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Financing for women’s organizations: The billion dollar question

December 4, 2020 by Jenaina Irani

Between 2017-2019, over $1 billion US dollars was pledged by governments and other donors in support of gender equality commitments. This is more than ever before! However, a closer look at the figures reveals that only 1% of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) gender equality-focused funding in 2016-17 went directly to women-led organizations. Meanwhile, the proportion of bilateral aid to conflict-affected countries focused on gender equality as the primary objective has remained at only 5% since 2010, and only 0.2% of this goes directly to women’s organizations! To advance gender equality in a way that is meaningful, sustainable and tailored to specific local needs, donors must ensure that their funding is available to women-led organizations, including women peacebuilders. Failing to do so, donors contravene the very principle of inclusion and equality they seek to promote.  

COVID-19 has made the need for more reliable, sustainable and accessible funding for gender equality even more pressing. Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. The pandemic has exacerbated already dire conditions for women and girls in conflict-affected settings. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) consultations with national and local women peacebuilders in Colombia have shown that women’s rights organizations are facing funding cuts and suspension of contracts, as donor funds are redirected to address the health and humanitarian impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) survey of 78 of its civil society partners found that 29% believed their organization’s existence was at risk due to the pandemic. Despite the fact that women around the world are at the frontlines of addressing COVID-19 impacts in their communities, the funds dedicated to responding to the pandemic often remain unavailable to them. This because most COVID-19 responses are not gender-responsive, and women are excluded from decision-making about them.

Transformative and normative change necessary to challenge gender inequalities requires meaningful participation of women and women-led organizations. A 2014 comparative study between EU found that when members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were receptive to, and actively engaged with feminist groups and civil society organizations (CSO’s), they were successful in enacting structural changes, necessary for transforming unequal gender relations. The authors attribute this to a number of reasons including that the SADC framed gender equality as a goal in and of itself, rather than a means to an end. More so, women peacebuilders from conflict-affected countries contribute to sustaining peace by capacity building and addressing root causes of conflict through community mediation and development work. For example, women’s civil society in Syria contributed to the formation of committees across the country that work on reducing conflicts and building community stability.

They are also effective advocates for normative changes in their countries. The effectiveness of women’s organizations derives from the key role they play in generating awareness among local communities, and challenging gender stereotypes. Researchers analyzed data across 50 African nations between 1989 and 2014 and found that when local women and organizations form coalitions to pressure governments, they adopt gender-sensitive quotas in a comparatively effective and timely manner. The evidence for the cost-effectiveness of investing in women-led and feminist organizations is compelling. If the investment made in gender equality does not benefit local organizations and women peacebuilders, the structural change it sets out to achieve will remain elusive.

Women’s organizations also drive change by organizing and mobilizing into women’s rights and feminist movements-which have been found to be key drivers of change. A study spanning 40 years, across 70 countries found that autonomous feminist movements were the most important consistent factor in driving policy change- more than left-wing leadership, numbers of women legislators, and even national wealth. However, despite the evidence on their effectiveness, women’s movements and coordination mechanisms are notoriously underfunded. GNWP consultations in Uganda and Colombia reveal that funding for coordination and networks-building among women’s organizations, including those working on WPS, remain extremely limited.

None of the advances in women’s rights over the last century could have been possible without the existence of independent, women-led organizations and movements that begun at the grassroots level and applied pressure upward. Grassroots women’s organizations need funding, and they need it to be flexible, responsive, and sustainable in the long term. The benefits of directly funding organizations that work toward gender equality are multi-fold, and provide a clear path to where development assistance and aid should go. There’s your billion dollar answer!

A Young Women-Led Approach to Preventing Violent Extremism and Building Peace

December 1, 2020 by Mallika Iyer and Heela Yoon

“I started advocating for peace and gender equality at the local mosque near my house, where I teach young women how to read the Quran. But I now I want to deepen my knowledge and work with other peacebuilders across my country and the world. The Young Women Leaders for Peace Program gives me the opportunity to do exactly that,” shared Olive Aliysa, a young woman peacebuilder from Aceh, during an online training organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia, with the support of Channel Foundation.

