LONDON, England — In recognition of women’s roles in ending wars, the British government has launched an initiative that will encourage and streamline their participation in a very worthy task. This national action plan focuses on tackling sexual violence in conflict areas. Targeting six nations, including Syria, the plan launched by the foreign ministry, a ministry for international development and defense ministry, provides the following guidelines:
- “Encourage the employment of women within foreign government roles, security services, the armed forces and related ministries.”
- “Build women and girls’ leadership, networks, ability to organize and political know-how in conflict and post-conflict situations.”
- “Undertake ‘safe space’ programs to protect adolescent girls from violence in conflict and post-conflict settings, including projects in refugee settings.”
According to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, bringing women to the discussion table also ensures that women will carry a proportional weight when formulating solutions for sexual violence and other conflict zone issues. He stated, “And in return, by tackling sexual violence in conflict, we are removing a crushing weight from women’s lives across the world, accelerating a change of attitude towards women in many other settings and taking an important step towards what I keep saying is the great strategic prize of the 21st Century, which is the full attainment of political, social and economic rights for women.”
According to Hague, women’s role in conflict resolution since the end of the Cold War has been marginal at best, making up only 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements, less than 3 percent of mediators, and less than 10 percent active presence at the negotiating table.
This is certainly not the first or even the last call for further involvement of women in peace processes. In 2013, the U.N. passed a resolution to reiterate the role of women in conflict resolution and peace-building. Resolution 2122 provides a clear path to improve our understanding of the impact of conflicts involving women and their participation in conflict mediation. It also calls for government funding for women’s leadership and participation in civil societies and in the resolution of conflicts.
Recognizing the disproportionately large impact that conflicts have on women and the role they can play in conflict prevention and resolution was brought forth by the U.N.’s landmark resolution 1325 passed in 2000. This marked the beginning of huge advances in the involvement of women in conflict resolution.
“In 1993 women made up just one percent of uniformed peacekeepers, while by 2012, of the 125,000 peacekeepers, women comprised three percent of military personnel and 10 percent of police personnel in U.N. peacekeeping missions,” according to U.N. women.
While this represents great improvement, there is still a long way to go until achieving true equality. Sadly, women remain underrepresented at the negotiating table. And while subsequent U.N. resolutions and initiatives such as the one undertaken by the British government mean progress in the right direction, it will take great amounts of effort toward raising awareness and changing perceptions and cultural paradigms to increase the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.
– Sahar Abi Hassan
Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Guardian