Wednesday, February 21, 2007

RAWA News and Anti-War Site

Today I was reminded, by two separate emails that the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan still requires ongoing attention. RAWA have now produced a great little news ticker to give you a news feed for a website on the situation in Afghanistan. I have installed in on my news page or if you want one for your site, click here. I was also emailed by a group called Arms Against War so I added a link to my site to highlight there efforts to end the war in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where are the men in the battle for equality?

In the song There is a War, by Leonard Cohen, there are the lines: “There is a war...between the man and the woman. There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t.” These words capture the essence of research colleagues and I carried out over the last two years on gender and security in a number of countries in transition. As part of the study, we looked at whether the security of women has increased or decreased since 1994 in South Africa. Security includes, according to the United Nations, not only freedom from fear, but also freedom from need or want. So security is tied up with economic and social security, not just protecting yourself from physical harm.

If we think about the security of women in this broad sense, South Africa has made advances with greater representation of women in government and business. Disturbingly, however, our research found that many men think that women have advanced disproportionately. These men argue that the so-called war between men and women Cohen speaks of was over years ago. Some think the victors (women) are now taking their revenge on men and excluding them, making men the new victims. But statistical evidence shows this view is desperately mistaken. It is true that 30% of parliamentarians are now women, positioning South Africa eighth in the world in terms of gender equality in government. This means the country jumped 133 places in world rankings from 1994. A greater number of women are also now moving into managerial positions. But the changes are still miles off 50:50 representation. In the business field, for example, 80% of senior management positions are held by men.

So the war is hardly over and inequality exists on a massive scale. But where does this leave the men in our society who feel they are the victims of the transition? On one level, we have to take their views seriously and listen to what they have to say because some men may have lost their jobs since 1994. But, on the other level, we cannot back away from an agenda that wants equal representation of women. Surely, if we want South Africa to be everything it can be, we must harness the potential of all citizens, regardless of gender or race for that matter.

But furthering this agenda can have devastating consequences. Many of the women and some of the men we interviewed believe that the frustration some men are feeling at being challenged by women in the workplace, or being usurped as the breadwinner in a home, is causing them to act violently towards women. This goes some way towards explaining the high levels of domestic violence in South Africa. At least 50% of women report experiencing domestic violence, whether psychological, physical or financial. This is sickeningly high.

Feeling frustrated or challenged by social developments cannot justify violence. This means that, although we must seek to understand the challenges some men are feeling and address their economic hardships too, we cannot pander to violence as a justifiable reaction to the advancement of one sector of society.

So the war between men and women rages, but the time has come for new alliances. Men need to stand up and be counted. This means not only speaking out about violence against women, but also addressing some of the root causes of it. Inequality is one of these. It is not enough, my fellow brothers, to be horrified at domestic violence or shake your head knowingly next time some awful statistics hit the headline. We have to begin to actively promote gender equality. So let us stop pretending it is someone else’s problem and be man enough to bring this war to an end.

Brandon Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its relevance to South Africa on Polity. Copyright Brandon Hamber, October 2006. "Look South" Column published on Polity on 20 October 2006.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

INCORE Summer School 2007

The INCORE Summer School provides a structured learning opportunity to analyse the dynamic and constantly changing field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Focusing on the latest research and concepts in specific topics of conflict resolution, participants are invited to compare, contrast and learn from different perspectives.

The School offers a unique opportunity to create links between theory, practice and policy. Special attention is given to how the experience and research of both practitioners and academics can impact upon policy makers within the field of conflict resolution. Participants also benefit from the networking opportunities with other course participants.

The 2007 International Summer School will run from June 11 - 15 2007.

This year we are offering three courses:

* The Management of Peace Processes facilitated by Dr Cathy Gormley-Heenan
* Evaluation and Impact Assessment of Peacebuilding Programmes facilitated by Emery Brusset and Margie Buchanan-Smith
* Reconciliation in Societies Coming out of Conflict facilitated by Dr Brandon Hamber and Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd.

Detailed information about the 2007 Summer School, including online application details, click here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The times they are not a-changin’

The musician Burt Bacharach wrote a song, probably at the time I was entering this world, called Knowing When to Leave. It contains the clich├ęd lines, “Go while the going is good. Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn...Sail when the wind starts to blow.” Simple advice, but many people pay no attention to the wind, and sometimes even miss a hurricane when it is blowing in their face. Take, for example, Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister – the writing has been on the wall for months that his time is up, but he insists on dragging out his Premiership for as long as possible. Seemingly, he wants to hit the magical ten-year mark next year before throwing in the towel. It reminds me of lying in bed in the morning trying to kid yourself that five more minutes in bed will make all the difference.

What is it about leaving that is so hard? Love and passion are the most difficult things for humans to walk away from. But hanging in there for such noble endeavours is always excusable, even if it is downright stupid at times. But Tony no longer loves his people – how could he, they do not love him? That said, in the words of Dan Quayle, “This isn’t a man who is leaving with his head between his legs.” Power also has a hold over us mortals. I do not need to rattle off a list of dictators addicted to power to make the point. But what is it that makes people like Robert Mugabe think that being in power for over 25 years is good for him or his country? Perhaps, however, it is not leaving that is the problem but, rather, the anxiety that change provokes that causes people to stay put. Change hurts. As Saul Alinsky, the American community activist, wrote, “Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.” The result is that most people do not like things to change. Being in a rut seems preferable to ploughing through a new field, even if it offers a better harvest.

Yet some people seek change. Recently, the European Space Agency completed its three-year mission to study the moon by deliberately crashing the Smart-1 orbiter into the lunar surface. They assured the world that progress is being made in understanding the surface of the moon. They say their research will pave the way for a moon colony.

The mission sparked a debate about whether such science was worth the bother, given the poverty on earth. Such critics have a point. But, at the same time, there is something about a moon colony I find enticing. It conjures up images of Star Trek, the sci-fi TV series that has now been running since 1966, a mere three years longer than Libyan leader Gaddafi has been in power. What is it about this show that makes it so appealing? The answer is simple. Unlike what those that cling to power can offer, and even if Star Trek is light years from reality, it is filled with promise. The line “to boldly go where no man (sic) has gone before” is the most tantalising line ever.

Right now, however, it feels like the promise of a new world has been lost somewhere between the Iraqi desert and the recently wrecked space probe now polluting the moon. If change was needed, now is the time. As science-fiction writer, Alvin Toffler, notes, “Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.” So now I am raising money for a one-way rocket ride to the moon for Blair, George W Bush – the dictators of the world – and all those who think killing civilians enhances their cause. Donations are welcome.

Brandon Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its relevance to South Africa on Polity. Copyright Brandon Hamber, May 2006. "Look South" Column published on Polity on 15 September 2006.