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When women of all ages have a seat at the table, decisions on women, peace and security will have more effect” – Handbook for Board Trainee Program

Women of all ages need to reflect diverse experiences and expertise from different fields. The inclusion of all women should therefore be positioned at the core of the work with the women, peace and security agenda and the youth, peace and security agenda. This has been reflected in Operation 1325’s Board Trainee Program that has been carried out every year since 2016 and is now doing its fifth cohort. The program is a result of a collaboration between Operation 1325 and the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy (PCPD). The program offers a platform for young women to express their engagement and commitment as well as to develop their leadership skills and broaden their professional network. 

Participants from the Board Trainee Program hosted a virtual webinar at UNSSC’s Virtual Torino Forum for Sustaining Peace 2020 on “Insights from the inside: experiences from young women activists in Sweden and Palestine”. During the webinar, the participants presented the newly launched “Handbook for Board Trainee Program” that showcases a methodology for cross-generational work on the UNSCR 1325 and 2250 and their work for mediation skills and political leadership in civil society with examples from Sweden and Palestine. The panelists touched upon questions on the role of young people in peace work processes, the importance of young women’s participation in the process for building peaceful societies, the challenges they face as Swedish or Palestinian in the areas of leadership for peace and security as well as recommendations and changes they would like to see the from the governments and the international community.  

The participants shared their own experiences and engagements with their peers as well as their mentors, senior women activists. Furthermore, they shared their views on issues concerning the WPS agenda from different contexts and different perspectives on how it is to be an active young woman in the society in general in Sweden and Palestine and specifically in civil society organizations. They expressed that their knowledge of UN Resolution 1325 has increased during this program. They emphasized that it is important to engage young people in the peacebuilding community, but also to increase knowledge within civil society organizations based on the needs of young people in various contexts regarding peace and security. A mutual collaboration between a mentor and trainee has been a helpful tool throughout the program to address these issues.

From a Swedish perspective, the participants Essraa Hussein and Sana Pirot expressed that threats and hatred against youth organizations and youth activists have increased, especially for women in marginalized and vulnerable groups. These challenges that young women encounter in the shrinking space context are limiting their possibilities to exercise their civic rights, such as if people feel threatened to express their opinion and views on different developmental issues. An inspiring quote from one of the board trainees, Sana Pirot, follows: “to exist in spaces that are not built for you is a revolution in itself”. When we talk about women’s inclusion in peace processes, it is therefore important not to package women as a homogenous group, but rather to include other aspects that may affect their inclusion. In this view, the participants emphasized the importance of considering an intersectional approach where gender intersects with other inequalities, such as age, class, race, ethnicity, location, sexual orientation or disability. By recognizing such an approach, we can understand that cultural, ethnic, social and economic divisions intersecting with gender result in diversity of experiences, challenges, aspirations and goals – which is important for a successful implementation of the two agendas.

A video created by young women activists in Palestine showcases that women’s responsibility has increased during the Covid-19 outbreak, considering that women do more both in the workplace and in the household. In the interviews held, many expressed that women are everywhere and equally capable of combating the challenges posed by the pandemic as well as being involved in societal issues in general. Women should be included in negotiation and decision-making processes as it will have a positive impact in building a peaceful society. Despite this, women’s contributions are overlooked and not highlighted in national statistics. The Palestinian Authority should therefore include women in all areas and give them the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.

Thank you to UNSCC for providing us with this opportunity and for gathering many organizations and young women activists for discussing the WPS and YPS agendas and addressing a critical gap in the international community’s efforts to address the complex challenge of preventing conflict and sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies through more inclusive approaches – which are now more important than ever.

Operation 1325 Board Trainees – Essraa Hussein, Elin Hjertström, Sana Pirot, Nathalie Vukmanic