While access to basic education is a fundamental human right, ensuring equitable access for women and girls is a key development indicator that must be delivered. In the context of meeting gender equality commitments to participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding (such as UNSCR 1325 and UNSCR 2250), access to education means we have to go beyond simply ‘reading, writing and arithmetic'.
We have to regard access to education as a social, economic and political empowerment tool that enhances their leadership and ability to overcome social, economic and political barriers.
To participate in peace negotiations and in conflict resolution, women need to be empowered, and part of this requires education. We work with internally-displaced women (IDPs), providing training and seminars on peacekeeping. These change their attitude towards using arms to resolve the conflict. But in negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the ultimate responsibility rests with the government: only the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are involved. For women to participate in this type of conflict resolution, they must hold one of these two positions. Nevertheless, women are involved in the informal sphere of conflict resolution, working with women from the "other side". They take part in roundtables, conferences, joint projects, to try to build confidence and look for peaceful ways to resolve the conflict.
Education opens doors for all, irrespective of gender. It deepens knowledge and the ability to analyse and reason, which allows individuals to make correct decisions and prevent them from being used by anyone for personal gain. Learning to listen to and understand others is key. Peacebuilding is about preventing a conflict from escalating into armed conflict. A lack of education affects the future of the individual, especially in a post conflict setting.
Today, women in Armenia continue to live in an atmosphere of uncertainty. The voices of women directly affected by the war are not heard in decision-making on peace and security issues, and their opinions, thoughts, and particular needs are not taken into account in peace talks.
Though at the moment direct violence has stopped, the risk remains high of another war on an even larger scale. In such a situation, it is vital to educate women around community-based activism and involvement in peace processes.
Hakima Chaoui • Marocco
Education increases knowledge and raises awareness of the value of human beings, their role in life, and the importance of living in peace and security. Through programmes and courses which promote values of equality, tolerance and nonviolence, education informs of the dangers of conflict to the individual and society. It also tells you of the psychological and social impacts of conflict which has a particular impact on women and girls.
Denying women and girls education increases their vulnerability to oppression and all forms of violence. Without education they are unable to engage in conflict resolution, and their ability to build peace and participate in conflict prevention activities is weakened.
For both boys and girls, peace/tolerance /diversity education would lead to conflict prevention at all levels. Formal secondary education is patriarchal at its core, and rather non-sensitive in terms of minority groups and gender. In this part of the world where we have more or less equal access to education for all, focusing on its quality, narratives and changing of role models can ensure the higher-level participation of women and girls.
Violence is widespread across different categories of the community. However, the less educated and women and girls in particular are more vulnerable to violence. When resources are few, many families will still think first of sending the boy child to school. Most communities still hold the belief that males are the traditional breadwinners and so ought to be considered first for possible employment. With more education, people's economic status changes and they become more empowered to make better choices in their lives.
Tajyka Shabdanova • Kyrgyzstan
Education in our context is understood as knowledge about different school subjects, such as math, history, language, geography, etc. There is lack of education on personal development, critical thinking, understanding of diversity, non-violence communication and conflict solving.
Access to a varied education is important for preventing and solving conflicts in nonviolent ways. Women and girls have a strong capacity to change situations because here it is mostly women who take care of children in the family and spread both positive and negative ideas. There are strong perceptions among some women groups that violence is a tradition: they have been violent and other women will be so too.