Women building peace from Zimbabwe to Nepal
What does peace mean to you? Is it the absence of war? Or is it more than that? For many of the women we work with, a ‘peaceful life’ is one free of violence at every level – from the laying down of arms to the ending of domestic violence.
Peace means that there is enough food on the table, that children can go to school and access education, and that there are opportunities for earning a decent living. Peace means that women are free to exercise and fulfil their fundamental rights and freedoms, and participate in decisions affecting the future of their communities and countries.
Womankind is committed to supporting women to live in peaceful and stable societies. Many of the countries we work in – from Nepal to Afghanistan, from Liberia to Zimbabwe – have been affected by conflict and instability. Women and girls experience conflict differently to men and boys, and have different needs and expectations of peace. Women’s rights organisations also build bridges across divided communities, providing services to survivors of violence and lobbying for peace.
Yet when it comes to peace talks and rebuilding societies after conflict, women’s voices are all too often left out. Womankind’s work on women, peace and security aims to ensure that women are fully involved in all peace processes and that their needs and views are taken seriously.
Building peace in Zimbabwe and Nepal
Womankind’s partner, the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), have been asking women in the Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Masvingo provinces what peace means to them. It’s ‘love’. And ‘happiness’, ‘freedom’, ‘development’, ‘getting all the basics for a good life’, ‘not being suspicious of one another’, ‘understanding and tolerance’, ‘getting on well’, ‘unity’.
WCoZ provide training to increase women’s knowledge and confidence, enabling them to actively participate in local development and rebuilding processes. Their awareness raising work with service providers means police and health officials are more receptive and supportive to women and hear their concerns about violence. Local and traditional leaders are also publicly playing a role in promoting peace and resolving all forms of violence in their communities, including denouncing violence and punishing perpetrators. WCoZ engages with all these groups as part of their peacebuilding project. Their successes are more impressive given the complex and volatile political environment in Zimbabwe.
But peacebuilding initiatives by women can take many different forms. In Nepal for example Womankind supports the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) in a project aiming to increase the number of Dalit women actively participating in the peacebuilding process. FEDO encourages and supports women through confidence-building workshops, seminars and meetings. FEDO also assists women in their claims to the Nepalese government for welfare support, which is an entitlement for people who lost family members in the period of conflict but is difficult for Dalit women to access.
Peace for everyone
There are international laws in place to ensure that women are involved in peace processes. The most important of these is UN Resolution 1325, which was passed by the Security Council in 2000, and mandates the international community to protect women in conflict and make sure their voices are heard. Yet peace processes are still dominated by men, and fail to meet the needs of half the population. Long-lasting peace can only happen when the views of everyone, including women, are incorporated.
Whilst our partners such as WCoZ and FEDO work towards inclusive peace in their countries, Womankind works to ensure that the UK government does its bit to support them. We lobby officials, meet MPs, advise on policy, take part in networks and campaigns and arrange for the work of our partners to be heard by the people who write policies and pass laws in the UK government. We hope that together we can build a world where peace is possible, not just for the few, but for everyone.
Look out for new research from Womankind to be released in the next few weeks highlighting the roles that women play building peace.
Post by Lee Webster and Cintia Lavandera