Month: November 2018

Month: November 2018

Bengali and Rohingya Women Read, Lead and Build Peace Together

Bengali and Rohingya Women Read, Lead and Build Peace Together

November 29, 2018 by Mallika Iyer*

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Katrina Leclerc

“Participation, prevention, and protection,” a chorus of 31 young women learning about the pillars of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 chanted. These young women are Bangladesh’s new members of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace, hailing from Ramu and Ukhiya Upazillas (sub-divisions), Cox’s Bazar.

The Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) is an initiative of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) under its Young Women for Peace and Leadership program.  It aims to empower young women and girls in conflict-affected environments and humanitarian situations to be positive role models in peacebuilding and countering violent extremism in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan. NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, a UAE-based organization has partnered with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders to implement the programme in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Following focus group discussions and meetings with local authorities, civil society, and the local population in Ukhiya Upazilla and the Chittagong municipality in January 2018, the GNWP team returned to Cox’s Bazar between October 17 – 21, 2018, to facilitate the Training of the Trainors: Girl Ambassadors for Peace with 31 local young women.  

The training focused on leadership, peacebuilding, economic empowerment and financial literacy, social media, participatory theater, and literacy and numeracy education. It was conducted in partnership with Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta (Women Rise Up), a community-based organisation in Cox’s Bazar. The young women drafted business plans for pickle-making, tailoring, and duck-raising; prepared resumes; participated in mock interviews; designed social media campaigns on gender equality; and, outlined strategies to use theatre to promote peacebuilding and open dialogue in their communities. The young women also learned about how to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, and 2250 on women, peace, and security; and youth, peace, and security in their local communities.

The Girl Ambassadors for Peace members in Bangladesh during the October training.

On November 9, 2018, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace who participated in the Training of Trainors conducted a foundational literacy and numeracy class with 62 Rohingya women in Balukhali Refugee Camp, Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar. This is the first in a series of literacy and numeracy classes that the GA4P members will teach with Rohingya women and local women in the host community in Ramu Upazilla.

GNWP anticipates that more Rohingya women will enroll in the literacy classes in the coming months since many have expressed interest after they have observed the first classes. About 63 local Bangladeshi women have registered for the literacy and numeracy classes in Ramu Upazilla. The classes will be conducted bi-monthly with women from the Rohingya and host communities. By providing this training, the young women in Bangladesh have taken the first step in empowering themselves and countless women all around them.

A Girl Ambassador for Peace practicing conducting a basic numeracy lesson.

Literacy rates are as low as 26 and 28.8 percent in Ramu and Ukhiya Upazillas according to a January 2018 report from Humanitarian Response. The GA4P members will teach reading and writing in Bangla to women from the local host community in Ramu Upazilla; and English to Rohingya refugees. 

Based on a report from UN Women in August 2018 most female refugees – 52 percent of the 1.3 million registered refugees in Bangladesh–were denied formative education. As the Rohingya language does not have its own script, the majority of Rohingya women are illiterate. While there are approximately 1,179 learning centers in the refugee camps across the Cox’s Bazar area, only four percent of young women between the ages of 15 to 18 have access to education, Relief International reported in January 2018, There is also a lack of age-appropriate, gender-sensitive education for female Rohingya refugees. To address this gap, GNWP has developed gender-sensitive and age-appropriate training materials which the GA4P members are using to teach Rohingya women.

From 1978, Bangladesh has been the primary destination for Rohingya asylum-seekers due to its proximity to Myanmar, the Bangladeshi government’s initial recognition of the humanitarian needs of undocumented migrants, and a shared religion. The latest influx of refugees in 2017 brought the total Rohingya population in Bangladesh to 1.3 million.

Tensions between the host population and the Rohingya asylum-seekers have been rising due to competing demands for resources. The long-existing and worsening poverty among the local host community in Cox’s Bazar manifested through under-employment, under-investment, and limited access to education and other social services has been magnified by the influx of the Rohingyas. This has created disparity and resentment between the two communities. Rohingya refugees have also been accused of being used by local criminal groups and drug traffickers in the importation of the drug Ya Ba.

The role of young women in dispelling anti-Rohingya rhetoric and negative perceptions developing within the host community; and promoting harmonious relationships between local Bengalis and Rohingyas is crucial. The new members of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace will work to create positive dialogues between the two communities, beginning with providing basic literacy and numeracy education to Rohingyas and local women from the host community in Cox’s Bazar.  Literacy education is the first step towards empowerment and transformation for young women.


