprus to design and work toward the
implementation of UNSCR1325 (attending to questions of citizenship, property,
governance, and the economy), and the Cyprus Women’s Lobby that lobbied for the
implementation of UNSCR1325 and the inclusion of 50% of women on the peace
negotiating teams. All have worked towards changing the public discourse and
impacting the process of peace talks.
This, in addition to pressure from the European
Women’s Lobby from Brussels resulted in the leaders of the 2 communities
announcing on May 28 2015 as part of the confidence building measures that a
Gender Equality Technical Committee would be appointed. While this certainly
meant that a gender perspective was present in the official peace process and a
commitment to addressing this problem was on the table in some way, there was
no real way of assessing whether gender was now finally on the agenda of the
peace process as media coverage was minimal at best, and there has been no
contact between the Gender Equality Technical Committee and the local women’s
groups because of a confidentiality agreement involved in the role.
Calling upon the opposing parties to adopt “a
gender perspective” on peace negotiations and “gender
mainstreaming” in all UN peacekeeping missions is meaningless unless women
are able to gain confidence and skill sets (including the build-up of a
gendered capacity in the civil society) that  empower them politically and
economically.  There has never been a greater need for international
actors such as UN Women and the EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and on the
implementation of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 as their
mandates are critical in leveraging the capacity of local CSOs efforts on the
Consequently, Cyprus women seem to be far from
implementing UNSCRes 1325 because there is a lack in real intention by the
leadership to integrate women and the gender lens genuinely into the formal
peace processes and the public discourse.