From 31 May to 3 June 2021, the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) conducted a training for 45 governmental and civil society representatives on the topic of gender and small arms control in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
This was the third in a series of trainings as part of a global project in support of gender mainstreaming policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda, funded by the European Union.
Throughout the training, which was covered widely by national radio and TV, such as the Cameroon tribune, the Guardian post, and the Cameroonian National Radio-Television, the participating government officials and civil society members reaffirmed their commitment to prevent and combat the proliferation and illicit circulation of small arms in Cameroon and to integrate gender perspectives across those efforts.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Philippe Van Damme, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Cameroon, welcomed the efforts made by the Ministry of External Relations (MINREX) in applying a so-called gender lens to its small arms control initiatives, stressing that a firm understanding of the different ways in which small arms impact women, men, boys and girls is an important component for successful disarmament and arms control programmes.
Ms. Erly Munoz, UNREC’s Project Coordinator, then provided an overview of the linkages between strategies on gender equality and armed violence reduction. Ms. Munoz also provided participants with a variety of resources and data collection tools to assist with developing gender-responsive small arms surveys. Additionally, she pointed to the benefits of incorporating gender-sensitive indicators in monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for national small arms control programmes, to increase their effectiveness.
Mr. Salomon Mfouapon, national expert on gender-based violence at UN Women, examined cultural and social norms, including specific expressions of masculinity in society, which can be underlying drivers for attitudes linked to small arms possession, use and misuse.
Ms. Delphine Brun, Senior GenCap Advisor at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Cameroon presented on the distinct risks men, women, girls and boys face during armed conflict, mentioning that men and boys may be forced into joining armed groups while women frequently represent the majority of survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) incidents.
Mr. Jean-Claude Obame, representative of the DDR National Committee, then focused on the risks of gender-based violence during disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes and presented the 2021 DDR national plan on gender, which is being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Family (MINPROFF) and UN Women. The plan, he said, includes gender-sensitive measures for activities related to the demobilization of ex-combatants, such as adapting reception centres so that they can be responsive to the different needs of women and men, and providing tailored medical and psychological assistance.
Colonel Jacques Mvom and Colonel Floribert Nyako, two small arms control experts supporting the national government in the implementation of small arms control initiatives, reiterated the importance of incorporating gender dimensions into legislation. They stressed the need to adapt firearms legislation and regulations so that they take into account issues such as rape, sexual violence, forced pregnancy, forced abortion and human rights violations as well as the absence of domestic violence history as a precondition for small arms licensing processes and the permission to poses such weapons.
Following the expert presentations, participants worked in groups to examine Cameroon’s National Action Plan on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325). Specifically, they developed recommendations to integrate small arms control measures and policies into ongoing efforts more firmly, underscoring that women and youth could also have a role to play in the plan’s effective implementation.
On the last day of the workshop, Cameroonian government officials presented how the implementation of small arms control initiatives is progressing at the national level. In this connection, UNREC provided an overview of the reporting mechanisms for the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms, the international framework to counter the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and updated participants about the upcoming Seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7). UNREC also introduced the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC), which are the UN’s guidelines designed to assist with the effective implementation of small arms and light weapons control measures. Lastly, Mr. Allassan Fousseini, Project Coordinator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria briefed participants on a recent scoping mission in Cameroon as part of the Saving Lives Entity Fund – or SALIENT, a trust fund and joint partnership of UNODA and UNDP, which is designed to enable a programmatic and multidimensional approach to tackling the illicit proliferation of small arms as part of broader development and security efforts.
In closing, participants discussed the problems they encounter in their respective areas of work in relation to small arms control, explored opportunities for collaboration, and proposed how to create synergies with relevant national programmes, including through better coordination between ministries and key stakeholders. They agreed that establishing a national small arms control coordination mechanism, as well as a gender-sensitive strategy to combat illicit small arms and their misuse would be key to addressing armed violence and building and sustaining peace in Cameroon. Participants also thought that the best practices provided by MOSAIC would ensure that gender-responsive approaches are included in Cameroon’s next national action plan on small arms control and the second generation of the Cameroonian NAP on UNSCR 1325 (2021-2025). In the margins of the workshop, a number of participants also joined sessions on community sensitization on small arms control, organized by local members of the International Action Network on Small Arms, who also engaged in a targeted social media campaign.