GNWP and AMAN Indonesia held a series of online workshops with members of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program between September 2nd and 4th, 2020. The workshops enhanced the young women’s capacities on the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) agenda, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). Launched in November 2017, the YWL Program in Indonesia is now a network of 80 young women leaders who contribute to a strong youth movement for long-lasting peace, equality, and sustainable development. Convening participants from Aceh, Jakarta, Maluku, Lampung, Lamongan, and Poso, the online training in September expanded the membership of the network and enhanced the capacities of these young women peacebuilders to advocate for the implementation the WPS and YPS resolutions in their communities.

Indonesia is one of only three countries within Southeast Asia to adopt a National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.  However, implementation of the NAP has been inhibited by ineffective coordination, budgetary limitations, and unaddressed patriarchal gender norms. During the online workshops, the young women leaders had an opportunity to discuss the NAP implementation with a representative of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (Komnas Perempuan). The YWL members identified key issues exacerbating gender inequalities, insecurity, and preventing NAP implementation in their communities. These included: early, forced, and child marriage, religious intolerance, and gender based and sexual violence.

Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child brides in the world. Early, forced and child marriage is linked to widely-accepted harmful social norms. The young women leaders stressed that eliminating early, forced, and child marriage in their communities effectively requires a shift in gender norms as well as cultural beliefs that condemn this practice. They decided to advocate for the inclusion of young women’s perspectives and priorities in its second NAP on UNSCR 1325, which is currently being drafted by the Indonesian government.

The training also equipped the young women with the necessary knowledge and skills to lead efforts to prevent violent extremism (PVE) and counter terrorism (CT) in their communities. Violent extremism, ethno-religious conflict, and intolerance have undermined security and democratic progress in Indonesia. Young women in rural areas are often the first targets of extremist groups. Some of the participants in GNWP’s trainings held in 2019 stressed that many young women are married off to violent extremists or recruited to carry out attacks such as suicide bombings. They also play a role in recruiting others to join extremist groups. During the training, young women leaders shared personal stories about the prevalence of radicalization and recruitment in their communities; these communities were identified as hotbeds for radicalization during focus group discussions conducted by GNWP in 2017. “I’ve seen classmates refuse to salute the Indonesian flag and share videos promoting violent narratives online,” a young woman leader shared.

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased online radicalization and recruitment by violent extremist groups in Indonesia. Violent extremist groups have taken advantage of public dissatisfaction with the government’s response and recovery efforts, high unemployment rates in the informal sector of the economy, and increased reliance on social media. In addition, mobility restrictions continue to prevent civil society from reaching grassroots communities where radicalization is rampant. Conflict-sensitive and gender-responsive PVE and CT efforts led by young women are critical to curb these increased rates of recruitment, build sustainable peace, and achieve gender equality in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s National Action Plan on PVE, which is aligned with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism, prioritizes the empowerment and participation of women and youth as a key strategy to counter terrorism. However, as the young women leaders highlighted to the Section Head for Government Agency Cooperation in the Directorate of Regional and Multilateral Cooperation at the National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT) during the training, most grassroots young women in communities affected by violent extremism are unaware of their right to meaningfully participate in peacebuilding and political decision-making. In response, the young women leaders designed online peacebuilding dialogues and social media campaigns to raise awareness of the WPS and YPS resolutions amongst young women and men in their communities. By encouraging their peers to meaningfully participate in political decision-making and efforts to prevent violent extremism, the young women leaders hope to build broad ownership and support for gender equality and sustainable peace in their communities.

The young women leaders also stressed that it is necessary to address the root causes of violent extremism. To tackle frustration with the government’s insufficient and inequitable pandemic response, they developed COVID-19 emergency relief projects to meet the urgent, intersecting, and overlooked needs of internally displaced families in Palu[1] and Siduarjo[2], which face the intersecting impacts of the pandemic and natural disasters. Through these initiatives, the young women leaders will address the impacts of COVID-19 on food security as well as access to sexual health and reproductive services for displaced families, thereby bridging gaps in government relief programs. 

“There is nothing that we, as Young Women Leaders for Peace, cannot do. We are agents of change. It is our responsibility to build peace, promote women’s rights, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” shared Vica Kambea, a young woman leader from Poso. Vica’s thoughts were echoed by the other members of the newly expanded YWL Indonesia. By distinguishing themselves as significant actors in their local communities, the Young Women Leaders for Peace in Indonesia are creating a space for young women to meaningfully participate in peacebuilding and efforts to prevent violent extremism. 


