Year: 2022

Year: 2022

The Importance of Women’s Rights in War and Peace: An Eastern Europe and South Caucasus case study

20 December 2022

By Beatriz Valdés Correa*

Prior to the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine,[1] Ukrainian women’s organizations were focused on assembling a gender equality agenda covering fundamental women’s rights issues, such as guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive rights, fighting against domestic and sexual violence, and increasing women’s representation as decision-makers at both the local and national level. When war struck in 2014, it quickly became apparent that there were no tools in place to protect women against atrocious war crimes on top of an already urgent women’s rights agenda.

In 2016, the Ukrainian government adopted its National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). When Russia invaded the country again in 2022, Ukraine had the economic resources and protocols in place to respond to the damages that conflict and war have on women and girls.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for other Eastern European and South Caucasus countries. For example, since 2008, after 14 years of war with Russia, Georgia still has more than 200,000 forcibly displaced persons, many of whom are women that need vital support. In Moldova, the government and civil society have been struggling to accommodate the influx of more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees since February 2022.

In countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova —– all countries that for the past 20 years have lived and suffered the consequences of war — – the implementation of UNSCR 1325 is moving forward at a much slower pace.

The Regional Conference on Women, Peace and Security in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus took place in Vienna from the 9-10 June 2022. It was convened by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Twenty women representatives from the above countries, accompanied by partners from Germany and Austria, discussed the following:

  • Accomplishments from the implementation of UNSCR 1325;
  • Challenges and recommendations for recognizing the differential effects of war on women in order to promote gender equality in peacebuilding;
  • Shared priorities to build solidarity and strengthen cooperation in response to the regional crisis; and
  • Intersections between the Women, Peace and Security and the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agendas, the Sustaining Peace resolutions, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Lack of financing and discrimination: the two sides of the same coin

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [2] and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been key to States recognizing and implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in the region. Despite UNSCR 1325 being widely recognized as essential, it has been far harder to realize its implementation. “Implementation needs money. Years have gone by, and nothing has changed. We have concluded that without state structures, organizations are not strong enough to implement the resolution. We do not have the legal capabilities of doing it,” stated Sajida Abdulbahabova, Director at the Women’s Problems Research Union in Azerbaijan.

The same is true in Armenia. Knarik Mkrtchyan, a young woman peacebuilder, and representative of the organization Women’s Agenda, shared that they do not have financing from the government to implement the NAP. Still, with the work of other institutions and NGOs, they have managed to comprehensively advance the resolution and training of women as mediators.

In these two cases, along with Moldova, the lack of financing has impeded the process of Localization – GNWP’s pioneering strategy to convene important local actors to discuss how to effectively implement, or “localize,” the NAP in their community. While leaders recognize the success of this strategy and its ability to involve both local authorities and women from rural areas, there are still many regions to reach.

Underfunding of the WPS agenda and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 has had notable consequences, including a failure to address issues of low political participation and violence against women. In Armenia, Lida Minasyan, representative of Women’s Agenda, says the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has had serious repercussions, especially for young women: “We are seen only as mothers,” Minasyan stated. For Minasyan, women being sidelined as caregivers makes leadership difficult. “Women must take part in negotiations,” she insisted. 

In Moldova, Nina Lozinschi, representative of Gender-Centru, warned that violence against women continues and is disregarded. “We no longer have to deal with COVID-19. We have war, sexual abuses, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and criminal groups,” she explained.

Women’s rights: On pause because of war

As is the case in Ukraine, implementing UNSCR 1325 and financing women-led organizations and local authorities in times of peace might ease humanitarian action when conflict arrives.

It is also important that, despite conflict, countries do not ignore the rest of women’s rights. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GNWP explained, “When you have war, it is hard to safeguard non-conflict-related women’s rights because the infrastructure, including social institutions and government, is at its weakest point. Let’s say I am a Ukrainian woman and need sexual and reproductive health services, I need to access an abortion and the government’s response is: “Yes, I know, but our hospitals are hardly working. We have to care for wounded soldiers and feed our army because they are fighting for our country. You will have to wait.”

For Cabrera-Balleza, just like the other regional leaders, women’s rights, such as access to education and medical attention, cannot be ignored. On the contrary, the answer must come with alternative responses in the face of war. Some were proposed by the participants of the conference:

  • Strong commitment from governments to ensure dedicated funding for NAPs’ implementation and projects of local organizations;
  • Guarantee access to psychological and physical care, especially for gender-based violence survivors;
  • Invest in the Localization strategy to provide humanitarian aid to small and disadvantaged towns; and
  • Develop relationships with the media and establish other information channels that allow for useful and truthful information to reach people at risk, especially displaced women and girls, such as where to obtain humanitarian aid and other available services.

“Women’s rights must be respected, whether in war or peace, at all moments. That is why we refer to them as undivided rights, because they apply to all situations,” Cabrera-Balleza stated.

The conference ended with a conversation about Ukraine and a plea from women’s organizations: “Help us survive,” said Uliana Dorosh, Municipality Representative from Ukraine. Her message, and those of her partners, is directed toward women’s organizations around the world and the media, but above all, to the United Nations and the international community. “No one will be safe until the Russians are stopped: not Armenia, not Moldova, not Latvia, not anyone,” urged Maria Dmytrieva.

