Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:
- Women are often seen as either victims or innate peacemakers. These two conceptions can be limiting to women and exclude them from political and economic discussions. How can those conceptions be changed?
- Widows, mothers, ex-combatants, displaced women, indigenous women, women with disabilities, survivors of sexual violence, and more all have different needs. However, women are often viewed as a monolithic group that has the same values and agendas; how can that stereotype be fought and how can multiple groups of women from all sections of society be included in this political process?
- Women often face logistical barriers that men do not (i.e., child care, traveling costs, family responsibilities, cultural perceptions, etc.); how can these unique barriers be mitigated to allow women greater success in participation in peacebuilding?
The discussion summary suggests that women are "often seen as either victims or innate peacemakers", but I query how much the latter is true. While women are indeed assumed to be passive victims, I think there is less recognition of women as active combatants - particularly in the context of armed insurgent groups, where anecdotal evidence suggests that structures are often less heirarchical and women are more willingly accepted as "fighters for the cause". Certainly, more research need to be done re women's role as combatants, and increasingly, women's role in extremism (whether coerced by their husbands/families or as a role they are choosing).
It is also open to question whether women are recognised as "innate peacemakers". While there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that women are more often engaged at the grassroots level as community peacebuilders, at higher levels, particular in terms of national peacebuilding processes, it is less clear that women are appropriately recognised as having useful peacebuilding and/or consensus-building skills. Women are still often left out of major peacemaking processes. To addres this, I would suggest that international and UN mediators need better training in order to recognise the potential peacebuilding capacities of women, including women MPs, government officials and elected local representatives.
In terms of disaggregating the experiences of women who have been affected by conflict, again, I would suggest that senior national and international peacebuilders would benefit from training on gender and stakeholder analysis, to enable them to more effectively undertake a proper local context analysis that properly recognises the different experiences, expectations and possible contributions of various stakeholders, both women and men.
Charmaine, I agree on the issue of "innate peacemakers" - there has yet to be a critical mass of women involved at higher levels for us to know if they are. I also agree that we need to recognise the existing capacities of women who are engaged in other activities as valuable to peacemaking processes. Too often, I meet active and accomplished women who don't feel they have the skills to sit at the higher level tables because of the perception that negotiating peace agreements requires a unique skill-set.
I have found the following resources to be helpful in my line of work to change perception on women's roles and importance of their inclusion.
The ICAN Better Peace Tool: It is a series of videos in multiple languages on Women, Peace, and Security relevant issues. The one on gendered negotiations is most relevant to this conversation: http://www.icanpeacework.org/our-work/better-peace-initiative/
This is the specific vidoe I am talking about: http://www.icanpeacework.org/2016/05/16/better-peace-tool/
I have noticed that the humaniterian international organisations and INGOs sometimes contribute to the notion of perceiving women as passive victims of humaniterian crisis or war. This also contributes to excluding them from decision making space and peace negotations. Even when a woman is a victim/survivor if we change the paradigm we will see how much strong she is. The women in beisged Taiz in Yemen, walk for hours and hours in very difficult terrains to get basic life saving necessities for their families. They put themselves at risk to protect their families. Many women choose to walk through armed groups check points to find livelihoods instead of sending the men because the men are at risk of kidnapping and detention. The women endure all the hardships and harrasment they are subject to at check points to protect the women. There is a need as such to see those "passive victims" as strong and resilient women, who are working hard to protect their families.
Completely agree. Anyone who can make life or death decisions to protect their families in conflicts and negotiate passage through armed checkpoints are certainly capable of negotiating solutions to end conflict. The perception of women as victims goes beyond the peacemaking field - on the issue of gender-based violence we often refer to the number of women who are killed or abused, rather than the number of (usually) men who kill or abuse women.
A small sharing experience from the Pacific - women have been actively involved in Fiji as peacemakers, with women in feminist NGOs taking a very active role in trying to deal with the aftermath of the 2006 coup. This was fraught with difficulty - with the military taking some of these women to the barracks to "rough them up" and threatening them with retaliation throughout the many years after the coup for their pro-democracy activities. Women have proven themselves savvy and informed advocates for peace and democracy, with lessons learned re their realisation that they needed to "do their homework" and have ready constitutional and legal responses, once the country started moving towards a democratic transition. They werent entirely successful to that end - but they were much better prepared.