It’s Black’Her’story Month in the UK and to commemorate this month, this post is dedicated to giving a deeper understanding of one of the pillars of the UN Security Resolution 1325, that is ‘participation’. Therefore, this post deals with the challenges faced by women in patriarchal societies in terms of their inclusion in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction initiatives. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate the difference amongst women in terms of their race, sexuality, economic status, physical abilities and inabilities when attempting to understand how to emancipate women from institutional and systemic harm. This is because, ‘the absence of these considerations, weakens any feminist discussions of the personal and the political’, these are the words of Audre Lorde, who was a prominent black feminist, civil rights activist and poet.
One of the main concerns for women in post-conflict societies, is whether they would be able to play a meaningful role in the political sphere of society and whether the new political system of the state will recognise and protect women’s interests and needs. UNSCR 1325 recognises how situations of conflict particularly affect women and asserts that women’s participation in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction processes is vital to the goal of achieving and maintaining global peace and security. Accordingly, the resolution ‘encourages’ states and other relevant institutions to take steps with regards to ensuring that women are included in political decisions concerning peacebuilding, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction processes. Therefore, in this regard, the resolution has been praised for being a turning point with regards to advancing gender equality rights for women.
There is no doubt that UNSCR 1325 has the potential to empower women and contribute to the dissolution of gender inequality with regards to matters dealing with peace and security. That being said, WILPF has identified the patriarchy as one of the critical issues that undermine the progress of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Reason being, regardless of the milestones with regards to women’s agency in peace and security, the role of women in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction initiatives is significantly challenged by patriarchal cultures and stereotypes that marginalise women’s efforts in matters concerning the peace and security of a state.
In post-conflict societies, the patriarchal barrier to women’s political agency in post-conflict reconstruction initiatives, is seen in the existence of the public/private sphere dichotomy. The public/private dichotomy refers to the pre-existing divide in patriarchal societies where stereotypical notions of women’s role in society serve to confine women in the domestic (private) sphere as they are viewed to be incapable of participating in the public sphere domain which in this case, political matters concerning the peace and security of a state. The public/private sphere manifests itself in post-conflict societies through the reinforcement of patriarchal gender roles which sustain the notion that women should not be active participants in political matters. In these societies, women’s participation in political platforms is undermined by the resurgence of gendered societal norms, roles and practices which reject the ‘unconventional’ roles assumed by women during instances of conflict. Therefore, it can be said that in post-conflict societies, the public/private sphere dichotomy reinforces one of the main challenges to women’s agency in peace and security matters, the resistance to create ‘real’ spaces for women in the political sphere.
It has been 18 years since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 and yet, women in post-conflict societies are still being marginalised and excluded from participating in political decision-making platforms concerning matters of peace and security. This indicates the significant impact that the public/private sphere dichotomy has on women’s agency as women’s contributions to peace-building initiatives are often trivialised by the public portrayal of them as ‘vulnerable victims’ as opposed to their also being an emphasis on how women can add valuable contributions to these political affairs. For instance, more than 85% of all references to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in UN mandated missions focus exclusively on Sexual and gender Based Violence which serves to reinforce the negative perception and stereotype of women as vulnerable victims. Undoubtedly, the exclusive focus of women as victims undermines their agency in peace-building and post-conflict initiatives. Peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction initiatives that acknowledge and are influenced by feminist perspectives on the status of women in patriarchal societies, significantly influence the extent to which women are included in a state’s future socio-political decision-making framework. Therefore, there should be more of emphasis on women’s agency in peace-building initiatives, as opposed to an almost exclusive focus on SGBV, as they shape a state’s political priorities in the aftermath of the conflict.
(Views expressed in The Blog do not represent those of WILPF)
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