[1] It is estimated that 164,626 people were displaced into informal settlements following an earthquake in September 2018 in Palu, Central Sulawesi. Source: REACH, “Central Sulawesi Earthquake, Tsunami, and Liquefaction: Population Needs”, February 2019. Retrieved from:

[2] It is estimated that there are 330 displaced Shia families in Siduarjo, who were forced to flee Madura Island in 2012 after an attack from the Sunni majority. Source: Yovinus Guntur W, Benar News, “Indonesia: Shia Uprooted by Violence on Madura Island Long to Go Home”. May 5th 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/shia-home-05202020164016.html

See Us, Hear Us, Join Us! Women Peacebuilders in Colombia Defy COVID-19 and Promote Inclusive Peace

November 30, 2020

By Beatriz Ciordia and Cecilia Lazara

Edited by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“We will never be seen as changemakers if the public does not see, read or listen about the work that we, as women, do in our communities”, noted women’s rights activist and a member of the Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network; RNM) Vanessa Liévano during a Localization of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) workshop held in December 2019 in Popayán. Popayán is the capital of Cauca, one of the departments most affected by the decades-long conflict in Colombia. The workshop was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in partnership with RNM and Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca (Departmental Network of Women in Cauca), and with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Liévano’s words resonate even louder today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – a public health crisis that has had severe impacts on women’s rights, human security and peace in Colombia. The pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities, put women at a greater risk of violence, and created new challenges for the implementation of the peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC).

Despite these challenges, women and youth peacebuilders in Colombia have been at the forefront of the response to the intersecting health, humanitarian and security crises caused by COVID-19. RNM supported women peacebuilders to prepare and distribute food packages, hygiene and reproductive health products, such as contraceptive pills, condoms and pregnancy tests, to women and girls, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees, and internally displaced persons. RNM collaborated with the indigenous guard to make sure that the packages reach indigenous women and girls living in remote areas. In parallel, women activists have also continued their peacebuilding work, monitoring the peace agreement implementation, translating local needs into concrete policy proposals, and advocating for the inclusion of gender-responsive provisions in local development plans.

However, illustrating the truth of Vanessa Liévano’s words, the work of Colombian women to address COVID-19 and its impacts remains largely unseen and unsupported. Against this background, women peacebuilders warn that the pandemic threatens the achievements of the women’s movement and the WPS agenda. Their message is clear: we cannot afford to back down. The implementation of the peace agreement and WPS agenda needs to continue despite the new and growing challenges. Peace simply cannot wait!

Peace in Colombia is more fragile than ever

The signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC in 2018 was a great achievement for the women’s movement in the country. The agreement, which includes more than 120 gender-responsive provisions, has been hailed internationally as an example of good practice. Its strength came to a large extent from the contributions of women—both as negotiators and civil society. However, as a 2018 Kroc Institute report points out, the implementation of the agreement has been slow, and there have been many delays, especially on the implementation of gender-responsive provisions. The delays are partly due to the failure of President Iván Duque and his administration to make progress on key elements of the agreement, including the reintegration of the former combatants and the rural economic reform.

Women peacebuilders are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will further slow down the already delayed implementation. They warn that resources are diverted from peace agreement implementation to emergency health response. They also urge that adoption and implementation of the development plans at the municipal, departmental and national levels must not be delayed due to the pandemic, since they are key instruments in translating the peace agreement into concrete actions on the ground. “The current crisis is being used as an excuse not to address issues related to peace. For [the government], there’s only one priority: the pandemic”, says Francy Jaramillo, a member of the Red Departmental de Mujeres del Cauca. Women who participated in a recent research conducted by GNWP stressed that pandemic was used as an excuse to channel funds away from the transitional justice institutions established under the peace agreement, including the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, making their work more difficult.

