Women’s History Month: Peace and Conflict Resolution
The month of March marked a time to delve through the chapters of our global story, to seek inspiration from the visionary women who have championed peace and non-violence. The annual observance of Women’s History Month was a time to reflect on the women who have resolved conflict within their homes and the community. Recognising the efforts of women who have orchestrated peace movements and facilitated community recovery post-conflict, is pivotal to attaining the goal of gender equality.
The Global Impact of Conflict on Women
The United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 is a foundational document which recognises that conflict widens the division between men and women; forming the basis of the UN Women, Peace and Security Agenda. This is instrumental in encouraging international actors to understand the gendered differences in experiences of conflict and to use them to guide peacebuilding processes while making the world safer for women and girls.
Women and girls are a vulnerable group of the global community in times of displacement. They currently make up 50% of the refugee, internally displaced and displaced population; according to the UN Refugee Agency. This reveals that women and girls are disproportionately affected by instability within countries and endure losing their ties to their nationality, which excludes them from belonging to their communities. The emotional ordeal of being separated from their homes is amplified by the increased risk of being subjected to discrimination and sexual violence, at the hands of people they encounter.
The likelihood of experiencing violence arises in periods of conflict. Women and children represent 75% of the world’s population in need of humanitarian assistance during non-armed and armed conflict situations, according to the UN Population Fund. They are positioned in the centre of conflict, often staying in their communities to protect their homes and care for their families. It exposes them to a myriad of vulnerabilities which make everyday living and accessing a livelihood challenging; including death, torture, sexual violence, disability, hunger, exploitation, cultural practices and trafficking.
Women and Conflict Resolution within their Homes and Communities
Women and girls can be agents of the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflict in their day to day lives. Acting as mediator when small disputes arise within the workplace or at home is a way to bridge differences between people. Offering each person a chance to respectfully voice their opinion and harnessing the power of listening, helps each side engage in an inclusive and calm discussion of what caused the situation and how their behaviour can improve. What lies at the heart of this form of silent leadership is focusing on using collaboration to reach a mutual understanding of the situation and fostering respect for another person. It is a meaningful contribution to peace processes which builds the conflict resolution capacity of the people involved.
Empowering Women to Contribute to Peace Processes
Women and girls can play an active role in engendering sustainable peace, if they are given the opportunity to be engaged at all stages of the process have their voice heard. At present women from a small fragment of the development of conflict resolution strategies – between 1990 and 2018, women made up only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators and 5% of witnesses and signatories in peace processes. They occupy a space where they are confined to being seen as the primary victims of conflict when their experiences are much more complex. Being placed in a more vulnerable position has conferred them a wealth of knowledge about the deep-rooted causes of conflict and how it impacts the lives of all members of the community. Channelling that into peace negotiations can increase the durability and quality of the peace. A recent study investigating 82 peace agreements in 42 armed conflicts between 1989 and 2011 found that the inclusion of female signatories is directly linked to long – term peace, according to UN Women. It uncovers a need to open up a larger space for women to become drivers of the peace process, an approach centred on overcoming the devastating effects of conflict while strengthening communities.