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Series: What Does That Mean? Women, Peace, and Security

When women participate in negotiations for peace, there is a 35% increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least 15 years.

At Women for Women International we use a lot of field-based vocabulary that often has a much deeper meaning and greater implications than a simple definition. In this series, we will be addressing some of these terms in the hopes of giving YOU the tools you need to have conversations about gender equality. In this blog, we’ll discuss women, peace, and security agenda.

What is the Women, Peace, and Security agenda?

In October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1325, which calls for increased and meaningful participation of women in peace-building and security efforts. This resolution was created in hopes of bringing gender equality and more attention to women’s needs in times of war, and to bring peacemaking into the conversation when addressing conflict.

Why Do We Talk About Women, Peace, and Security?

Violence and conflict disproportionately affect marginalized groups in society. Since the adoption of the resolution the UN has found that when women are included in peacemaking negotiations, not only do women’s issues get discussed but also peace is sustained longer. In fact, when women participate, there is a 35% increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least 15 years.

Despite the undeniable evidence of its benefits, increasing women’s inclusion in peace and security talks is an uphill battle. In 2014, 70% of all signed peace agreements contained gender-specific provisions. This declined to 50% in 2016.

The Council on Foreign Relations recently published a report outlining women’s participation in peace talks throughout the world. For Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement, 33% of the peace negotiators were women. This is the best representation that the Council on Foreign Relations reports. Other major peace agreements have barely had any women at the table. Of the people currently involved in peace talks in Yemen, only 11% are women.  In Afghanistan, only 6% are women. Shockingly, there were no women involved in the peace talks about Uganda’s Juba Agreement in 2008, Sudan’s Peace Agreement in 2005, and many more.  

Since Women for Women International works in conflict-affected countries, the women, peace, and security agenda is relevant to and impacts the women we serve.  The Georgetown Institute for Women has a Peace and Security Index where they rank peace and security, and women’s inclusion and justice in 153 countries. Iraq ranks 147th out of 153, the Democratic Republic of Congo ranks 148th, and Afghanistan is tied with Syria for last.

Taking a Closer Look- Rwanda

During the 100 days of genocide in Rwanda, at least 800,00 people were killed and an estimated 250,000 women were systematically raped. When Women for Women International started our core program there in 1997, we worked with thousands of women survivors of this genocide.

Since the genocide, there have been great peacekeeping efforts made in Rwanda. Although women did not get the chance to participate in the three major negotiations following the genocide, they were active participants in gacacas, a grassroots justice system through which those involved in the genocide faced consequences. Because 70% of the country’s population were women after the genocide, they were key to bringing about justice, one community and neighborhood at a time. Rwandan women have also made great contributions to the government. Rwanda currently has a parliament made of 64% women. This is the highest rate of women’s representation in parliaments in the world. In fact, there was a law passed in 2003 stating that at least 30% of parliament seats must be filled by women. Before the war, women only made up 18% of the parliament.

Rwanda, now a peaceful country, has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and has successfully doubled the average expectancy of Rwandans in the past 20 years. Women have made their voices heard by running for office, and making comprehensive legislation to protect women’s rights, health, and security in Rwanda. Rwanda is becoming a strong nation with the help of many empowered, and courageous women.

A Missing Piece- Peace Starts at Home

Through our 25 years of work in conflict-affected areas, we’ve learned that in order for a woman to be an empowered agent of change and peace in her community, she first must hold some decision-making power at home. If her husband controls her social participation or economic gains, she is not likely to have the opportunity to engage in local elections or have the freedom for civic participation. Women must know their rights if they are going to be able to fight for them. We find that once women in our program become economically self-sufficient and learn about their rights, they gain decision-making power and are more respected by their families and communities.

This is why Women for Women International takes a bottom-up approach for inspiring change and including women in peace and security work. Through our year-long program, women develop the skills they need to start and run their own businesses. They also learn about health and nutrition, their rights, and the importance of standing up for those rights. Through the program, women also form bonds with their classmates and create networks that can strengthen their voices, add to their collective power, and empower them to participate in the community and local government.

Now that you know more about how women, peace, and security can change the world, we challenge you to join us in spreading the knowledge. Share this article with your network to spark a conversation.

Feature image by Andrew Esiebo. 

Democratic Republic of Congo woman

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