Colombia’s fragile peace is further endangered by the ongoing fighting among armed groups to control key territories. During the pandemic, the groups have moved to consolidate their power, and fighting intensified in many departments. In Cauca, armed groups imposed confinement measures on local communities. In most cases, these restrictions were more severe than those imposed by the national government. In Popayán, for instance, armed groups dictated who was allowed to leave and enter certain territories, leaving women and communities completely at their mercy. “We now have to face two crises: the ongoing, worsening conflict in Colombia, and the new COVID-19 crisis”, Jaramillo stressed.

The armed groups have also stepped up their recruitment during the pandemic. The closure of schools and daycare centers has made children and young women and men more vulnerable, and allowed armed groups to easily recruit and exploit girls and boys, who no longer have the protection of a classroom. There has also been a spike in the number of girls and women killed by firearms in rural areas, where clashes between criminal groups have increased dramatically. All of this has made the peace in Colombia more fragile than ever.

Colombian women are under threat during the pandemic

In parallel, COVID-19 has exacerbated threats faced by women and girls in Colombia, many of whom have become targets of unprecedented levels of violence, especially in rural areas. According to Indepaz, a local watchdog organization, at least 251 community and human rights leaders have been murdered in Colombia in 2020. The number of femicides increased at an extremely alarming rate  in September, when 86 women were murdered across the country—the highest monthly total since 2017. Cauca continues to be one of the most dangerous departments for women peacebuilders and human rights defenders. According to Jaramillo, since the beginning of the pandemic, 38 femicides have been registered in this department. Yet, like the work done by women peacebuilders, the attacks on women remain invisible, and many of the cases have not been reported by the media.

The lockdown measures implemented by the government have further exposed women to risk, as many of them found themselves trapped with their abusers. As a result, the domestic violence hotline (“linea purpura”) in Bogotá received twice as many reports of domestic violence during the lockdown as before. Moreover, as Colombia was put under lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly virus, many women were unable to carry out their work and advocacy. They had to give up the independence and freedom they had fought so hard for. “I don’t know if we’ll manage to make women leave their homes and become politically active again”, shared Jaramillo, adding that the situation is even more challenging for indigenous women. “Many of them tell us that, for them, there is no pandemic because they’ve always lived like this”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the gendered digital gap and the inequalities that persist between rural and urban areas in Colombia. Due to the lack of internet connectivity in remote areas, many rural women were unable to actively participate in the advocacy for the implementation of the peace agreement, and better protection of women activists. This affected particularly indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, which had more limited access to technology, and capacity to make use of it, before the pandemic. Access to technology has become a basic right; therefore, it is essential to expand platforms to amplify the voices of women and girls at all levels.

An opportunity for mobilization and Innovation

At the same time, COVID-19 has also demonstrated the resilience of the women’s movement. Despite the challenges and the barriers in access to the digital spaces, women peacebuilders did not stop their work. According to Jaramillo, “the women’s movement has been strengthened as we resort to alternative strategies; this serves as a push for a more connected movement”. Women peacebuilders who participated in virtual convenings organized by GNWP and RNM pointed out that citizen involvement did not stop during COVID-19, and that some women feel more comfortable in the new situation, as they have the possibility to turn off their videos and express their feelings in a safe environment. “The pandemic can divide us physically, but it does not silence us”, said one of the participants of the Localization workshops in Cauca during one of the weekly virtual meetings RNM and GNWP held to monitor the progress of the peace agreement.

Women in Colombia and around the world are using the pandemic as an opportunity to call for structural changes needed to build sustainable and inclusive peace. These include:

  • Valuing women’s unpaid work

Beatriz Quintero, head of RNM, agrees that the health crisis has contributed to bringing more attention to women’s care work. “One positive side of this pandemic is that Colombians have finally started talking about women’s unpaid work”, she reflected, adding that “policy-makers must recognize the value of what has been considered a natural female task”. Additionally, feminists groups are also seizing this moment to advocate for more equitable economic policies that allow women in the informal sector to have more job security and receive pensions and other social benefits.

  • Shifting from militarized culture to human security

COVID-19 also creates an opportunity to re-evaluate global priorities. The record-high global military expenditure in 2019  has not stopped the health crisis, nor made anyone safer during COVID-19. On the contrary, the pandemic has brought to light the dangers of over-militarized cultures, including the abuse of power. Jaramillo shared that although “the military forces have always abused power in Colombia”, the distrust between the security forces and Colombian society has deepened since the pandemic.

