Power to Women in Peace Processes

Women's Organisations Cooperating in Realising Resolution 1325

The disarmament of guns and weapons after conflict is a necessary process to ensure a sustainable peace. However, that peace is not possible without the active participation of women in the process.
FOTO: Martine Perret/UN Photo

Women's participation must be prioritised in DDRRR processes

The World Bank presented in its World Development Report 2011 that more than 90 per cent of the world's civil wars during the 2000s took place in countries trapped within conflict cycles. Conflicts of yesterday have not been solved sustainably and societies are not being built up with stability in mind, resulting in renewed eruption of violence. These facts should envoke a need in us to address disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR), and do it through the lenses of gender perspectives.

DDRRR is the abbreviation for efforts supporting countries affected by war and crisis heading towards a transitional phase of peace, security and democracy. For example, these efforts can be carried out through increased weapon inspection, decreased military expenses as well as social and economical investments to reintegrate former soldiers in society.

In all political work regarding peace and security, it is imperative that women's needs and participation must be as highly prioritised as men's; that is however not the situation we see today. DDRRR processes can not be an exception when it comes to women's rights. Women often constitute the majority of IDP's (internally displaced persons) in post conflict societies, while they at the same time are expected to take care of children, the elderly and the combatants that have been bruised by conflict. There is a need for robust programs that supports women and girls that have been subjected to sexual violence, and the inpunity for sexualised violence must be thwarted. But there is also a need to reintegrate female ex-combatants  into society. Today, these women are practically invisible, while male ex-combatants are often celebrated as heroes and rewarded with a seat at peace negotiations when society is to be rebuilt.

The peace process of Liberia in the 2000s has been lifted as a good example concerning women's participation, but as Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee has expressed: ”The women who tried to get involved in the planning of the DDRRR process were told to go home and take care of the children”. Annie Matundu-Mbambi, the president of Ligue Internationale des Femmes pour la Paix et la Liberté (WILPF in the DRC) testifies about similar patterns in the DRC context: “In the DRC women took part in the conflict alongside men, yet DDR programs fail to adequately address their role and account for their reintegration”.

The proportion of women participating in the integration part of the DDRRR process have to some extent increased the latest years. But women are still to a large part excluded from work related to disarmament and demobilisation. Disarmament and demobilisation are defined as military operations, limiting women's participation since there are relatively few women with senior military experience. But women's perspective in the field of disarmament is central in order to ensure that sustainable peace and security is established. With a vast spread of small and light weapons, the risk for increased sexual violence continues - a fact that has also been cemented by the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström.

Tove Ivergård and Sofia Tuvestad
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Sweden (IKFF)