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Beyond Victimhood: Women’s Peacebuilding in Sudan, Congo and Uganda
Beyond Victimhood: Women’s Peacebuilding in Sudan, Congo and Uganda
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Can War Be Feminist?
Can War Be Feminist?
Report 112 / Africa

Beyond Victimhood: Women’s Peacebuilding in Sudan, Congo and Uganda

Peacebuilding cannot succeed if half the population is excluded from the process. Crisis Group’s research in Sudan, Congo (DRC) and Uganda suggests that peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction, and governance do better when women are involved.

Executive Summary

Peacebuilding cannot succeed if half the population is excluded from the process. Crisis Group’s research in Sudan, Congo (DRC) and Uganda suggests that peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction, and governance do better when women are involved. Women make a difference, in part because they adopt a more inclusive approach toward security and address key social and economic issues that would otherwise be ignored. But in all three countries, as different as each is, they remain marginalised in formal processes and under-represented in the security sector as a whole. Governments and the international community must do much more to support women peace activists.

The scale of discrimination and violence against women in each armed conflict – and the impunity with which it continues to be committed – remain the central obstacles to expanding the good work being done by women peacebuilders. The international community speaks a great deal about including women in formal peace-making processes and recognising their peacebuilding contributions but fails to do so in a systematic, meaningful way. Advances have been made in understanding the links between gender, development, human rights, peace, security and justice. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 reaffirmed the role of women in preventing and resolving conflicts and mandates UN member states to take steps to increase women’s participation in decision-making. However, endemic discrimination and sexual violence are significant barriers to achieving Resolution 1325’s goal of inclusivity.

The stereotype of “women as only victims” should not be reinforced. An array of women’s organisations and women leaders are doing remarkable work in each of the three countries, under difficult circumstances. The daily struggle for survival greatly limits the numbers who have become peace activists but their potential is significant. Because those who are courageous and capable enough to involve themselves as catalysts in peacebuilding are an endangered minority, they should be safeguarded and strengthened with funding, training and inclusion in assessment missions and other decision-making mechanisms that shape fundamental questions of security. 

Properly supported, women’s peace movements can affect large sectors of the population and be a powerful force for reducing violence and building democratic and participatory public institutions, particularly in the post-conflict period. Their organisations should be identified at the outset of peacemaking processes and helped to work within broader peace initiatives and to communicate their messages to both national leaders and the international community.

The role of Sudanese women varies by region. Though women contribute prominently to peacebuilding through civil society, they were largely excluded from both the North-South and Darfur peace negotiations. Two pressing issues for women peace activists are the return of refugees and the internally displaced, and increasing women’s capacity to enter the democratisation processes set in motion this past year. Neither the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement nor the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement provide guarantees for women’s participation in the implementation processes. Women are under-represented at national and local levels, and even stated commitments to their participation in formal government structures have not been fulfilled.

Congolese women have registered and voted in impressive numbers and secured commitments on paper for greater roles in governance. However, in practice they remain badly under-represented and violence against them, often rape, is widespread and committed with impunity. Without greater political representation and more robust efforts to deal with the flood of weapons and militias that make the East highly unstable, women will continue to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of this conflict, and their potential as peacebuilders will not be fully achieved.

Though the situation is far from ideal, Uganda has by far the most advanced, articulate and organised women’s peace movement of the three countries – one whose basic principles can be replicated. The model that has evolved there relies on autonomy, including to some extent in funding, which makes its organisations both more independent and sustainable. It relies on networking to share common experiences among disparate regions and offer practical training for conflict resolution and trauma counselling both within families and in wider community and inter-community disputes – an approach with a proven success rate in reducing violence. With careful consultation, a commitment to learn lessons and a strong budgetary mechanism, and if leadership remains with the women who have created it, it could serve as the basis for a women’s regional peace initiative.

Nairobi/Brussels, 28 June 2006

Podcast / Global

Can War Be Feminist?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Crisis Group’s gender and conflict expert Azadeh Moaveni for a special International Women's Day episode where they untangle the complex relationship between gender and conflict – from Cameroon to Pakistan to Syria and beyond.

Both our political mapping of conflict and peacebuilding efforts too often neglect the powerful role of gender dynamics in driving war. The identities of men and women shape their motivations and strategies at times of conflict, as well as the ways they experience violence, whether as victims, fighters or peacemakers. 

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Azadeh Moaveni, Crisis Group’s gender and conflict project director for a special episode for International Women’s Day to discuss the complex relationship between gender and conflict. They highlight some of Crisis Group’s recent work – discussing how women and girls experience Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis and their roles as insurgents and peace activists, as well as the story of women’s peacebuilding in Pakistan’s North West tribal belt, and how their hard-fought struggle for rights has shaped the prospects of a region mired in militancy and cultural conservatism. They also talk about the outlook for women across Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover, and the ongoing detention of ISIS-affiliated women and children in Syria, forbidden from returning to their home countries. They explore how considering gender can enrich our understanding of conflict resolution. They end with a discussion on several countries’ adoption over recent years of feminist foreign policies, what those policies entail and the value of framing foreign relations through a feminist lens. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more of Crisis Group’s work on gender, make sure to explore our Gender and Conflict page and check out our recent reports: “Women and Peacebuilding in Pakistan’s North West” and “Rebels, Victims, Peacebuilders: Women in Cameroon’s Anglophone Conflict”.

Contributors

Executive Vice President
atwoodr
Naz Modirzadeh
Board Member and Harvard Professor of International Law and Armed Conflicts
Project Director, Gender and Conflict
AzadehMoaveni