U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, stresses the need for women to participate in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, providing a platform for women involvement in peace negotiations. Twelve years later, in a world of continuing instability and violence, it’s become imperative to critically look at how far this resolution has gone to bring about peace.
Although women have begun to play an important role in conflict resolution, defense and in foreign affairs mechanisms through their activism within civil society organizations, they are still under-represented in agenda setting and in decision-making positions.
Peace agreements and institutional arrangements in post-war and conflict times still lack the basic provisions for gender equality, such as reform processes for the specific security needs of women and girls, the infusion of women staff in the institutions concerned, and the required infrastructure and human resources need for the reception of victims of gender based violence, to name a few. UNSC Resolution 1325 was adopted by unanimous vote, and yet out of the 193 UN member states, only 24 countries have adopted national action plans for its implementation, 6 of which are from Africa.
Do we dare to critically look into whether or not our male-dominated institutions really want to take on steps that would positively affect the lives of more than half of the population? Although such a gender sensitive approach to peace is highly cost effective, war and conflict has become profitable and sustained during times of global economic recession.
Trillions of dollars are spent on weapons, emergency humanitarian aid for displaced persons and peacekeeping missions in countries where peace seems to be nowhere in sight, and yet too little money and time are invested on helping women, the most victimized demographic group of conflict areas, participate in peace negotiations and peacebuilding initiatives.
While entire communities suffer from the consequences of armed conflict, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society and their sex. Parties to conflict often rape women and girls with impunity, sometimes using systematic rape as a tactic of war. Conflict causes a mass flow of refugees and other displaced persons, the majority of which are women, adolescent girls and children. Women find themselves heading single-parent households without having any prior education or work experience, and too often they play the role of care givers of injured combatants and elderly relatives. Conflict expands the horizons of responsibilities of women who are traditionally shackled with family care and maintenance, and yet we still don’t allow them the space and place to be involved or consulted when peace is being discussed or negotiated.
We can make excuses for this lack of attention toward what could mean sustainable peace, but as long as women do not dominate or play an active role in the economy, there is little chance that their participation in peacebuilding will be entertained. Let’s face it: Conflict means money and the pillaging of natural resources for warlords, imperialist forces and multi-national corporations. What makes us think that such chauvinistic, money- and power-hungry institutions will give an ear to women participation in peacebuilding processes, a matter not only of equal rights but also sustainable peace?
We have reached a time where the question of whether or not women should be included in peace processes is no longer relevant. Instead we should be asking if we can afford not to have women systematically involved in peace negotiations. If you are part of the 1% who profit from war and conflict, the answer is “no”. However, if you are part of the 99% of the world population who are sick of their taxes being spent on sustaining war, if you are a victim of conflict, and if you are tired of wishing for peace on earth without seeing anything on the news that suggests your wish will come true any time soon, then the answer is ‘YES!’.
We cannot afford NOT to have women involved in peace negotiations. Unfortunately, because the world economy is hooked on sustaining conflict, women participation could mean building sturdy foundations for reconciliation processes that could potentially diminish the cost of war and armed conflict. Now who would really want that?
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignments: Op-Eds