* Beatriz Valdés Correa is the first place winner of the first Global Media for WPS Award launched in March 2022. As part of her winning prize, she traveled to Vienna for the Regional Conference on WPS in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus hosted by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). This article is a reflection from Beatriz’s participation in the Regional Conference and will be published on the GNWP website as well as in a national newspaper in Colombia. This version has been translated from its original language, Spanish, for ease and distribution to global audiences.

[1] In February and March 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine to its territory.

[2] War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region after the Soviet Union dissolution. GNWP works fervently with Armenian and Azerbaijani peacebuilders and relevant stakeholders to support the WPS and YPS agendas. It seeks to strengthen peacebuilding and trust building efforts between the two parties to promote inclusive and sustainable peace in the region.

La importancia de los derechos de las mujeres en la guerra y en la paz: El caso de estudio de Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur

Por Beatriz Valdés Correa*

Antes de la invasión de Rusia a Ucrania en 2014[1], las organizaciones de mujeres ucranianas estaban enfocadas en armar una agenda de equidad de género que garantizara los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres, luchar contra la violencia en contexto doméstico y la violencia sexual y en trabajar con autoridades del nivel nacional y local para que las mujeres hicieran parte de la toma de decisiones. Cuando llegó la guerra en 2014, se hizo aparente la falta de herramientas para proteger a las mujeres de crímenes de guerra atroces, además de la agenda de derechos de las mujeres que ya era necesaria.

En 2016, el gobierno de Ucrania adoptó el Plan Nacional de Acción (PNA) en cumplimiento de la Resolución 1325 del Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas (RCSNU) sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS). Cuando Rusia nuevamente invadió el país en febrero de 2022, Ucrania tenía los recursos económicos y protocolos para atender las afectaciones que los conflictos armados generan en las mujeres y las niñas.

Sin embargo, esta no es la constante en los países de Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur. Por ejemplo, no es el caso de Georgia, que tras 14 años de la guerra con Rusia en 2008, todavía tiene más de 200,000 personas desplazadas, entre esas muchas mujeres a las que debe atender. En Moldavia, tanto el gobierno como la sociedad civil ha tenido que enfrentar diversos retos para albergar a más de 460,000 personas refugiadas ucranianas desde Febrero de 2022.

En Azerbaiyán, Moldavia, Armenia y Georgia – todos países vecinos que en los últimos 20 años han vivido y sufrido las consecuencias de las guerras – la implementación de la RCSNU 1325 avanza a un paso más lento y es frágil.

La Conferencia Regional sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad en Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur, se llevó a cabo el 9 y 10 de Junio de 2022 en Viena. Fue convocada por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés), con el apoyo de la Agencia de Cooperación Austríaca para el Desarrollo (ADA). Veinte mujeres representantes de organizaciones de mujeres de los países mencionados anteriormente, así como acompañantes internacionales de Alemania y Austria, conversaron sobre:

  • Los avances de la implementación de la RCSNU 1325;
  • Retos y posibles soluciones para que los países de esta región reconozcan los impactos diferenciados de los conflictos en las mujeres, las protejan y las tengan en cuenta en la toma de decisiones para la construcción de la paz; y
  • Las sinergias entre las resoluciones de Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad, Juventud, Paz y Seguridad (JPS), y sobre las resoluciones sobre el Mantenimiento de Paz, así como de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible

Falta de financiación y discriminación: dos caras de la misma moneda

Los conflictos como el de Nagorno Karabaj[2] o la invasión rusa a Ucrania, han sido clave que los Estados reconozcan e implementen la RCSNU1325 sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad en la región. Aunque se ha reconocido como esencial la RCSNU 1325, su implementación ha sido más difícil de lograr. “La implementación necesita dinero. Han pasado los años y no ha pasado nada. Hemos llegado a la conclusión que, sin estructuras estatales, las organizaciones no son lo suficientemente fuertes para implementar la resolución. No tenemos la posibilidad legal de hacerlo”, afirmó Sajida Abdulbahabova, directora del Sindicato de Investigación sobre los Asuntos de las Mujeres, de Azerbaiyán.

Lo mismo ocurre en Armenia. Knarik Mkrtchyan, representante de la Agenda de las Mujeres de este país y joven constructora de paz, contó que no cuentan con la financiación del gobierno para implementar el PNA. Sin embargo, a través del trabajo con algunas instituciones y organizaciones no gubernamentales han logrado avanzar en la comprensión de la Resolución y en la formación de mujeres mediadoras.

En estos dos casos, así como en Moldavia, la falta de financiación no ha permitido aumentar el alcance del proceso de Localización – la estrategia pionera de GNWP para organizar a actores locales clave para discutir cómo se puede implementar efectivamente, o “localizar”, el PNA en su comunidad. A pesar que las líderesas reconocen que ha sido un éxito y han logrado involucrar tanto a las autoridades locales como a las mujeres de áreas rurales, identifican que todavía quedan muchos lugares a los que deben llegar.

