Skrevet av: Jamil Mysaq
Photo: Emad Karim
Through the history of humans, there has been uncountable wars occurring between different groups of people all around different areas in the world. Wars can occur as a matter of disagreement between different actors or groups, ethnical and religious differences, or other matters of political issues like national borders or natural resources. What war leaves behind are numerous tragic incidents, like a fractured society, broken infrastructures, psychological affliction among a big part of the surviving population, and the worst part is many dead soldiers and civilians. Women have always been one of the most vulnerable. Nevertheless, their voices are rarely heard when it comes to peacebuilding and the rebuilding of the nation. In most cases, they are not even invited to the negotiation table in the aftermath of the war.
Because of disregard of the women’s voices and needs in post-conflict nations, in October 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325. The propose of the resolution was to increase the representation of women in peace negotiations in post-conflict, and to make room for women to be a part of decision making regarding security, and in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) efforts, and also to put an end to impunity for crimes affecting women.
The work around peacebuilding and involving women at the negotiations table became an essential approach for the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The Secretary General for the United Nation at that time, Kofi Annan, gave the commission a post-conflict role, to prevent countries or regions from reemerging into war. Annan argued that PBC would have a broad membership that would include not only UN member states but also other development organizations and agencies. PBC was also established to ensure systematic attention is paid to gender equality within transitional recovery, reintegration and reconstruction efforts, and support women’s full participation in peacebuilding and recovery processes.
Despite the potential aims of resolution 1325 by the UN’s Security Council and the creation of PBC, there has been increasing violence against women in the aftermath of the conflicts. Their protection does not receive enough attention by the media and news compared to street crimes, political corruption, and DDR initiatives.
Despite these legal advances, women in zone conflict and in reconstruction efforts, and those working on their behalf, emphasize that they often have little or no voice in negotiating peace or planning reconstruction, lack economic opportunities, and continue to be the primary targets of ongoing sexual violence. It is therefore critical to pool the knowledge of those working on issues of gender equality and inclusion to determine what measures and practices have proved effective or ought to be tried in countries emerging from war.
The issue about gender and peacebuilding is still a relatively new field, and we can observe huge gaps in knowledge on gender and peacebuilding and in how it is created and used intellectually, politically and in meeting practical needs. Capacity is lacking within women’s peacebuilding institutions, and within and outside of government. In the context of peace processes there is a systematic absence of gender expertise, and an under-representation of women in decision-making.
So what can be done to make and sustain a post-conflict paradigm, where women are a part of the negotiation, and their voices and needs are taken into account? Why are women considered an essential factor for peacebuilding and peacemaking in post-conflict nations, and what obstacles prevent women from taking part to conflict prevention? Moreover, the end of this text contains what the international community and the environment around peacebuilding should do to involve and secure women’s voices in post conflict.
“We can no longer afford to minimize or ignore the contributions of women and girls to all stages of conflict resolution, peacemaking, peace-building, peacekeeping and reconstruction processes. Sustainable peace will not be achieved without the full and equal participation of women and men.” Kofi Annan.
This quote from the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, explains us how essential role women have for maintaining peace in post-conflict.
Wars in the past two decades have heightened awareness of the vulnerability of noncombatants in civil strife. Civilians in every major conflict – Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, Cambodia, El Salvador and others – have been regularly targeted as a tactic of war. In many conflicts, women have been particular targets, as armed forces attempt to demoralize their opponents. At the same time, women have not participated in political negotiations to end their conflicts either because they were not allowed by their community or due other difficult circumstances. Neither have they been included in many UN-sponsored mediations.
Obstacles women face
Women and girls are typically exposed as the targets of sexual violence and of domestic violence, both during and after war. A report by United Nations in 1996 on the background of the Rwanda genocide, tells us that a range between 250000 – 500000 women in Rwanda women had experienced sexual violence, typically in the form of rape by individual men or groups of men.
During war, women may also suffer from their lack of access to basic services like healthcare, food, or clean water. When men go off to fight, women are left to care for the family, often without access to much sources, and without access to basic services or information. These consequences are getting even worse when families and communities are displaced, and when war ends, women are often exposed to greater domestic violence from returning soldiers, or they may have lost male breadwinners and are left to pick up the pieces in societies institutions which often are out of order.
During and in the aftermath of the war, many societies are marked by traditional and patriarchal values, which says that women are not capable of sharing in power and decision-making. Women are excluded from politics in different ways: they are threatened, slandered, ridiculed and ignored. On the other side, men often do not perceive their own oppression or they choose to ignore the power structures that have been established over many generations.
For example, in Somalia, elder men did exclude women from formal decision-making forums where negotiations for peace took place. Somali clan-based politics are gender qualified, which means that typically women were not allowed to participate in the peace talks.
Challenges for further work of including women
While those who suffer the most during war may have essential roles to play in rebuilding their societies, their contributions should not just be based on their status as victims. Women, in particular, want their voices heard with respect to matters of peace and security. Because the social structure and trust within communities and families has been destroyed, women can play a crucial role in promoting reconciliation and in rebuilding societies, especially in helping to end conflict, developing post-conflict, reintegration efforts and economic life. However, women are too often excluded from the peace negotiations in many conflicts. Including women, more effectively into processes designed to address the effects of war and to build lasting peace is still one of the great challenges in peacebuilding today.