*The author is a Program Officer at GNWP.

Ensuring local ownership for effective implementation: Localization of UNSCR 1325 in Iraq

Ensuring local ownership for effective implementation: Localization of UNSCR 1325 in Iraq

November 17, 2018 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos*

Beirut, Lebanon

“Iraq has a strong legal framework for women’s empowerment; we must now ensure that these laws and policies are implemented” declared Qassem Abdullah Jasim, the head of the Secretariat of Iraq’s Cross-Sectoral Task Force (CSTF) for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 during the opening of the Localization Consultation workshop organized by GNWP. The workshop was held in Beirut, Lebanon on 16-17 November 2018 in partnership with Women’s Empowerment Organization (WEO), CSTF and with support from Global Affairs Canada.

Iraq was the first Arab country to adopt a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in 2014. Four years later, the country faces a different reality, due to the war with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In December 2017, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a victory over ISIL. However, insecurity persists in many parts of the country, and the impacts of the conflict are still evident. As the country develops its second NAP, it is critical to reflect on how its implementation could best respond to the changing nature of the conflict.

The Localization Consultation provided a space for such reflection. It brought together key NAP stakeholders – both government and civil society – from the Baghdad Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil. During the two days, they listened to expert presentations about Localization approach – an internationally recognized key strategy for NAP implementation – as well as about the decentralization system in Iraq and its implications for WPS implementation in governorates.

The participants discussed lessons learned from Iraq’s first NAP; identified tools that local governments have at their disposal to implement WPS, such as drafting local policies and Local Action Plans; and came up with concrete steps for ensuring NAP implementation at both national and local levels. They also worked on a “roadmap” for the completion of the 2nd NAP, assessing the progress thus far and assigning concrete timelines and responsibilities for the remaining tasks. The CSTF hopes to launch the NAP in summer 2019.

At the end of the second day of the consultation, the Iraqi stakeholders were joined by civil society representatives from Lebanon and Syria, who shared their perspectives on NAP development and WPS implementation. The regional experience exchange provided useful insights into the good practices of NAP planning. An important message was the need to include refugee women in the consultations and development of the NAP.

Inclusivity; local approach; and strong coordination are the essential elements of a high-impact NAP. In order to be implemented, Iraq’s 2nd NAP has to integrate these principles. The Localization Consultation was the first step towards ensuring that the plan is inclusive and locally-driven. GNWP looks forward to continuing the work with the CSTF and other key stakeholders to effectively implement the WPS resolutions in Iraq!

*The author is a Program Coordinator at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

Not an afterthought: Integrating a media strategy in Iraq’s 2nd National Action Plan on Resolution 1325

Not an afterthought: Integrating a media strategy in Iraq’s 2nd National Action Plan on Resolution 1325

November 15, 2018 by Dinah Lakehal*

Edited by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos and Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

 Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

What is the relationship between journalism, peace, and gender? According to a female journalist working in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, “The role of mass media is to break the traditionally conservative stereotypes around gender in Iraq, but also to report on our government and hold it accountable.” This conversation took place during the workshop on the role of the media in implementing the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325, organized in Erbil on November 15 by GNWP in partnership with Women’s Empowerment Organization (WEO), and with support from Global Affairs Canada. The workshop convened journalists from across Iraq to discuss how media can highlight women’s roles as leaders, peacebuilders and decision-makers; and to draft a comprehensive media and communications strategy for  Iraq’s 2nd National Action Plan (NAP) on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and its supporting resolutions.

Media reporters who adopt a gender lens become key actors in promoting broad public awareness of WPS, and support and recognition of the role women play in preventing conflict, building and sustaining peace. This is particularly important in a context such as Iraq, where the war with the Islamic State has left a lasting impact on the entire society, including in particular women. However, while there is no better partner than media in advancing the role of women in peace and security, media is often an after-thought in the implementation of WPS. Put simply, media is often not considered a key partner in building and sustaining a gender-sensitive peace. In addition, policy-makers, civil society, and other stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of NAPs often speak in policy jargon, rendering their work “unattractive” to the press.