La escasez de financiamiento de la agenda MPS y la implementación de la RCSNU 1325 tiene como consecuencia la inacción frente a puntos cruciales como la participación política, la prevención de violencias y la atención a las mismas. En Armenia, según Lida Minasyan, representante de la Agenda de las Mujeres de Armenia, el conflicto Nagorno Karabaj dejó una consecuencia grave, sobre todo para las jóvenes: “Nos ven como potenciales madres”, dijo Minasyan. Para ella volver al paradigma de las mujeres relegadas únicamente al campo del cuidado representa un atraso que dificulta sus liderazgos. “Es crucial que las mujeres participen en las negociaciones”, insistió.

Por el lado de Moldavia, Nina Lozinschi, representante de Gender-Centru, advirtió que la violencia contra las mujeres continúa y no se le presta la suficiente atención. “Ya no tenemos Covid-19. Tenemos la guerra, abusos sexuales, trata de personas, explotación sexual y grupos criminales”, explicó Lozinschi.

Los derechos de las mujeres: en pausa por las guerras

Como sucedió en Ucrania en los primeros días de la invasión de este año, implementar la RCSNU 1325 y financiar las organizaciones lideradas por mujeres y autoridades locales, podría hacer menos complicada la acción humanitaria cuando el conflicto se presente.

Es importante que, a pesar del conflicto, los países no ignoren los -otros- derechos de las mujeres. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, fundadora y CEO de lGNWP, lo explica así: “Cuando tienes guerra es difícil lograr otros derechos de las mujeres porque la base, que son las instituciones sociales, incluido el gobierno, está en su punto más débil. Digamos que soy ucraniana y necesito Servicios de Atención a la Salud Sexual y Reproductiva. Necesito abortar y el gobierno puede decir: “sí, lo sabemos, pero nuestros hospitales apenas funcionan. Tenemos que atender a los soldados heridos, tenemos que alimentar a nuestro ejército porque están defendiendo a nuestro país. Deberás esperar”.

Para Cabrera-Balleza, igual que para otras líderesas de la región, no se pueden perder de vista derechos como el acceso a la educación o la atención médica. Por el contrario, la respuesta debería venir con alternativas posibles en la guerra. Algunas de estas fueron propuestas por las asistentes a la conferencia: 

  • Que los donantes conozcan y crean en la necesidad de financiar los PNA y los proyectos de las organizaciones;
  • Garantizar el acceso a una atención psicológica y física adecuada, especialmente para sobrevivientes de violencias de género;
  • Apostarle a aplicar la estrategia de localización para dar ayuda humanitaria a las comunidades pequeñas y desprotegidas; y
  • Tejer relaciones con medios de comunicación y establecer otros canales de información que permitan entregar información útil y veraz a las personas en riesgo, especialmente a las mujeres y niñas desplazadas, como dónde obtener ayuda humanitaria y otros servicios disponibles.

“Los derechos de las mujeres deben ser respetados, ya sea en la guerra o en la paz, en todo momento. Por eso nos referimos a ellos como indivisibles, porque se aplican en todas las situaciones”, dice Cabrera-Balleza.

El encuentro terminó con una conversación sobre Ucrania y un llamado claro de las mujeres: “Ayúdennos a sobrevivir”, dijo Uliana Dorosh, Representante Municipal de Ucrania. Su mensaje, como el de sus compañeras, estuvo dirigido a las organizaciones de mujeres de los demás países y a los medios de comunicación, pero también, y sobre todo, a las Naciones Unidas y a la comunidad internacional. “Hasta que los rusos no se detengan, ninguna nación estará a salvo: ni Armenia ni Moldavia ni Latvia ni nadie”, afirmó María Dmytrieva.

* Beatriz Valdés Correa es ganadora del primer lugar del Primer Premio Global sobre Medios y MPS llevado a cabo en Marzo de 2022. Como parte de su premio, viajó a Viena para la Conferencia Regional sobre MPS en Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur organizado por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Agencia de Cooperación Austríaca para el Desarrollo (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés).

[1] En febrero y marzo de 2014, Rusia invadió y posteriormente anexó la península ucraniana de Crimea a su territorio.

[2] La Guerra estalló entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán por la región en disputa después de la desintegración de la Unión Soviética. GNWP trabaja fervientemente con constructoras de paz y actores clave importantes de Armenia y Azerbaiyán para apoyar las Agendas MPS y JPS. Busca fortalecer los esfuerzos de construcción de paz y generación de confianza entre las partes para promover una paz sostenible e inclusiva en la región.

Climate Change Worsens Gender-Based Violence: Here’s How the WPS Agenda Can Help

8 December 2022

By Jenaina Irani*

Climate change is a growing threat to progress, peace, security, and human rights. The negative impacts of climate change often have gendered impacts and are another barrier to achieving gender equality. The climate crisis is also a threat multiplier. The impacts of conflict and climate change affect people differently depending on the power dynamics of their context. Additional stresses on social, political, and economic infrastructures lead to increased vulnerability for women and girls in patriarchal societies. Consequently, the lack of support and protection mechanisms allows violence and exploitation to flourish, harming vulnerable and conflict-affected groups.

Although generally lacking in coordination, the international community has been increasingly raising the alarm on climate threats. In October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls described climate change as “the most consequential threat multiplier for women and girls, with far-reaching impacts on new and existing forms of gendered inequities.” Women and girls in conflict-affected regions progressively experience the disastrous consequences of unmitigated climate degradation, notably in the form of rising mental, physical, and sexual violence.

