The push for peace: A greater role for women

The International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September and is a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. This year's theme is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace.

Conflicts threaten everyone with devastating consequences – but women and girls face particular impacts, such as sexual violence. However, women remain systematically marginalized in efforts at all levels to prevent, resolve and recover from conflict, and their participation in peace and security processes and institutions remains extremely limited.

To address this, the UN Security Council adopted the landmark resolution 1325 in 2000. This resolution aimed to uphold women’s rights in conflict and their roles in peace and security.

There have been some visible achievements since 2000. Twenty years after the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has the highest ratio of female parliamentarians in the world: 64 percent. There are 69 female parliamentarians in Afghanistan (27.7 percent of a total of 249) compared with none in 2001. There are more senior women in UN peacekeeping missions, and more policewomen in countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

But the impact on women’s lives and their formal role in peace and security worldwide has been sporadic.

Women are marginalized from the peace process.

Women as participants in peace negotiations 1992–2011

There has been important progress in women’s participation in UN-supported peace talks. But overall, women represented less than four percent of participants in peace negotiations from 1992 to 2011. An Oxfam study of 23 known Afghanistan peace talks between 2005 and 2014, for example, found that during talks between the international community and the Taliban, not a single Afghan woman was involved. Women remain excluded even where male-dominated efforts to resolve conflicts have failed for decades.

At national and local levels, women’s participation is limited or rendered less meaningful by various factors including poverty, social and economic discrimination and inequality, lack of technical capacity, lack of access to education, threats and acts of violence, political marginalization or manipulation, and tokenism. For example, in the current South Sudan peace process, the women appointed to delegations of opposing factions are seen as representing only their respective leaders rather than the interests of conflict- affected communities. In Somalia, women highlight the risk of sexual violence as a key constraint to their participation in peacebuilding activities.

Around the world, transparency and political accountability for the actions of governments is inconsistent, while greater efforts are needed to prevent conflict and gender-based violence.

As the world prepares to mark the 15th anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1325 in October, the Security Council is conducting a High Level Review on 13 October in New York. This formal review will assess progress and challenges in implementing UNSCR 1325 by the UN and governments.

This entry posted by Shaheen Chughtai on International Day of Peace, 21 September 2015.

Photo: Somali women and men discussing gender and livelihoods issues. Photo: WARDI/Oxfam

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