On Thursday evening (30 November 2023), the Vice-President of the German Bundestag, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, presented the German Africa Award 2023 to the 1st National Women’s Convention for Peace in Cameroon at the Allianz Forum in Berlin.
The award, which was awarded to a collective for the first time in 30 years, recognises the Women’s Peace Platform’s pioneering work in promoting dialogue for peace and reconciliation and its contribution to conflict resolution in Cameroon.
According to Ms Göring-Eckardt, the work of the platform demonstrates how women can contribute their voices and approaches to resolving conflicts and shows how women’s participation in peace processes looks like in practice. At the same time, it is also an important example of what feminist foreign and development policy means in practical terms and what it can achieve.
In an environment that is characterised by multiple violent conflicts and patriarchal social structures, the 1st National Women’s Convention for Peace in Cameroon and its 77 member organisations carry out important work throughout the country. For example, it advocates for internally displaced persons, the protection of children, the promotion of education in conflict areas and in the area of gender-based violence. Above all, however, the platform is committed to greater political participation by women – at local, regional and national level.
Women must have a place at the negotiating table during peace talks, demand Sally Mboumien, Esther Omam and Marthe Wandou, who accepted the German Africa Award on behalf of the Women’s Peace Platform. According to the three representatives, there can be no peace without women – as demonstrated by the failed negotiations between the government and separatist leaders in 2020, from which women were excluded.
The women of the 1st National Women’s Convention for Peace in Cameroon rely on dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation and, as Claus Stäcker, President of the Jury of the German Africa Award, emphasised in his laudatory speech, naturally assume responsibility in conflicts caused by men. And they do so with success.
Since its founding in 2021, the Women’s Peace Platform has succeeded in building important bridges for dialogue with and between the various parties to the conflict; it is now recognised as a key peace actor both by separatist leaders, the government and the international community and has demonstrated in impressive peace negotiation simulations what sustainable peace in Cameroon could look like.
Since 1993, the German Africa Foundation (DAS) has been honouring outstanding personalities from the African continent with the German Africa Award, especially those who are particularly committed to democracy, peace, human rights, sustainable development, research, art and culture or social issues in Africa.
In July 2021, over 1,500 women from different socio-economic contexts and all 10 regions of Cameroon gathered to share their experiences of the country’s various conflicts and possible solutions. The result of this 1st National Women’s Convention for Peace in Cameroon, from which the platform of the same name was subsequently founded, was the joint final document “Women’s Appeal for Peace”, which was presented to the government in a media-effective manner.
The document included demands for an immediate ceasefire, an immediate resumption of dialogue between the government and separatists, the involvement of women as peace mediators, the strengthening of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration centres and the creation of centres for psychosocial support for victims of violence. The Women’s Peace Platform now includes 77 organisations.
The German Africa Award is presented annually by high-ranking German politicians, including Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (2022), Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (2020), Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel (2019) and Federal President Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier (2017). DAS, organisers of the Award, is a non-partisan foundation that is committed to the successful implementation of German government’s Africa policy guidelines. One of its core tasks is also to convey a differentiated image of Africa in the political sphere and to the German public.