Op-Ed: Women, Peace and Security – Redefining the Agenda for Conflict Prevention

children running and walking on brown sand surrounded with trees during daytime. Photo by: Seth Doyle

Women, young girls and children account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by conflict. Gender-Based Violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, are commonly used as weapons of war in situations of armed conflict. Moreover, women are forced to flee their homes and seek protection for their children during conflict. They are also left to fend for their families as heads of the household when their husbands are away during the war or die as a result of the conflict. On the other hand, young girls who lose their parents become the main caregivers for their younger siblings. This not only places a financial burden on the women and young girls but also an emotional one. They are forced to deal with the consequences of the traumatic experience, the new conditions they find themselves in, whilst carrying the responsibility for the wellbeing of their children and siblings.

Historically, women have participated in peace negotiations and peacebuilding although at the informal level. Women have surrounded buildings to make leaders stay in the room in Liberia, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo demanded that justice be part of any peace process, they have elected themselves as a third force in Northern Ireland, and the Women in Black in Serbia rallied the country with calls for peace. Efforts by the international community and women’s movements, reinforced by a continually growing research base now recognizes the importance of women’s full involvement in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and overall security issues to achieving long-lasting stability.  

A robust set of internationally agreed frameworks – eight United Nations Security Council resolutions, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – form the foundation of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda as they recognize that peace is inextricably linked with gender equality and development. At the continental level, the Maputo Protocol guarantees comprehensive rights to women by requiring states to ensure the increased participation of women in structures and processes for conflict prevention, management and resolution.

One of the crowning achievements of the global women’s movement was in 2000, when the United Nations Security Council, formally acknowledged through the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1325 that women and girls are differentially impacted by conflict and war and recognize the critical role that women can (and already do) play in peacebuilding efforts. UNSCR 1325 affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in the forging of lasting peace. Resolution 1325’s recognition that peace is inextricably linked with gender equality and women’s leadership was a radical step for the highest body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security.

A Graduate Institute of Geneva’s in-depth analysis of 40 peace processes since the end of the Cold War showed that in cases where women’s groups were able to exercise a strong influence on the negotiation process, there was a much higher chance that an agreement would be reached; in cases of women’s participation and strong influence, an agreement was almost always reached and there was a greater likelihood of agreements being fully implemented; and the more inclusive the compositions of implementing commissions are set up after the peace agreement, the more effective they have been in practice. In fact, one of the most repeated effects of women’s involvement in peace processes was pushing for the commencement, resumption, or finalization of negotiations when the momentum had stalled, or the talks had faltered.

It is therefore no longer a secret that women’s participation in conflict prevention and peace processes contributes to sustainable peace.

Martha wanjala

Increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions is a key strategy for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts. It is crucial that the international community and governments recognize the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building and enable their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

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