International Event: Betty Bigombe

I attended a lecture by Betty Bigombe. Betty Bigombe is currently the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank. Bigombe is also well known for initiating and conducting peace talks with Joseph Kony. She is an incredibly influential woman and she also trains woman mediators.

In this lecture, Bigombe talked mainly about the importance of women and children in state conflict mediation processes. She argues that it is time for the UN and international communities to ensure peace keeping success by involving women in the peace keeping negotiations and processes. This can only happen through targeted mentoring of women in “affirmative action” efforts. According to Bigombe, women and children are frequent victims of violence and are large bearers of the burden of war. Many women have been able to find strong voices on the grassroots level, however, women must take part in the senior level of peace making decisions. Bigombe works to help women have the opportunity to have a seat at the peace keeping table. Bigombe also argues that when women are involved in the peace keeping negotiations, there are positive results that enhance the overall success of the mission. Women are able to talk more candidly about things such as sexual harassment, childbearing, etc.

I had no idea that peacekeeping was such gendered work. Bigombe mentioned that in 2008, the UN had very few women peacekeeping envoys. According to Bigombe, women were not leading mediation efforts anywhere. This is quite shocking as Bigombe pointed out the benefits to having women lead peacekeeping efforts. I think that Bigombe is doing great work by trying to propel women to make their contribution to sustainable, long-lasting peace. It is vital to the success of peacekeeping efforts that women are included in the discussion. Bigombe talked about how when she was mediating in Northern Uganda with the LRA, she played the role as a “mother.” Even the groups that she was negotiating with called her “mother.” Womanhood has incredibly unique power in many aspects of social interaction. Women should have the tools needed to utilize this power in peacekeeping negotiations.

Bigombe’s lecture reminded me of the concept of the “individual level” of analysis. As mentioned and exemplified previously, Bigombe is an incredibly powerful woman. She has held impressive titles and has studied at the best schools around the globe. Her personality, perception, choices, and activities directly impact different aspects of the international social sphere. The idea of the “individual level” of analysis is especially relevant when discussing Bigombe’s peace talk negotiations. In many cases, Bigombe was alone during these conversations. In these instances, she was acting as an individual actor. Recently in class we have also talked about intergovernmental organizations. Bigombe touched on her experiences working with these organizations including the UN and the World Bank. The way she discussed these organizations exemplified that they are “actors” as well as “frameworks.” This is an illustration that I found extremely powerful in the context of our class discussions.

I entirely agree with Bigombe’s points. She is a fantastic woman who is leading efforts to empower women across the world. She is entirely correct in recognizing the full power of women to participate in peace talk efforts. I hope that as Bigombe continues to encourage the participation of women in peace talks, this idea becomes reality. I believe that Bigombe is right in saying that women are more effective than men (in many areas) of peace talk efforts. Bigombe concluded her lecture by mentioning that exclusion is a vicious cycle; the exclusion of women in peace talk efforts only breed more exclusion. It is time that women have a seat at the table in peace talk efforts.

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