Women's
Active Roles
in Conflict 
Prevention
 


What active roles are women playing
in your country to prevent conflict?

 

Sophie Toupin • Canada

Women peace activists and researchers have been lobbying and advocating for years members of parliament in addition to inform the Canadian public about peacebuilding, conflict prevention and the important role women play in these issues.  As the window for participation in policy making has been considerably reduced, Canadian women peace activists have been trying to join forces with other groups and institutions at home and from all over the world to foster ideas of peace and prevent conflicts.

Among them, is the creation of the Women, Peace and Security Network - Canada (WPSN-C) a loose network composed of Canadian individuals, NGOs, and scholars who aim at monitoring the Canadian government's efforts in relation to women, peace and security. Also, there has been the creation of public campaigns to heighten the awareness of the Canadian public on such issues, the organising of conferences, the writing of books (such as the recently published: Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies), the writing of op-eds to newspapers, among others.   

Moreover, in order to tackle issues at home, First Nations women have played a key role in bringing to the fore the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. Actions have involved: an attempt to document this scourge in creating databases, a request for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, campaigns such as Idle No More to denounce Canadian bills and/or laws, which are deemed to heighten the vulnerability of and encroach on the sovereignty of First Nations Peoples.

Visaka Dharmadasa • Sri Lanka

Women of Sri Lanka have played and are playing a significant role to prevent conflict, they make bridges across religious and ethnic divides, they reach to others and also they accept others more easily. Most importantly they try to mitigate any uneasy feelings and tensions between families and communities they are key to the reconciliation process.

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls • Fiji

Women's civil society in Fiji has a rich ‘her' story when it comes to preventing conflict particularly through a range of approaches since the crises of 2000 – this has included organising vigils, organising rural networks to enable women's participation and interactive dialogues with government officials particularly through the innovative use of community media including community radio; in the transition to parliamentary democracy women's rights groups have been working in partnership to enhance women's political participation." 

 

Gender Focal Point
 North America (Canada)

 

Sophie Toupin

"As the window for participation in policy
making has been considerably reduced, Canadian women peace activists have
been trying to join forces with other
groups and institutions at home
and from all over the world
to foster ideas of peace
and prevent conflicts."

Maja Vitas • Serbia

Women in Serbia and the region of the Western Balkans represent a majority of actors involved in civilian peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Women played a crucial part in two areas of conflict prevention during the wars in 1990s as well as in the present, namely: peace and conflict resolution education and anti-war activism. 

Building on the fact that a vast majority of primary and secondary school teachers in Serbia are women, they have taken a leading role in peace and conflict resolution education.

Gyung Lan Jung • South Korea

 Peace education including conflict
    resolution training programs.

 Exchanges between North and
    South Korean women. At the
    moment, the South Korean
    government does not give us
    permission to meet North Korean
    women, so it is difficult to meet them.

 Advocacy on UN 1325.

Isabella Sargsyan • Armenia

There are a few levels where women are playing roles to prevent conflict.

Firstly, there is a vivid group of NGOs and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) who are advocating for gender equality, women rights and participation. Some of these NGOs are part of unofficial coalition for UN SR1325. They are lobbying for adoption of National Action Plan and implementation of the resolution at large. 

Secondly, there are women journalists and civic activists who are constantly writing about human security, cost of the conflict, human rights violations in the army, the rights of soldiers and their families. It is a small but very vocal group which is active both in the media and social sphere. And finally, there are grass-roots women from various crossborder and conflict affected regions who are involved in education, civic activism and community mobilisation.

Sajida Abdulvahabova • Azerbaijan

On September 6, 2002, twenty-two women from different strata of society – Parliament, state agencies, NGO community, political parties and mass media – met in the UN House in Azerbaijan. The group initiated the establishment of a new women Coalition in Azerbaijan, entitled 'Coalition 1325',  in support of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

The coalition advocates for the increasing the role of Azerbaijani women in decision-making with regard of conflict prevention and resolution at the national, regional and international levels. 'Coalition 1325' aims to involve refugee and IDP women in peacebuilding process, to promote a culture of peace and establish cooperation with women coalitions working on similar issues abroad.

Paula Banerjee • India

Even though women remain largely excluded from formal peace negotiations, there have been cases of the involvement of women's peace organizations taking part in peace processes, particularly in Nagaland, India. Most notable of the Naga women's peace groups are the Naga Mothers Association (NMA) and they have been very active in the politics for peace in Northeast India. The NMA came into existence on February 14, 1984, with a preamble that stated, "Naga mothers of Nagaland shall express the need of rising awareness for citizens towards more responsible living and human development through the voluntary organisation of the Naga Mother's Association." The NMA mediated between the Government of Nagaland and the Naga Student's Federation over age limit for jobs and came to an equitable settlement. An achievement of NMA is the formation of the Peace Team in October 1994 to confront the deteriorating political situation. Their theme was Shed No More Blood. The NMA spoke against killings not only by the army but also by the militants.  In a pamphlet released on 25th May 1995, the representatives of NMA wrote that: "the way in which our society is being run whether by the over ground government or the underground government, have become simply intolerable."

While continuing to do social work, women remain involved in peacemaking in Nagaland. They are particularly effective in inter-ethnic conflict. In 2001 they travelled by feet to Myanmar to make peace between the two factions of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).  In 2010 they tried to retain peace between the Nagas and the Assamese and went to Assam to convince the people there that maintaining peace between the two communities was advantageous for both. While working for peace they work for empowerment of women by trying to implement the presence of 33 per cent women in their local self government.  For that they have even litigated against the Hohos who were their traditional partners against the hegemonic state.   In the context of India you cannot separate the political from the social as one impacts on the other.  Women's role in de-addiction gave Naga women  the legitimacy to demand leadership role in peacemaking. This might be explained by the fact that the NMA has assumed enormous influence in Naga politics which is borne out by the fact that they are the only women's group in South Asia who has participated in a cease-fire negotiation between the Government of India (GOI) and the NSCN.
  
As the Chief Minister of Manipur was quoted in a leading newspaper, "saying Manipur is today veritably on fire and the major onus of dousing this fire rests on the shoulders of our womenfolk who have always taken a major role in the shaping the history of the land. He said there are no sons who will not listen to their mothers, no brother who cannot be influenced by their sister." Thus expectation of women's abilities to resolve conflict is high in Manipur as well. In this way Manipur is not exceptional and in much of Northeast India today peacemaking, particularly inter-community peacemaking, is seen as women's role. However, in formal peacemaking bodies, in particular state women, do not find much space. Gender issues are not addressed by and large in the peace negotiations undertaken by the state. The Shillong Accord between the Naga rebels and the GOI had no agenda on gender justice and it ultimately failed. But the Mizo Peace Accord is still active and in place although very little is said about women in that Accord. In Nagaland, peace negotiation is still going on and there is a ceasefire in existence. UNSCR 1325 is well known to all peace activists but that has not made much difference to their position by and large. Although the state is unwilling or unable to integrate gender justice within the formal peace processes, women activists in much of Northeast call for peace as they realise that peace gives them the possibility to assume leadership roles in society and make their world more just.