The workshop is part of GNWP’s broader work with media around the world to raise awareness of the WPS resolutions, stimulate debates, and generate public support for implementation. It is a component of GNWP’s “full cycle” approach to NAP implementation, which involves advocacy for the development of NAPs; drafting; costing and budgeting; implementation –especially through Localization; media partnership for broad-base awareness and support; and monitoring and evaluation.

The participants analyzed the media portrayal of women and men living in conflict-affected regions, such as Basra or Mosul; and discussed how to ensure gender-representativeness in reporting.  

Through the interactive discussions and hands-on exercises, the journalists drafted a media and communications strategy for the 2nd NAP. They worked hand in hand with representatives of the Cross-Sectoral Task Force (CSTF) on UNSCR 1325, responsible for drafting and implementing the NAP. The members of the CSTF committed to strengthening the coordination with media practitioners. Moreover, they committed to ensuring that rather than being an afterthought, the strategy will be integrated into the plan, and will form its integral 


Some of the measures to be included in the media and communications strategy are:

– Train journalists on the NAP, human rights treaties and international documents, such as CEDAW;

– Include a media expert within the CSTF 1325;

– Institutionalize media work across all government branches;

– Report on positive stories of peacebuilding;

– Report on local women’s perspectives in conflict-affected cities or communities;

– Produce more “creative” content related to WPS using theatre, documentaries, music, etc., to attract wider audiences; and

– Conduct more investigative journalism on gender-based violence and other impacts of conflict on women.

GNWP and WEO will work closely with the CSTF 1325 and a local media expert to finalize the strategy and ensure that it is integrated into the NAP.


*The author is a Program Officer at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

GNWP welcomes young woman from South Sudan as 2018-2019 new Cora Weiss for Peacebuilding Fellow

GNWP welcomes young woman from South Sudan as 2018-2019 new Cora Weiss for Peacebuilding Fellow

November 23, 2018 by Mallika Iyer

Edited by Katrina Leclerc

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is proud to introduce Nyuon Susan Sebit, the third recipient of the Cora Weiss Fellowship for Young Women Peacebuilders. The Cora Weiss Fellowship was established in 2016 to honor long-time women, peace and security champion, Ms. Cora Weiss. Through this fellowship, young women have the opportunity to join the GNWP International Coordinating Team for one year where they work to promote effective implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 2250, and the supporting resolutions on women, peace, and security; and youth, peace and security, particularly at the national and local levels. Cora Weiss Fellows also participate in the implementation and coordination of the Young Women for Peace and Leadership Program (also known as Girl Ambassadors for Peace), which aims to build the capacities of young women in conflict-affected areas or in humanitarian situations with a specific focus on leadership, literacy, peacebuilding, preventing violent extremism, and economic empowerment.

As a human rights lawyer from Juba, South Sudan, Susan brings to GNWP her experience in advocating for women’s access to justice in East Africa. She is also the co-founder and Executive Director for the National Alliance for Women Lawyers where she worked towards ending violence against women and implementing the women, peace, and security agenda in South Sudan. An active member of her community, Susan served as a legal advisor to the African Union Youth Parliament; Christian Lawyers of South Sudan; and the Legacy for African Women and Children. She hopes to use the knowledge she gains and the networks she establishes from the fellowship to improve women’s participation in all aspects of leadership during conflict and post-conflict recovery in South Sudan.

The Cora Weiss Fellowship for Young Women Peacebuilders provides opportunities for young women leaders who share Cora Weiss’ vision for sustainable peace and gender equality as strong and integral parts of the global culture. Ms. Weiss is a strong supporter of the United Nations, an early member of Women Strike for Peace (WSP), serving on its national board from 1961-1973. She was a leader in the anti-Vietnam war movement in the United States and was the co-chair and director of the Committee of Liaison (COL) with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam from 1969-1972. As part of this group, Ms. Weiss organized the exchange of mail between Prisoners of War (POW) in Vietnam and their families where she and the COL arranged for the return of some POWs. She is the president of the Hague Appeal for Peace and was the president of the International Peace Bureau from 2000-2006. Ms. Weiss was one of the civil society drafters of the ground-breaking UNSCR 1325.

Pictured: Susan and Ms. Cora Weiss at the United Nations Headquarters on October 24, 2018.

Inspired by Ms. Weiss’ achievements, Susan, like the past two fellows from Nepal and Nigeria, joins GNWP’s International Coordinating Team to fulfill its mission to empower women and amplify their voices to build sustainable and inclusive peace.