Role of Women in Peace-building around the World (Part I) – Rameez Ahmed Sheikh

Security Council meeting - Women and peace and security
Security Council meeting – Women and peace and security – The role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa Note verbale dated 7 March 2016 from the Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2016/219)


Peacebuilding demands from all members of the society to take part in the post-conflict reconstruction. For peace to be effective, there cannot be a single capable part of society lying dormant and ignorant of their role. Women, therefore, have taken up the helm of peacebuilding alongside their male counterparts. But sadly, the efforts made by women have not been appreciated or acknowledged enough, and thus women are mostly left of the important peacebuilding processes. The world recognized the importance and implications of such a statement with the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325. The resolution agreed with the victimization of women but it also called for including women in the peacebuilding process and recognized their importance in it.

Peacebuilding is what the primary focus of the state and non-state actors should be, especially in contemporary world faced with innumerable threats and conflicts. This is so because it refers to the rehabilitative activities targeted at the society at all levels and creating peace in the hearts and minds of the people to curb any start or resumption of conflict. Many international organizations, Non- governmental organizations (NGO’s) and solo peace activists have been acting as the torch bearers of peacebuilding. Women have been participating at all levels national and international, proving that for a community or a society to restore itself, there must be ample contribution from all the members of the society, not just one.

Over the entire course of history, the world has witnessed exploitation against women. The brutal killing and widespread violence has severely affected her whether she belongs to Asia, Africa, Europe or America. Past World Wars to the recent wars of Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, each has its own evidence that portrays victimization of women specifically. A lot of work has been done by women in the international scenario while associating themselves with the international governmental and non-governmental organizations. To incorporate, encourage and recognize the importance of women peacebuilders the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Entity for Gender equality and the Empowerment of women (UN Women) worked with the EU in 2012. The program for not only helped in protection but also played a role in engagement of women as active participants in the peacebuilding process; based in Timor-Leste, Liberia and Kosovo. The mechanism allowed women’s civil society to collectively work with the EU and UN for local peacebuilding.

Women for women international, is an international non-profit organization which has previous history of working in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993. It was also actively involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Democratic republic of Congo. They have had various programs such as peace education, vocational skills, civic participation, idea sharing, and business skills to investment in the business area and children programs. Another organization, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is a peace-women program which has worked not only on conflict prevention but also works with women peacebuilders on issues concerning disarmament, peace, human rights etc.

Womankind Worldwide and Widows for Peace through Democracy (founded by Margaret Owen) takes on a different approach- gender specific, in their peace activities. They work for making sure that in the post-conflict environments rights of women are not neglected and that it includes their special concerns and needs when rehabilitating and reconstructing. From making policies, international lobbying and donations all the efforts to promote women’s concerns and rehabilitation programs are undertaken. These are the women-run organizations which partake in different countries of the world focusing on rebuilding the society and system for the purpose of achieving sustainable peace and a healthy developing society and state with gender equity.

To understand the extent of the work done by local/national organizations and solo peacebuilders for the peace establishment and the reconstruction of the societal, structural and psychological nature, a few examples will be discussed so as to clearly see the efforts as well as the results. The efforts undertaken by local organizations are even more helpful since they consist of women who are a part of the environment and the problems, thereby, being better aware of the areas that need immediate attention as well as the obstacles. In the Central American region there are and have been such women organizations which were responsible for stopping conflicts, reducing them or help in post-conflict reconstruction efforts. One such example is the Mama Maquin, a refugee women group in Guatemala which was instrumental in organizing the return of the refugees to Mexico. Similarly another one is Cemujer, which is a women organization that worked for gender sensitization, literacy and physical and mental health and services to the people in El Salvador.

In the European region where crises like the 1992 Bosnian genocide happened many people, including women, rushed to play their part in peace. Areas like Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH), where diverse ethnic communities live, Women belonging to multi-ethnic and religious backgrounds vowed to collaborate for durable peaceful living of whole community under the umbrella of Centre for Nonviolent Action (CNA). Their activities not only condemned violence based acts but also created environment of dialogue through peace education, video production and publishing. Women from this organization often arrange campaigns in institutions where they engage young ones in teaching peace education through healthy and often fun activities.

In Albania the local women groups were actively involved in the rehabilitation of their country, working for the cause of disarmament. They held seminars, capacity building workshops, awareness campaigns and local conferences and held rallies with the message of “Stopping Guns”.  In Mindanao, Philippines; great contribution for the reconstruction was overseen by women in post-conflict environment. There were 5 different projects between the years 2000-2010. All the activities were livelihood based. The benefits provided were not only at the household but also at community level.

In Cyprus, the KAYAD toplummerkezi (KAYAD community welfare center), which is a Turkish Cypriot women organization, works for community development. Some of their objectives include ensuring human rights, raising awareness of needs of a girl child, working for international peace, strengthening position of women in the society, reinforcing values like tolerance, pride, kindness and responsibility. Similarly the bureau of bi-communal reconciliation and Strengthening of Civil Society holds activities ranging from panel discussions and lectures to other programs, for the purpose of reconciliation. Nesheyasir a Cyprus poet, peace activist and journalist, has not only contributed to peacebuilding by writing poetry that is related to conflict resolution but has also held peace activities and speeches in a variety of different countries.

In my second part of this blog, I will discuss examples from Africa, Asia and Pakistan.

The author is the founder & Executive Director of Peace Education Network Pakistan (PENPAK) and also serving as a Visiting Faculty Member at University Law College, University of the Punjab, Lahore – Pakistan, Since September 2016.

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