CARE International has termed gender inequality reinforced by climate change a “double injustice.” There are many manifestations of this injustice, and they are continually growing and evolving. Intense heat and droughts are forcing millions of people to flee their homes, causing internal displacement and forced migration to other countries. In the Central American “Dry Corridor,” forced displacement is many people’s only means of survival. In such cases, women and girls face the double-edged sword of seeking environmental stability despite significant risks of sexual violence and physical insecurity. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), women and girls constitute 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change.

In rural Uganda, prolonged drought has increased the time and frequency that women and girls need to gather water and food. Similarly, the continued depletion of natural resources in Peru means that women and girls must walk further into the forest to fetch water daily. In both of these contexts, and for many other women worldwide, these long and often unaccompanied journeys leave women and girls vulnerable to physical attack, sexual exploitation, and violence.

Not only do women and girls face threats of violence by simply existing in contexts impacted by climate change, but women environmental human rights defenders have become increasingly targeted for their efforts. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is utilized to suppress their activism and intimidate others to abandon their advocacy. Sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls are also used as forms of control over natural resources — for land grabbing, gaining property rights, and more. In defending human and environmental rights, women from indigenous communities who have been actively practicing environmental conservation and nature protection for generations continue to put their lives at risk.

Despite these challenges, women are far from passive victims of conflict or climate change. Research and policy continue to overwhelmingly posit women as vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Yet, we know that women’s “unique environmental knowledge is invaluable for peacebuilding efforts” and that their meaningful participation is vital for developing community adaptation and resilience.

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda arose to address the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and also acknowledges and supports the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict prevention, conflict management, and sustainable peace efforts. The WPS agenda is invaluable for ensuring women’s inclusion as agents of change in climate action, peace and security. Their activism offers essential lessons on tackling these compounding threats and building a sustainable future.

One pathway for action is to support women and girls’ participation in efforts to address climate-related security risks. The most in-depth review assessing National Action Plans (NAPs) on WPS found that only 17 of 80 reviewed NAPs mention climate change. Only three have a significant mention or action toward addressing it. There is a clear need to integrate climate action into NAPs on WPS.

Every day, women fight for a world free from gender-based violence, inequality, and the social, cultural, and human rights catastrophe of environmental degradation. It has never been more necessary to ensure their meaningful participation in policy- and decision- making on climate change response for a safe and sustainable future.

*Jenaina Irani is a Researcher at GNWP

GNWP Reports from Cauca and Tolima, Colombia

29 November 2022

By Cecilia Lazara*

The winds of change are blowing in Colombia. Despite the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and slow progress in the implementation of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), there is a renewed glimmer of hope across the country. As of 7 August 2022, the newly elected government announced its commitment to adopt a Feminist Foreign Policy and a National Action Plan (NAP) on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. What remains to be seen is whether actions will match the rhetoric, as Colombia still faces several challenges threatening peacebuilding processes. However, it cannot be denied that this progress is a direct result of feminists’ yearning and years of tireless advocacy for more inclusive and intersectional policies. One of the key actors leading these efforts is Alianza 1325 (Alliance 1325)[1], a group of feminist civil society organizations. Through their advocacy, they work to ensure that all voices — including those of young women — are meaningfully involved in the regional dialogues to realize an inclusive and participatory design of the NAP on WPS. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is proud to be a long-time supporter of our feminist allies in Colombia to ensure that women and youth are at the front and center of policy advocacy and NAP development.

Despite the progress, drug production and trafficking continue to be the primary fuels of the conflict, disproportionately affecting indigenous and rural communities. Weak protection mechanisms and lack of governmental presence in these areas are among the key obstacles to achieving “total peace,” as promised by President Gustavo Petro. In this sense, one of the key recommendations presented by the Truth Commission in June 2022 is the need to adopt a human security approach. The human security approach is a United Nations framework that focuses on preventing risks and pursuing comprehensive solutions. It is centered on people and the contexts in which they live based on respect for the protection of life and the principle of human dignity. Human security integrates the agendas of peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. GNWP’s work in implementing the WPS and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agenda is founded on the human security framework. GNWP’s advocacy highlights the agency and leadership of local women and youth peacebuilders.  

“We need a change, we want dialogue, we want peace,” stressed Lucy, a participant in the Young Women+ Leaders For Peace (YW+L) workshop held in Popayán, Cauca, on 25-26 August 2022. GNWP facilitated the training on women’s rights, leadership and peacebuilding in partnership with Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM), and with the support of Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP). 20 participants, including 18 young women and two gender equality allies from the departments of Cauca and Tolima, shared their priorities and voiced concerns about the increasing threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the worrying rates of child recruitment by non-State armed groups.

The YW+L workshop enhanced young women and gender equality allies’ leadership and peacebuilding skills. Participants collectively designed and led initiatives to address the root causes of violence in their communities. These young leaders use various artistic and creative methods to convey a strong and inclusive message of peace — a powerful strategy that GNWP promotes through its Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P)[2] Read, Lead and Build. For example, in Cauca, young women organized social media campaigns with audio-visual materials to raise awareness about gender-based violence around the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November. Meanwhile, in Tolima, young women used community theater to promote gender equality and peace. On 12 November, they performed at the Festival Internacional Mujeres En La Escena (FIME) in Ibagué, Tolima, exposing the different types of abuses suffered by young women and demanding justice for all those whose voices continue to be silenced. As Lorena, one of the performers, stated, “if women are not the ones raising their voices, they are forgotten.” 

