What I've learned as a younger mediator
What I've learned as a younger mediator: Alicia Kuin
Alicia Kuin has facilitated over 600 conflict processes, and as a 33-year old woman, she’s usually working in spaces dominated by older men. Twenty years after the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, Alicia reflects on the challenges she experienced as a young female mediator and what she’s learning from colleagues around the world.
Contrary to what the media reports and what we hear from male decision-makers, women are on the front lines of global peacebuilding. For example, Betty Bigombe's work leading talks between the Ugandan Government and the LRA or Mossarat Qadeem's work preventing and countering violent extremism in Pakistan.
Women are the glue in their communities and have invested time in building relationships and trust. They, therefore, know the impact of conflict intimately as they hear the personal stories of how it jolts every segment of society. Upon deeply listening and internalizing the ways in which their community is struggling, women insert themselves into peacebuilding efforts; they do not wait to be engaged.
Women also look at conflict holistically, understanding that conflict does not end when an agreement is reached. Conflict transcends 'peace' as there are lasting psychosocial effects on societies who are left to pick up the pieces and rebuild their communities post-conflict.
What women mediators have taught me
The inter-generational exchange within the WMC is invaluable, as I am learning from women who have been lifelong peacebuilders. Through the sharing of stories and experiences, we have created rich connections. These women have shown me incredible kindness, support and generosity, which has given me more confidence and led to some valuable lessons.
"The inter-generational exchange within the WMC is invaluable, as I am learning from women who have been lifelong peacebuilders. Through the sharing of stories and experiences, we have created rich connections"
Firstly, being a woman is a source of strength. I have found strength in my empathy, ability to build trust with communities and support parties with my emotional intelligence. I have learned to lean-in to a collectivist approach to peacebuilding by collaborating with co-facilitators and inviting parties into the design process. I am more confident working with senior lawyers, politicians, experts and military officials as I have found empowerment in my abilities as a woman mediator.
Secondly, my knowledge of the field has increased. We have expanded our peacebuilding networks to one another and are thus able to tap into each other’s networks for information, support and further collaboration in order to inform our work. Our innate drive to build bridges within our communities means we instinctively build bridges with one another in order to strengthen peace efforts globally.
Thirdly, I have learned even more about my privilege as a white 'purist' mediator who was afforded training out of interest as opposed to inserting oneself into processes in order to stop violence and bloodshed. I have met exceptionally talented women mediators in almost every country across the globe who have natural mediation skills and community relationships that cannot be taught in any formal training. Inside mediators need to be engaged and empowered in high-level processes, because long after an agreement is reached women leaders will be supporting peace efforts on the ground.
To be in a room with women peacebuilders is to be in a collaborative and inclusive space of intelligent and experienced practitioners. Instead of sitting around a table, we sit in circles. We share the stage and tell stories, sing, share tears, laugh and cook together. The room is loud and filled with colourful clothing and energy, the same energy that is brought into each and every one of our peace processes. Women mediators are creative and driven by the hope and optimism that they see in their communities every day.