Peace agreements not only mean the end of the war, but also means the foundation for reconstruction and the future. When women are excluded from peace processes, the new society is constructed without the voices and needs of half of the population’s knowledge. And since the peace agreement often forms the basis of the new Constitution, women’s rights might not be taken into account.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 seeks to increase the attention around women and peacebuilding. The United States has also taken steps to support this initiative. In October 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “the only way to reduce the number of conflicts around the world, to build sustainable peace, is to draw on the full contributions of both women and men in every aspect of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.” She also announced that the United States was joining other countries which had developed national action plans to implement the resolution 1325 in their domestic and foreign policies. As of July 2012, only 37 countries out of the 192 that adopted it had developed national action plans for implementing the resolution.
Nevertheless, while the numerous benefits of the support of women in peace processes and mediation efforts have been thoroughly established and announced by the UN, there has been little increase in the low numbers of women participating in these processes. For example, the UN itself has never appointed a woman as Chief or Lead Mediator in peace talks it has sponsored. Researchers show us that more than 50 percent of peace agreements fail within the first five years of signature, this in itself is a great evident which shows us that something needs to be changed in formal peace negotiations.
The essential role of women
Getting individual women involved in decision-making bodies does not give us any guarantee that women overall will be treated better in wherever society. However, having a critical mass of women in positions of power can help ensuring that women have a stronger voice and that their needs, especially in post-conflict, will be better heard. Women’s participation in creating new constitutions is another important way to ensure that women are getting their voices heard. In South Africa, for example, women, particularly from the African National Congress—played a strong role in making the new constitution, which took effect in 1997. Many rights of women were implemented in the new Constitution, including access to property rights, healthcare, and education. After almost no representation under the apartheid regime, women today are well represented in the government of South Africa. In 2011, they held approximately 44 percent of seats in the parliament and 41 percent of cabinet posts. A number of countries like Jordan, Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Belgium have made the same systems that ensure a certain number of seats are reserved for women candidates.
In countries rebuilding from war and violence, from Burma to Afghanistan to Liberia, women are becoming important voices for peace, rights and inclusion. They are increasingly mobilizing across communities and using their social roles and networks to prevent violence and promote peace. For example, a women’s peace group helped to end a bloody civil war in Liberia in 2003. The “Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace” movement brought together thousands of women, across Christians and Muslims, to take part in nonviolent demonstrations against the war. They pressured the President Charles Taylor to attend in peace talks in Ghana at which the women staged a sit-in and blocked all the doors until a peace agreement between the conflicting parties was realized. These efforts ultimately forced Taylor to be turned over to a war crimes court and for Liberia to see a free and fair election that enabled Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to become the first female president in Africa. Sirleaf and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 (beside Tawakkol Karman from Yemen), for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women, and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
The context of sustainable peace are improved by providing those living in conflict areas with positive female role models, giving authority a female face, and offering an alternative perspective on conflict resolution. Increasingly, the inclusion of women is an essential element to understanding the roots of a conflict and also to developing innovative, viable solutions that can help establish sustainable peace. The importance of bringing gender into peacebuilding is not confined to redressing the violations of the human rights of women or addressing women’s economic, social, or justice needs. Instead, for many, a gendered perspective represents peacebuilding as a process of inclusion.
Ways of enhancing women’s role
Representation in parliament is also crucial to ensuring that women’s concerns are taken into account in countries rebuilding after war. Although there is debate about whether quotas are the best way to achieve increased representation of women, many experts believe quotas are essential, and they have been implemented in several countries, including Uganda (where women constitute 35 percent of the legislature), Rwanda (63 percent of the lower house), and Afghanistan (27 percent in the upper house).
In October 2010, there was held a conference for the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Many participants of the conference stressed the futility of countries, NGOs, and international organizations focusing on only one or two elements, as all components are integral to an effective, whole-of-government approach to increasing security for women. As such, the best practices discussed at the conference are not part of an a la carte menu, but part of one recipe for progress on women’s inclusion. For example, there is no way to increase women’s participation in the formal economy if it is not safe for them to leave the house, and reconciliation is not possible where a culture of impunity for crimes against women prevails. Yet if women are allowed to take leading roles in reconstruction, peacebuilding, and the economy, they can change the gender dynamics and attitudes of their societies.
Another common theme stressed by those who work on gender and security issues is that the goal of gender-based programs and national action plans is not only to improve women’s lives but to affect the relationship between men and women, particularly in fragile societies, where cultural barriers to women’s participation in security tend to be high. “Women and men are both partners and should work hand in hand,” said Jani Jallah, youth representative of the Angie Brooks International Centre in Liberia. “In programs that focus on women, at least one day should be dedicated to educating men on the importance of empowering their wives. We have to have a balanced society. If we focus only on women, in the future we will see that we have the problem that more women are educated than men.” Although cultural norms may appear immutable, participants stressed that in many societies struggling for stability after war, power relationships in old regimes and prevailing cultural barriers become more malleable and subject to change.
The key to women taking advantage of the fluid period new regimes may offer is thus to convince government officials and local leaders that involving women is critical to creating lasting peace. As Søren Pind, Danish minister of development cooperation, said, “You won’t find a fragile state that supports the rights of women. You won’t find a stable society that neglects the rights of women. I believe that the stability and development of a society are directly interlinked with the rights and activities of its women. We must take up the dual challenge of working in fragile states and of pursuing the women, peace, and security agenda.”
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