Colombia still has many challenges, but we are grateful that women and young people are paving the way to peace.

GNWP thanks Global Affairs Canada Peace and Stabilization Operations Program for their continued support.

* Cecilia Lazara is the Regional Focal Point for Latin America at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

[1] Alliance 1325: Women, Peace and Security is composed of feminist civil society organizations working rigorously in a participatory advocacy process to formulate the WPS NAP.

[2] Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) is the former name of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders’ (GNWP) Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL) program.

GNWP Reporta desde Cauca y Tolima, Colombia

En Colombia soplan vientos de cambio. A pesar del impacto causado por la pandemia del COVID-19, sumado al lento progreso en la implementación del acuerdo de paz entre el gobierno colombiano y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), en todo el país se percibe un rayo renovado de esperanza. El 7 de agosto de 2022, el nuevo gobierno electo anunció su compromiso para adoptar una Política Exterior Feminista y un Plan Nacional de Acción (PNA) sobre la agenda Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS). Lo que queda por ver es si estas acciones estarán a la altura de la retórica, ya que Colombia continúa enfrentándose a varios retos que amenazan sus procesos de construcción de paz. Sin embargo, no se puede negar que este progreso es un resultado directo del anhelo feminista y años de incidencia buscando políticas inclusivas e interseccionales. Uno de los actores clave que lidera estos esfuerzos es la Alianza 1325[1], un grupo de organizaciones feministas de la sociedad civil. A través de su incidencia, trabajan para garantizar que todas las voces – incluidas las de las mujeres jóvenes – participen de manera significativa en los diálogos regionales con el objetivo que el diseño participativo del PNA sobre MPS. La Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) se enorgullece de apoyar desde hace mucho tiempo a nuestras aliadas feministas en Colombia para asegurar que las mujeres y la juventud estén al frente en la incidencia de políticas y el desarrollo del PNA. 

Dichos anuncios representan un claro guiño al anhelo feminista, tras años de luchas incansables por políticas más inclusivas e interseccionales. Lo que queda por ver es si estas acciones estarán a la altura de la retórica, ya que Colombia continúa enfrentándose a varios retos que amenazan sus procesos de construcción de paz.

La producción y el tráfico de drogas siguen siendo los principales combustibles del conflicto, afectando de manera desproporcionada a las comunidades indígenas y rurales. Mecanismos de protección débiles e ineficientes, así como la falta de presencia del Estado en dichas zonas, son señalados como algunos de los principales obstáculos para alcanzar la “paz total”, tal y como prometió el presidente Gustavo Petro. En ese sentido, una de las principales recomendaciones presentadas por la Comisión de la Verdad en junio de 2022 es la necesidad de adoptar un enfoque de seguridad humana. El enfoque de seguridad humana es un marco de las Naciones Unidas orientado a la prevención de riesgos y a la búsqueda de soluciones integrales. Se centra en las personas y en los contextos en los que viven sobre la base del respeto de protección a la vida y el principio de dignidad humana. La seguridad humana integra las agendas de paz y seguridad, desarrollo sostenible y derechos humanos. El trabajo de GNWP en la implementación de la agenda de MPS y Juventud, Paz y Seguridad (JPS) se basa sobre este marco de seguridad humana. Precisamente, siguiendo estos principios, GNWP busca visiblizar la capacidad de acción y el liderazgo de las mujeres así como las y los jóvenes constructores de paz locales. 

“Necesitamos un cambio, queremos el diálogo, queremos la paz”, instó Lucy, una participante del taller de Mujeres Jóvenes+ Líderes por la Paz (MJL+) celebrado en Popayán, Cauca entre el 25 y 26 de agosto de 2022. GNWP facilitó la capacitación sobre derechos de las mujeres, liderazgo y construcción de paz en alianza con la Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) y con el apoyo del Programa de Operaciones de Estabilización y Paz de Asuntos Globales de Canadá (PSOP). 20 participantes, incluidas 18 mujeres jóvenes y dos aliados por la igualdad de género de los departamentos de Cauca y Tolima, compartieron sus prioridades y entre otro temas expresaron su preocupación por las crecientes amenazas y ataques contra las y los defensores de derechos humanos así como por las cifras alarmentes sobre el reclutamiento de niñas y niños por parte de grupos armados no estatales.

El taller MJL+ ayudó a mejorar las habilidades de liderazgo y construcción de paz de las mujeres jóvenes y aliados por la igualdad de género. Las y los participantes diseñaron y dirigieron colectivamente iniciativas para abordar las causas fundamentales de la violencia en sus comunidades. Utilizaron métodos artísticos y creativos  para transmitir un mensaje de paz fuerte e inclusivo. Cabe destacar, que esta estrategia es activamente promovida a través del manual ‘Leer, liderar y Construir’ diseñado por GNWP en el marco del programa Niñas Embajadoras para la Paz (GA4P)[2]. Por ejemplo, en el Cauca, las jóvenes organizaron campañas en las redes sociales con materiales audiovisuales para sensibilizar sobre la violencia basada en género en torno al Día Internacional de la Eliminación de la Violencia contra la Mujer, el 25 de noviembre. Mientras tanto, en Tolima, las jóvenes utilizaron el teatro comunitario para promover la igualdad de género y la paz. El 12 de noviembre, se presentaron en el Festival Internacional Mujeres En La Escena (FIME) de Ibagué, Tolima, exponiendo los diferentes tipos de abusos que sufren las jóvenes y exigiendo justicia para todas aquellas cuyas voces siguen siendo silenciadas. Siguiendo las palabras de Lorena, una de las intérpretes, “si las mujeres no son las que alzan la voz, quedán en el olvido”. 

