No Peace without Women and Girls

By Fatima Al Ansar, Diplomat and Analyst

January 30, 2020

Although women often represent the majority of those affected by conflict, they have historically been excluded from formal processes dealing with war and peace. In times of conflict, the risk of experiencing extreme violence when leaving one’s home or community to perform daily activities is very high, preventing women from moving around safely and living their lives with dignity. Currently, young girls are used as weapons of war and conflict in many countries. Women are raped, sexually abused, sexually enslaved, and even sold in exchange for power during negotiation processes. Despite the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, they are still largely excluded from peace negotiations and peacebuilding processes. 

Women’s participation in peacebuilding processes has not increased significantly in recent years. According to UN data, between 1992 and 2019 women constituted just 13 percent of negotiators, 3 percent of mediators and only 4 percent of signatories in major peace processes. Currently, women’s participation in state power structures remains limited, though there has been positive progress in this regard. For example, despite the accession of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President of Liberia, women represent only one quarter of members of parliaments or governments West Africa. Once women are members, they are often directed to work on sectors related to social development. At the legislative level, women are rarely Presidents of Parliaments, few are in public administration, and the number of female mayors or regional council members remains very low. In Mali, women’s inclusion in the ongoing peace process has not yet become a priority, in spite of  various efforts by women activists, who organized themselves and lobbied key actors to enter the negotiations, and were supported by UN Women and MINUSMA.

The world needs to pay closer attention to women’s participation in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Peace will not be sustainable until it is fully inclusive. The voices of all those who are affected need to be sought out, heard and considered. Reform is needed at all levels and sectors, and must encompass the political, cultural, social and economic realms. For instance, political reform can serve to e advance women’s integration in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, such as UN Resolution1325 (adopted October 31, 2000) which recognizes the essential role women play in peace, security, development and human rights. This Resolution has been accompanied by eight subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security, namely: 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019); as well as the related Resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2108) on youth, peace and security. 

While solutions are a key step,  the implementation of those resolutions is essential. Stakeholders must be made accountable, as well as provided with strategies to implement those resolutions already passed related to women, peace, and security. For instance, women’s participation in peace negotiations in Mali is still extremely low, despite all of the existing programs to support UN Resolution 1325. As of today, women in Mali have been underrepresented, if involved at all, in the mechanisms for implementing and monitoring the peace agreement. Many women have expressed frustration about their continued exclusion from the peace process. Implementation mechanisms include the Agreement Monitoring Committee (CSA), the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission, the National Council on Security Sector Reform (SSR), and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR). On average, women’s participation in these mechanisms rests at approximately 3%  On January 22 and 23, 2020 the Ministry of Cohesion, Reconciliation and National Peace organized an intensive workshop with women leaders to discuss the concrete steps to include women in the monitoring of peace agreements and peacebuilding in general. In achieving this, Mali will be taking a big step towards sustainable peace.

We must create a culture of women peacebuilders by changing mindsets and expectations around women’s role in peacebuilding. This can be done by actively communicating with people living in areas affected by conflict about the crucial role of women peacebuilders, as well as including them in different local dialogues and peacebuilding activities. Additionally, an emphasis on the economic empowerment of women is a crucial aspect of peacebuilding efforts and challenges. The UN Secretary General pointed out in his report on women’s participation in peacebuilding that women’s economic activity not only contributes to durable peace, but greater female participation in the workforce is also a guarantee for their insertion into, and long-term participation in, the public and political sphere.

In conclusion, one of the world’s biggest issues today is how to restore peace after years of conflict and war. The response to this must include our women and girls. It is crucial to try new strategies of addressing peace in our communities, and to make sure that women are leaders of peacemaking processes and a core part of the decisions regarding women in areas of conflict. Peace depends on how we treat and integrate women and girls in our societies. We should immediately provide women and girls with  the space and opportunities to participate fully in peacemaking from beginning to the end. When we empower women, we empower our nation and build lasting peace  in our societies.

This article authored by Fatima Al Ansar, Diplomat and Analyst, Head of Mission at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at the Center for Strategic Studies Mali.