PEACE AND WOMEN
Nahla Valji, the UN’s senior gender adviser to the executive office of the secretary general
In today’s world, war is no longer limited to armed conflict between armed forces at the borders. Its most devastating form is subjecting civilians to conflict related violence especially sexual violence which results in large scale displacement of civilian population that helps in territorial control and access to resources. In such cases, women are primary target. We all know about violence against women in the form of rape, trafficking, early marriages but we must now work toward how women can be empowered by bridging the gap towards peace.
During times of conflict, women’s participation in resolving conflict and negotiating peace is especially important to ensure that women’s rights are protected, experiences are recognised and peace lasts. Building and sustaining peace needs women’s voice and leadership. When women are included in peace processes, peace agreements are more likely to last for 15 years or more. Yet, the role of women continues to be neglected.
The UN Security Council resolution 1325, for the first time in the year 2000, recognised the need for Women led Peace negotiations. The vital role of women as mediator, negotiator in Post conflict resolution was not recognised until this resolution. This led to a series of discussion among activists, academics, and policy makers to address the specific "burden of war" women carry and how the international community could protect and empower them. In the following 15 years, seven further resolutions of the UN Security Council and three resolutions of the General Assembly have called for greater and more effective participation of women in conflict mediation processes; for the inclusion of dedicated gender expertise in all peace-making efforts; for the specific needs and concerns of women and girls to be addressed; and for the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence. Notwithstanding positive progress in policy, women’s actual roles and rights in peace efforts do not reflect these ambitions. The inclusion of women is still not viewed by many mediators and conflict parties as an essential component of the negotiation and implementation of peace and transition agreements. This is despite the many successes achieved by women’s groups in supporting negotiations and the extensive lobbying by UN Women and other international and local organizations.
Recent numbers show that between 1990 and 2017, women made up only two percent of mediators, five percent of witnesses and signatories, and eight percent of negotiators. In 2015, the Security Council adopted resolution 2242 calling on the UN and member states to double the number of women in military and police peacekeeping contingents by 2020. However, at the current rate of increase in women’s participation, this goal will take decades to achieve. In one recent discussion where ways of achieving the goal faster were discussed, a UN official noted that at the current rate of change, it will take 703 years for actual gender parity across the peace and security pillar of the UN.
The participation of women in mediation processes and the gender sensitivity of peace agreements have increased only gradually, demonstrating a need for greater efforts to bridge the gap between aspirational global and regional commitments and the lived experience of women in conflict and peace processes. However, despite many global and regional commitments and initiatives, the number of women involved in formal peace-making processes remains low; and many peace agreements do not include gender provisions that sufficiently address women’s security and peacebuilding needs.
Women do hold a significant role in the peace process. This role is largely marginalised and any meaningful long term participation requires ‘institutionalisation of gender equality through quotas’ (Laurel Stone) Greater women participation is a prerequisite to bring a more comprehensive peace plan by addressing societal needs. Women’s participation can expand the range of domestic constituencies engaged in a peace process, strengthening its legitimacy and credibility. Women’s perspectives bring a different understanding of the causes and consequences of conflict, generating more comprehensive and potentially targeted proposals for its resolution. Peace agreements that are responsive to the specific needs of women contribute to sustainable peace.
The work of women's groups and organisations in conflict zones has long been underestimated and under-resourced. A better understanding of how women can transform conflict situations, and how to create space for them to do so, is important. Ensuring equal access to funding, space, facilitation and security for women delegates of conflict parties will further help to facilitate more effective participation. Threats to their physical security are a major constraint for women, an issue which requires careful consideration by the mediation team. This includes:
Providing physical protection to women delegates engaged in formal talks, but also to women participating in dialogue and technical meetings.
Organizing support facilities, like child care and additional related costs, to allow women delegates to attend all sessions, and planning meetings at hours that facilitate maximum participation of women.
Enabling women delegates to participate in trainings and to meet separately or across parties to determine and strategize on shared interests and priorities.
Providing equal funding (e.g. for airfare, hotel, meals and incidentals) to party representatives, regardless of their gender.
The reconstruction process after conflict can be the most critical indicator of long-term peace. Institutionalising gender equality by ensuring female participation in the implementation of a peace plan and establishing gender electoral quotas can significantly increase the likelihood of lasting peace. Long-term policies empowering women to move past victimisation and into Leadership positions can provide the keys to establishing a more peaceful society over time. However, greater women participation will bring change only when participation is from local women and not from women from outside (Laura Stone). Building local women's capacity will be an important area of investment for the international community in order to encourage female leadership. Only by creating more inclusive policies inviting the participation of women can the UN and governments understand the vital role women carry. Building quality representation in local female leadership is the key ingredient to a peaceful society as women are empowered to transform conflict.
Contacts with civil society, especially women’s groups, can help prevent or resolve conflict, as they often have intimate knowledge of the dynamics on the ground, given their networks and access to restricted areas. They can assist officials involved in peace-making to address grievances and identify root causes of conflict from an early stage before a conflict further deteriorates. A more gender-balanced process enhances local trust and buy-in, injects legitimacy into the process, and increases the chances that problematic social norms and power imbalances that contributed to the conflict will be rectified. Meaningful peace settlements encourage justice, opportunity, and equality—all elements that can prevent a re-ignition of war.
In conflict, men and women are impacted differently, and a differential approach to the way peace-making is carried out is needed, responding to men and women’s different security and peacebuilding needs. Men have long been considered the only relevant actors in armed conflict and its resolution. However, women are also greatly affected and involved in conflict, be it as relatives, caretakers, politicians, peace activists or combatants. Including women in peace processes adds a broader range of perspectives and increases inclusivity and diversity. This enhances the ability of peacemakers to address a broader range of stakeholders and their concerns, which has proven to lead to more sustainable peace.
OUR CHOICE, EQUAL VOICE
Women make almost half of world's population, however, women have been deprived of adequate representation in various fields of life. We, at Peace Foundation, believe that without adequate representation and participation of almost half human population, it is not possible to progress and change the world for better.
Aim of Project: With specific focus on Gender equality in all our work, we ensure that our projects work towards making world a more gender equal place. We integrate three steps approach in our actions to achieve this aim.
INCLUSION > PARTICIPATION > LEADERSHIP
We ensure adequate representation of women in Peace Foundation's work to bring women on equal status at all stages in our projects to achiever gender equality. Representation ensures participation of women in different areas and solves various challenges regarding gender inequality. Not only equal and adequate participation, Peace Foundation is also committed to develop programs to develop women for Leadership roles in various fields.
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