En Colombia siguen habiendo muchos retos, pero estamos agradecidas de que sean las mujeres y los grupos de jóvenes quienes estén allanando el camino hacia la paz. 

GNWP agradece al Programa de Operaciones de Estabilización y Paz de Asuntos Globales de Canadá por su apoyo continuo.

[1] La Alianza 1325: Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad está conformada por organizaciones feministas de la sociedad civil que trabajan rigurosamente en un proceso participativo para la formulación del PNA.

[2] Niñas Embajadoras para la Paz (GA4P) es el antiguo nombre del programa Mujeres Jóvenes Líderes para la Paz (MJL) de la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP).

GNWP Reports from Krakow, Poland

22 November 2022

By Mavic Cabrera-Balleza*

A hand to hold: Survivors of rape in the war in Ukraine need accompaniment and support

Tetiana Semikop is a retired police colonel from Odesa city. In her 25 years on the police force, she investigated robbery, murder, domestic violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking cases. Her investigations led to many convictions that sent perpetrators to jail. When she retired in 2011, she founded the Public Movement for Faith, Hope, and Love, a non-governmental organization (NGO) providing support services to women and girls victims of human trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence. 

Then, on 24 February 2022, the Russian invasion began. Since the invasion, 120,000 people forcibly displaced from neighboring oblasts (regions) flocked to the Odeska region. The number of cases brought to Tetiana’s organization, particularly rape and other conflict-related sexual violence, is overwhelming. There is also a new and significant task to document the cases and preserve the data so victims can access justice after the war. 

While working in their NGO, Tetiana met Olga, a company manager from Kherson city. Olga was captured by Russian soldiers while trying to escape from the occupied Kherson region. In captivity, Olga served as the Russian soldiers’ maid during the day. She cooked for them, washed their clothes, and cleaned their quarters. In the evening, she was their sex slave. She was raped repeatedly by different soldiers. 

On 15 November 2022, Tetiana traveled to Krakow, Poland, to attend the training on Accompaniment and Support to Victims and Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and other War Crimes organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Democracy Development Center-Ukraine (DDC). The participants were Ukrainian women peacebuilders, local and national government authorities, and journalists. Civil society representatives from Georgia and Moldova also participated in the training. 

The workshop aimed to fill the gap in easily accessible, flexible and sustained support to women survivors of rape, other conflict-related sexual violence and other war crimes against women in Ukraine. The training included sessions on international and national laws, norms, standards and mechanisms for documenting war crimes. It is a trauma-informed approach to establishing multi-disciplinary, community-based victim and survivor-centered support in war crimes documentation. 

The training also featured a session on sustained advocacy for the ethical and systematic gathering of survivor testimonies and on access to justice. The Ukrainian women peacebuilders and other participants learned about the Murad Code, a voluntary Global Code of Conduct for Gathering and Using Information about Systematic and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. They also discussed the groundbreaking Sepur Zarco Case, wherein the Guatemalan court convicted two former military members of sexual violence, sexual slavery and domestic slavery committed against Maya Q’eqchi’ women in and near a military rest outpost in Sepur Zarco during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala.

Following the training, GNWP and its partners like Tetiana will produce a mapping of support services that survivors in local communities need, such as medical and psychosocial counseling services and legal assistance. The mapping will also identify if and where such services exist and how they may be accessed. GNWP and its local civil society partners will also provide humanitarian relief to families of victims and survivors.

Representatives of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Social Policy, responsible for coordinating the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, participated in the training. This ensures the coordination of efforts in the documentation of war crimes and establishment of a support system for women survivors who wish to testify about the crimes committed against them. The training also guarantees alignment with the Ukrainian Government’s efforts to implement the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. 

UN Women, experts on international criminal law and sexual and gender-based violence as well as feminist researchers on sexual violence crimes during the Bosnian war shared their expertise during the training. 

GNWP and its Ukrainian civil society partners will develop and roll out a sustained advocacy strategy for the ethical and systematic gathering of survivor testimonies and access to justice after the training. 

Addressing disinformation and fake news in Ukraine, providing factual and timely information to victims and survivors 

Cognizant of the widespread problem of disinformation and digital insecurity during the ongoing war in Ukraine, GNWP and DDC also organized a training on Crisis Communications and Digital Security alongside the Accompaniment and Support to Victims and Survivors training.  

It equipped the participants with skills to detect and prevent the spread of disinformation and fake news and promote digital security. They also learned skills on how to produce and disseminate timely and factual information on the war in Ukraine and where to access humanitarian support and assistance during the war. At the end of the workshop, the participants developed viable and sustainable local Crisis Communication Strategies that combine online and offline media and platforms. 

Tetiana attended the trainings in Krakow to gain more knowledge and improve her organization’s support for women survivors of rape and other war crimes. She thought a lot about Olga while in Krakow. She wanted to be on Olga’s side and to give her a hand to hold. 

