In the aftermath of violence, fractured societies must pull together to build a stable social order. To effectively move forward, it is crucial that peacebuilding include the voices of all citizens, including ex-combatants, civil society leaders, governmental actors, representatives from minority groups, and more. However, there is one sector of the population that is routinely disregarded in peacebuilding processes—despite making up half of the population, women are often left on the sidelines of state-sanctioned peacebuilding. This marginalization has serious ramifications for human rights, the ability of societies to heal holistically, and long term stability. Women experience conflict differently than men, and excluding them from peacebuilding discussions leaves society susceptible to threats that women are better able to identify than their male counterparts. According to the UN, women’s inclusion in peace processes increases the chances of agreements lasting more than two years by 20 percent and increases their chances of lasting at least 15 years by 35 percent.
In this conversation, we explore women’s inclusion in peace processes. We examine and assess the various forms that this participation can take, share strategies for combating sexism in official processes, and discuss the disconnect between perceptions and reality of women’s participation to open paths for women’s political inclusion. Through engaging with the practical realities of creating women’s space in peacebuilding we hope to inform and inspire women’s participation in peace processes.
Thank you to our peacebuilding practitioners and educators focused on creating a more inclusive peacebuilding process for their contributions:
· Francesca Binda, Binda Consulting International, Ltd.
· Charmaine Rodrigues, Consultant
· Elizabeth Powley, MacArthur Foundation
· Rasha Jarhum. Peace Track Initiative
· Amel Gorani, Carleton College
Models for Inclusion
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was endorsed in 2000 as part of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. However, many governments are still unaware of this agenda and do not meet many of Resolution 1325’s goals. Still, some countries have developed National Action Plans (NAPs) to ensure that their peacebuilding processes are gender sensitive. Unfortunately, budget restrictions and a lack of priority can cause these WPS NAPs to not be as effective as they could be. In addition to supporting inclusion on the national level, it is important to support inclusion of all forms on all levels of peacebuilding.
It is also important to keep in mind alternate forms of inclusion besides direct representation at the negotiation table. Direct representation at the table is not always possible and a narrow focus on that can neglect other opportunities for meeting WPS issues. One alternate form of inclusion is through encouraging the involvement of women members of parliament (MPs). This has the potential to encourage greater representation as members of parliament are ideally representative of the many groups in a state. However, MPs must be chosen carefully and it is important to note situations like Libya, where political differences in parliament exasperate conflict. It is also important to recognize that different countries or regions may have their own models of inclusion that work best. This is evident in case studies of Yemen and Colombia.
Sexism and Resistance to Women’s Involvement
International institutions and actors, like the UN, have policies in place to call for the inclusion of women; however, these policies are often not utilized. Some have attributed this to the patriarchal foundation that peace processes were built on. The failure of international actors to create space for women to formally participate in peace talks, or when space is created the failure to enable women to effectively occupy that space, can be seen in cases like the peace talks in Yemen. The male-dominated nature of international peacebuilding institutions can be understood as part of the reason for this neglect of female inclusion. The inclusion of women in all levels of peacebuilding, from negotiators to peacekeepers in the field, can help to ensure more inclusive and gender-sensitive peacebuilding processes. Finally, it is important that women’s organizations are prepared to be included so they are ready to participate and demand effective change when necessary.
Perceptions and Inclusivity
When thinking about how to involve women in peacebuilding processes it is important that women are viewed through the various roles they play in society. The depiction of women as the passive victim can be very damaging and ignores the role that women play as insurgents, protectors or the various ways that they work to minimize or end violence. In addition, the perception that peacemaking requires a specific set of skills excludes women who have valuable experiences and expertise that could aid peacebuilding efforts. A number of things can be done to address issues of perception and inclusivity. Training on gender and stakeholder analysis can help international and national peacebuilding actors recognize the necessity of including female peacemakers and identify ways to do so. In addition to specified training of senior peacemakers, multi-media campaigns have also been used to educate peacebuilding initiatives on the importance of including women in their efforts. Finally, when women are able to participate in peacebuilding efforts, it is important to ensure that they have the necessary resources to accomplish their goals.
· Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan (NAP) in Iraq
· Women participating in peace process in Kenya through civil society
· Entering the peace process without having a spot at the negotiation table
· Women as mediators in Yemen
· Effects of women’s participation in Colombia
· Accomplishments and challenges of women’s inclusion in Yemen
· Ways to include more women in Peacekeeping forces
· Yemeni women challenging ideas of the “passive female victim”
· Videos on Women, Peace, and Security in multiple languages to help change perceptions
· Feminist NGOs working on peacebuilding after the 2006 coup in Fiji
· The Magna Carta for Women passed in the Philippines
· Research on models for inclusion
· Center for Humanitarian Dialogue’s research on inclusive practices
· Operational Guidelines for Conflict Resolution and Peace Processes
· Council of Foreign Relations Women’s Participation in Peace process’s Report
· Blog post: Women's Participation in Peace Processes: Colombia
· E-discussion on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 implementation
· Open letter to the UN Envoy in Yemen on the situation of Yemeni women
· Reactive on failure to include Yemeni women in peace processes
· Security Council briefing on inclusion of Yemeni women in peacebuilding processes
· Article on the UN Female Police Officer of the Year
· ICAN video on gender negotiations