The Southern African Development Community continues to enjoy peace and stability, and a stable political environment but is still confronted with minor political, security and economic challenges that threaten the stability of the Region, if not addressed.
The SADC Secretariat has to this end increased its efforts to strengthen existing Member States’ capacity to effectively address disputes and violence and prevent and resolve their own conflicts to consolidate stability in the Region. It has also recognised that durable stability requires that women participate in the early warning and responses, peaceful resolution and prevention of disputes, and promotion of social cohesion within their communities.
To buttress the significance which female correctional officers have in sustaining peace and security, the SADC Secretariat organised a regional workshop for female correctional officers on peace support operations in the Correction/Prison/Penitentiary services to strengthen capacity and increase participation in peace support operations. The workshop was held from 27th to 31st March 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and drew female corrections officers from 15 SADC Member States. It was held with financial support from the European Union under the Support to Peace and Security in the SADC Region (SPSS) Programme.
The overall objective of the workshop was to provide knowledge and expertise on conflict prevention through an understanding and explanation of the factors that cause and trigger further breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism within correction/prison/penitentiary environments. Participants discussed different approaches to working within the parameters of peace and security and to better achieve compliance with international human rights standards in prisons as well as capacities of Member States’ local and national mechanisms in their efforts to resolve radicalisation and violent extremism.
In his opening remarks, Mediation and Peacebuilding Officer, Mr. Fabrice Kitenge Tunda, representing Ms. Kealeboga Moruti, the Acting Director of Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, stressed the need for strong coordination and collaboration between the police, justice and corrections institutions in strengthening peacebuilding interventions. He highlighted that the linkages between terrorism, conflict, and the rule of law are clear and need emphasis during discussions of the criminal justice system continuum.
Mr Tunda highlighted the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (2022–2030), which aims to address challenges experienced by women and children in conflict situations by ensuring that they fully participate in peace and security activities, programmes, and projects in the Region. He further stated that the Regional Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (2022–2030) highlights the important role which female correctional officers have in countering violent extremism, reducing the risk of radicalisation of prisoners and supporting peace support operations at regional level.
Mr. Tunda underscored the fact that correctional service is a key component in peacebuilding and has a high role in security measures. If it is not well managed and well-equipped or faces challenges of lack of capacity and capabilities, there will be a potential for institutions to be breeding grounds for criminals, escalating to radicalisation and extremism under in the Region.
Ms. Anna Rosa Katjivena, Deputy Commissioner General of the Namibian Correctional Services, stressed the important role women play in peace building. She cited research which has shown that inclusion of women in peacebuilding efforts can lead to more sustainable and effective outcomes as women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table. She said the workshop was a key milestone and expressed confidence that it will contribute to the enhancement of inclusion of female correction officers in peacebuilding and peace support operations in the SADC Region.