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Women: targeted in war, yet building peace

Mon, Jan 28, 2013

Human Rights, Women and Children

BLOG POST FROM OLIVIA WARHAM, DIRECTOR OF WAGING PEACEA market scene

It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in a modern conflict. (Major General Patrick Cammaert, 2008 – former UN peacekeeper)

There is nothing accidental about the surge in the incidence of rape in war zones. Leaders aiming to ethnically cleansing a population know rape destroys the fabric of traditional societies. Be they Bosnians, Rwandans or Darfuris in Sudan, women give strikingly similar accounts of sexual violence and humiliation.

Accompanying this ruthless tactic is the increasing violence toward women shown by societies that have endured oppression. Research by the Small Arms Survey and others indicates that when men and boys resort to violence to settle scores, in disputes such as cattle raiding, they are more likely to turn on women. Violence becomes accepted as normal. Add to this the relative ease with which small arms are obtained in the wake of conflict and the dangers to women are awfully clear. 

Yet, it is unfair to categorise women as passive victims – they often hold their family together in the face of adversity, rebuilding shattered communities in the wake of war. Anyone who has visited a refugee camp understands that it is women who get everyone up in the morning, trying to maintain normality.

Working to combat the human rights abuses perpetrated in Sudan – from the government’s systematic ethnic cleansing to the suffering of refugees – Waging Peace knows that even in the camps many women are not safe. Whenever they venture out to collect firewood, they often face attack by the same militias who burnt their villages and killed their men. Despite the presence of international peacekeepers, there is almost no protection for women. Welcoming the Foreign Office’s commitment to highlight such violence, we urge the UK government to provide practical help, like firewood patrols and solar ovens. Action must now follow words.

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Women, Peace and Security – UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Women, Peace and Security 

 

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was the first of its kind to specifically address the unique impact of conflict on women, and women’s important contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. Passed in 2000, it marked a watershed moment when the international community formally recognized the integral role of women and gender to peace and security. UNSCR 1325 has remained an essential tool for encouraging governments to fulfill their obligations to ensure women are included as agents for peace and security in all processes, and its framework has inspired further action by the UN and civil societies and governments around the world to mainstream gender into their work on conflict resolution.

 

Following UNSCR 1325, subsequent Security Council Resolutions further defined the importance of women’s roles in conflict and peacebuilding. Resolutions 1820, passed in 2008, and 1888, passed in 2009,  recognize sexual violence as an issue of international peace and security and reiterate the need for a comprehensive response to sexual and gender-based violence. In 2010, Resolution 1960 created specific steps needed for the prevention of sexual violence, and Resolution 2106 in 2013 looked specifically at accountability for crimes of sexual violence. The most recent resolution on women, peace and security, UNSCR 2122, aims to strengthen measures to improve the participation of women in all phases of conflict resolution and prevention.

 

UNSCR 1325 and successive Resolutions are an important show of international support that ensure women, peace and security are on the agenda for international organizations and governments across the globe, but there are many steps between the passage of such resolutions and their full implementation on the ground.  One tool that helps bridge this gap are National Action Plans(NAPs), written plans that specify how a country will mainstream gender, and the principles of 1325 into its defense, development and diplomatic activities. Over 36 countries in the world have drafted NAPs, and that number is growing every year.

 

In addition to government- and UN-level documents and programs, it is important to consider the work women do in more informal, Track II diplomatic and peace negotiations. Around the world, women are active as civil society leaders, and in many cases, such as Liberia, Northern Ireland and the Philippines, their grassroots work has played a major role in peace processes.

 

For more resources on women, peace and security, visit The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and SecurityPeaceWomenUSIP, and The Institute for Inclusive Security.

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