Thursday, 20 September 2012

Peace is not peace without women

(c) Womankind Worldwide and ActionAid

On the eve of International Peace Day, new research from the charities Womankind Worldwide and ActionAid shows that in five former warzones peace applies to just half the population. Women play a critical role building peace at the local level, but their efforts are undermined by a lack of support and political will.

While women are hit hardest by war they are shut out of peace processes: over the last 25 years only 1 in 40 peace treaty signatories have been women. Interviews conducted in Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone show that women’s priorities – human rights, education, freedom from violence – are not addressed in national peace plans.

The joint report ‘From The Ground Up’ highlights how women work together to make peace a reality for themselves and their communities by providing crucial services, resolving disputes and securing justice. Their work goes unrecognised and unsupported and many groups struggle to survive.

From The Ground Up is a new report from Womankind Worldwide, ActionAid and the Institute of Development Studies, which examines the roles that women play in local peacebuilding in Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. Whilst much attention has focused on women’s participation in international and national level peace processes, little has been documented on women’s roles building peace in their local communities. Researchers spoke to over 550 women and men across the five countries, including representatives of women’s rights organisations, and discovered that despite the geographical, social and cultural differences, there were some striking similarities:
  • Women and men have different understandings of what peace means, with women more likely to cite freedom of movement, freedom from domestic violence, food and financial security, and access to education for themselves and their children.
  • Women are likely to work collectively, rather than individually, in pursuit of peace. Collective action provides both a greater degree of security, and an amplified voice.
  • Women’s local peacebuilding is making a vital difference but too often unsupported. Women are building peace on a shoestring, without basic resources. Their efforts at local level are not recognised, nor their voices heard, in national and international processes

Womankind’s newly appointed Chief Executive Jackie Ballard said:
Women work together in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to try to build lasting peace for themselves and their families. A tough job is made tougher by a lack of support. The money is there in the Conflict Pool, but is not being dedicated to those grassroots women’s groups who are rebuilding communities without basic supplies and support.
When women are excluded peace is more fragile, so by denying them a fair share of UK support we’re not just short changing women but also ourselves.

The UK already has a peacebuilding fund – the Conflict Pool – which seeks to reduce the number of people around the world whose lives are affected by violent conflict. Womankind Worldwide are calling for 15% of this existing expenditure to be dedicated to supporting women’s participation in peacebuilding, the minimum recommended by the UN.

Bandana Rana, Executive Chair of Saathi Nepal and member of UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, said:

From Nepal to Liberia, from Pakistan to Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, a common thread of peace pulls women together, and compels them to act at local level for a just and equal future.
Learning from and supporting the work of women's organisations, who are at the frontline of building peace at local level, is a crucial part of a future where peace can prosper, not for just half the population, but for everyone.

  • For more information including a copy of the report please contact Womankind’s Communications Manager Sarah Jackson,  
  • Country-specific information, images and quotes available for Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Nepal and Liberia.
  • Womankind’s Chief Executive Jackie Ballard is available for interviews and comments. Quotes from women and men interviewed as part of the research are also available, please contact Sarah Jackson as above.
  •  The UK’s National Action Plan on women, peace and security is being reviewed in 2013. Womankind is asking supporters to write to their MPs, and ask them to take action in three ways: Writing to the Foreign Secretary, asking for 15% of the Conflict pool to be dedicated to activities whose principal objective is to address women’s specific needs, advance gender equality or empower women, in line with UN commitments; asking a parliamentary question; and joining or supporting the Associate Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security.