The Austrian Development Agency and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation support GNWP’s work on the Accompaniment and Support to Victims and Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and other War Crimes and Crisis Communications and Digital Security.  

* Mavic Cabrera-Balleza is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

Testimony from Afghan woman peacebuilder Kochay Hassan*: Life under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Regime

17 August 2022

Disclaimer: This is my experience, and I cannot speak on behalf of the millions of women living in different regions of Afghanistan.

I remember the night – scrolling more than 18 hours a day on Twitter to witness the collapse of provinces one by one. It was scary; at the same time, adventurous. I even followed Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, on Twitter to get the latest and most reliable news on the fall of our provinces. But unfortunately, President Ghani’s comments on social media and local and international media coverage were false promises that could not be believed. What they wrote was a plain lie. 

A day before the collapse of the capital, I read that the Taliban fully controlled Mazar. The adrenalin rush, non-stop refreshing newsfeed, busy minds with frightening thoughts, escape plans and applying for any opportunity to leave Afghanistan was all I heard and witnessed on social media and in real life. It was surreal. Who would have thought that Kabul would collapse? I laughed whenever someone would mention it. 

I remember tearing up and listening to the national anthem several times, thinking this would be the last day to listen to it and watch the national flag waving in the presidential palace. It was depressing, I admit. 

The first three days of Kabul under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) regime were quiet and dark. I heard there were barely any people walking around the city. The tragedy of the airport was embarrassing and horrific. Kabul was officially the land of zombies. I regularly asked my father about the situation outside the house, and every time he would answer that all was well. Did I believe him? No. 

I saw videos of people being punished and tortured by IEA soldiers for listening to music, wearing jeans, and their political background and relationship with governmental officials. Some were old footage from years ago, while others were misinterpreted. But unfortunately, some were real videos happening in the provinces. 

Hearing and reading about it discouraged me from going outside and seeing more for myself. My mom and sister were the first women in our family to go outside and witness the situation. On the third day after the fall, my sister got sick. My mom had no choice but to go out with my sister to get her medical attention. After an hour and a half, they returned, and I asked, “How was it? Did they question why you were outside without Mahram[1]? Did they react badly because my sister wore jeans instead of a burqa[2] and hijab?” Mom laughed and said, “No. They were quite respectful. They would not even stare at us. I saw some girls eating ice cream, and the group of Taliban would look at them and smile shyly among themselves.” I was shocked. This was nothing that I expected. That encouraged me to go out to see the situation for myself. 

The first month was numb – lots of good and bad stories were spreading here and there. But for myself and thousands of other women and girls, it was just depressing. There was nothing in the news. Twitter and social media were the only source of information for us. My closest friends were evacuated from Afghanistan, one after another. WhatsApp groups were full of negativity and hopelessness. Groups of women and girls kept saying life was over for them in Afghanistan. They could not see a future in this country. 

Weeks later, my sister and I went out shopping. I did not want to take risks, so I wore the longest dress I could find in my closet because I did not own an abaya[3] or hijab. The streets were empty. Barely any women or girls could be seen. My heart sank. It was like they had vanished from the face of the earth. But let me clarify this: the reason that there were no women in the street was not that the Taliban would not allow them, but that, like myself, many were afraid to go outside and face a new reality. The checkpoints were full of Talibs, and their appearance intimidated me. It was bizarre – almost comical – that the people we had been afraid of for 20 years were just there. Among us. Not one or two, but hundreds of them in the streets. They were Afghans, too, who spoke our language and believed in the same God as we did. Then what separated us? 

Before the fall, I worked as an employee for one of the women-led organizations. The day Kabul collapsed, I was still in the office when one of our male colleagues entered the room, panicked, and asked everyone to leave immediately. It was strange that a night before, Balkh collapsed, and I cried my eyes out, and then the very next day, the other employees and I came back to the office like it was just another ordinary day. Our colleague said, “Taliban are at the gates of Kabul. Pack your stuff and leave immediately.” My supervisor was shaking and crying. She whispered, “My mom is in the hospital. What will she do? Oh my god. What is happening?!” I hugged her and told her to calm down. Then I went straight for my table and started packing. While packing, I thought that it was the end of my career. I will never see my colleagues again. I will never be able to work. The organization will no longer be able to function since it is women-led and works to educate women and girls. 

A month later, after the collapse of the government, I was connected with senior management of the organization through a WhatsApp group. I was informed that all our organization’s key employees had left the country, including our director. Things were not going well for the organization and many others like it that were women-led. The turnover in all organizations had significantly burdened the remaining employees. The bank accounts were frozen, which prevented many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from operating or paying their employees’ salaries on time. Some women-led organizations were on the blacklist due to their former senior management’s involvement in politics and the National Resistance Force (NRF) – work in opposition to the IEA. Most of the projects funded by the United States government were suspended due to sanctions. All development projects were stopped and shifted to humanitarian projects. It was hard for NGOs, including ours, to adapt to the sudden change in the scope of programs. Female employees of NGOs were working from home. The women-led organizations hired men as directors or deputies to negotiate with the de facto authorities, reopen their offices and continue their work. Some collapsed after a few months due to the lack of funds and difficulties adjusting to the huge turnover. 

