When is peace not peace? When it excludes women
To mark International Peace Day on 21 September, Womankind is launching a new campaign to put women at the heart of peace, and new research showing the vital roles that women play to build peace from the ground up in their local communities.
What is peace?
Peace begins with individuals, within families and communities, and women are often at the forefront of solving conflicts at local level. In collaboration with ActionAid and the Institute of Development Studies, Womankind asked researchers to visit local communities in five countries – Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone, to talk to women about their views on peace and their actions to promote it.
They spoke to over 550 women and men across the five countries, and discovered that despite the geographical, social and cultural differences, there were some striking similarities.
First, women and men have different understandings of what peace means to them. As Estella Nelson, from Liberia Women Media Action Committee, points out:
“peace means different things to women and men because of their unique experiences of war, and as a result of how society is structured. Peace to women means putting food on the table, economic empowerment, access to healthcare and education, and that we can speak up against abuse in the home. There is violence in the home, but too often women are silent. That is not peace.”
How do women build peace?
Second, across all countries and communities researched, women are likely to work collectively, rather than individually, in pursuit of peace. Working together gives women a degree of protection, and also amplifies their voice. Bandana Rana from Saathi in Nepal says:
“in a patriarchal society, it is extremely important that women come together. Unless they act together, no one is going to hear them. They find security and strength in each others’ experiences”.
Third, women are building peace on a shoe string. They take great risks to speak out, yet their efforts are hampered by a lack of support. Women’s rights organisations at local level have no money for the basics, women are stopped from participating in peacebuilding by family members or societal expectations of what women are ‘supposed to do’. In rural areas where people live far from towns, even finding the cash to buy a bus ticket to a meeting where you can share your opinion about local reconstruction plans, can be a huge deterrent.
For this and many other reasons, women’s efforts at local level to build peace are not connected with national and international peace processes. We know that in recent peace negotiations women have represented fewer than 8 percent of participants and fewer than 3 percent of signatories, and no woman has ever been appointed chief or lead mediator in UN-sponsored peace talks. Our new report helps us to understand why.
Time to change
Yet there is a window of opportunity, and the UK can play a role in supporting the full and equal participation of women in all peace processes and negotiations. The United Nations recommends that, as a minimum, 15% of all funding for peacebuilding should be dedicated to specifically support women’s participation and rights.
We are calling for the government’s Conflict Pool – a fund which seeks to reduce the number of people around the world affected by conflict – to meet this target.
Take action today
- Please email your MP to help us send a clear message to the UK government. It will take two minutes of your time and can make a real difference.
- Support the peacebuilding work of our partners in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Liberia and Nepal by making a donation