Our organization was struggling too. We did not have access to our accounts. Other female employees and I were working from home. We barely had projects. The donor would not risk their fund and money by investing in a women-led organization. I do not blame them; there were many issues with women’s work and uncertainty in their movement. The Mahram issue was also there, which made it even harder for women to get jobs and for donors to cover the extra expenses. It was the darkest four months for our organization. Every day was a new struggle, and further complications for women made it difficult for the organization to operate. However, that did not stop us from assisting our male colleagues from home, pushing us to work even harder. 

It was the first weeks of December when we finally found the courage to talk to our district police department about allowing the female staff to return to the office. Surprisingly, they agreed but did not give us a written permission letter. It was all verbal, which left uncertainty, doubt and fear in many female employees’ hearts. The first day back to the office was so surreal. Nothing looked the same. Our female director was replaced with a male deputy director. As a women-led organization, we were left with only three female employees in the main office, which had been segregated into male and female sections. But this did not stop us from interacting daily. Every day was a struggle, financially and mentally, for our organization, yet our spirits were not broken, nor was our will to work. 

I would come home crying to my mom and sisters because of the work pressure. It pained my soul to see our organization collapse and unable to pay our staff salaries for months. It would give me a headache every day and caused me many sleepless nights to see the space for women-led civil society organizations (CSOs) shrinking. I still think of the days I wanted to write my resignation letter to our director, who assisted the organization from a distance and guided me daily in handling certain things. However, the midnight breakdowns would not stop me from waking up the next morning, dressing up and working all day to find a way to reopen other branches in the provinces. Just thinking of those days makes me realize how far I and all the other female employees and our organization have come. 

During these four months, assistance and small funding from other organizations helped us operate and remain open through difficult times. It was like a blessing and spark of hope on those black days. We could finally access bank accounts again a month later, though the salaries for only two months were processed. We could pay some of our debts, but we still had other problems. We were able to reopen our other branches one by one. It was not as desirable for the provincial staff, but we overcame it by coordination and trust-building with the de facto authorities. We gradually learned that the key to surviving is negotiation and coordination. We learned that we should speak their language and change some terminology to make them understand our work. It took a lot of time, energy and many meetings, but we needed to do that outreach. We were finally getting back on track. However, we still lacked funding and women to lead the organization. 

I took over as the Executive Director in April. It was new, and the future for the organization was not very promising. It is not for the majority of women-led CSOs in Afghanistan. I met groups of other CSO directors in different gatherings, and they all asked for opportunities and funding. Their years of experience and nationality would not change the fact that the organizational capacity had been significantly reduced, and the projects’ scopes had changed from development to humanitarian action. Afghan NGOs were trained for 20 years in the development sector, and the donor would instead go with international NGOs (INGOs) since they implement humanitarian projects with better quality and transparency. This is one of the reasons that local NGOs, specifically women-led organizations, have struggled to get projects and funding from donor agencies. 

Once, my uncle heard me saying that I’m exhausted and depressed. I remember that he replied, “Kochay, be patient. If you want to lead an organization, it requires a lot of sacrifice and patience. It is good that you are passionate about your job. Work with what you have available. Just because you are dealing with old cars doesn’t mean you have to buy new ones. Fix the old ones and invest in them. You don’t know this, but you are sitting on top of a gold mine. You must find your worth and prove that your organization can offer new things. Just do what you are confident about, and do it the best way possible.” My uncle taught me a lifelong lesson to adapt and adjust to new circumstances. 

It is not easy to live here, but it is not unbearable either. That keeps me sane and optimistic about the future for myself and millions of other women and girls in Afghanistan. Is it too limited? Does it require certain restrictions? Does it take us more steps than the men-led organization to complete a simple procedure while dealing with the de facto authorities? Yes, yes and yes. But does that stop me and the other 60+ women and girls in our organization from coming to the office regularly? No. Are we frustrated sometimes? Yes. Are we angry sometimes? Yes. But do we, as women, also have joyful moments when we cover 11 provinces and serve thousands of women and children through our interventions? Yes. And that is what matters the most. 

This month marks one year since the collapse of the republic government of Afghanistan. We, as Afghans, have faced it all. From middle school closure, economic crisis, poverty, sanctions and bank restrictions to brain drain, the current regime, natural disasters and humanitarian crisis, we have experienced everything imaginable. It has been a difficult and painful year for all Afghans. But it has not stopped us from surviving every day and fighting for that spark of light in the darkest days. Though international allies failed us, we fought our own battles and did not quit. We stayed. We fought. We fell but got up and fought harder—every day. History should not call any of the women who were left behind victims. Remember us as survivors, agents of change and peacebuilders. 

GNWP stands with the Afghan people, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, who continue to be negatively impacted by the oppression and violence brought upon them by the Taliban. GNWP thanks the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for its support that enables us to sustain our work with AWEC and other local women’s rights organizations and promote local peacebuilding and women- and youth-led  humanitarian response. 

For GNWP’s full solidarity statement, see:

* Kochay Hassan is the Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC). AWEC is a member of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) working locally in Afghanistan for the rights of women, young women and girls.

[1] A male escort to accompany a woman when she leaves the home.

[2] A long, loose garment covering the whole body from head to feet, worn in public by women in many Muslim countries.

[3] A full-length outer garment worn by some Muslim women.