  • Recognizing and amplifying women’s leadership

Women’s work can no longer be obscured by patriarchal narratives and approaches. As Liévano emphasized during the Localization workshop held by GNWP and RNM in December 2019, it is of utmost importance to recognize the efforts made by women peacebuilders to achieve sustainable and inclusive peace in their communities, especially during these challenging times.

At GNWP, we believe that journalists and media practitioners are critical allies in our fight for the recognition and advancement of women’s rights and sustainable and inclusive peace. They can define the way people perceive women and girls, either representing them as sex objects and helpless victims, or highlighting their agency and leadership. Unfortunately, the dominant narrative usually portrays women as passive victims in need of protection, rather than promoting their role as active agents for peace.

To challenge this perspective, GNWP and RNM, in partnership with Pacifista and with the support of Norad, launched a National Media and WPS Prize, to encourage journalists to write, film and record stories that promote women’s leadership in the peace process and showcase their relentless activism. Look out for our next blog sharing the results of the Prize!

COVID-19 gave rise to unprecedented challenges to peace, and to women’s rights, in Colombia and around the world. However, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on what type of future we hope for – and how to achieve it. Colombian women we engaged through GNWP’s Localization work want a peaceful world that has overcome unequal gender barriers, a world where women’s voices are heard, and their leadership capacity is justly recognized.

GNWP’s experience working with women peacebuilders around the world tells us that this is possible – but only if women are meaningfully included and their relentless work for just and equal societies recognized and supported. We are committed to continue our efforts towards this future. To our members and partners who are leading this change in Colombia and beyond, we say: we see you, we hear you and we are with you!


¡Mírenos, escúchenos, únase a nosotras! Mujeres constructoras de paz en Colombia desafían al COVID-19 y promueven una paz inclusiva.

30 de noviembre de 2020

Por Beatriz Ciordia y Cecilia Lazara

Editado por Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

 “Nunca podremos ser reconocidas como agentes de cambio si otros no ven, leen o escuchan sobre el trabajo que nosotras, como mujeres, hacemos en nuestras comunidades”, señaló la activista por los derechos de las mujeres y miembro de la Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) Vanessa Liévano durante el taller de Localización sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS) realizado en diciembre de 2019 en Popayán. Popayán es la capital del Cauca, uno de los departamentos más afectados por el conflicto armado de Colombia. El taller fue organizado por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) en colaboración con RNM y la Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca, y con el apoyo de la Agencia Noruega para Cooperación al Desarrollo (Norad). Hoy en día, las palabras de Liévano resuenan aún más fuerte en medio de la pandemia de COVID-19 – una crisis de salud pública que ha causado un severo impacto sobre los derechos de las mujeres, la seguridad humana y la paz en Colombia. La pandemia ha exacerbado las desigualdades de género, ha puesto a las mujeres en mayor riesgo de violencia y ha creado nuevos desafíos para la implementación del acuerdo de paz con las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

A pesar de estos desafíos, en Colombia, las mujeres, así como las jóvenes y los jóvenes constructores de paz, han estado a la vanguardia de la respuesta a las crisis entrecruzadas de salud, humanitarias y de seguridad causadas por COVID-19. RNM ha estado apoyando a las mujeres constructoras de paz, preparando y distribuyendo paquetes de alimentos y productos de higiene y salud reproductiva (como píldoras anticonceptivas, condones y pruebas de embarazo) a mujeres y niñas, ancianos, personas con discapacidad, refugiados y desplazados internos. RNM también ha colaborado ​​con la guardia indígena para asegurarse de que los paquetes lleguen a las mujeres y niñas indígenas que viven en áreas remotas. Paralelamente, las mujeres activistas también han continuado su trabajo de consolidación de paz, monitoreando la implementación del acuerdo, traduciendo las necesidades locales en propuestas de políticas concretas y abogando por la inclusión de disposiciones con enfoque de género en los planes de desarrollo local.

Sin embargo, como bien ha señalado Vanessa Liévano, el trabajo de las mujeres colombianas para abordar el COVID-19 y sus impactos permanece en gran parte invisible y sin respaldo. En este contexto, las mujeres constructoras de paz advierten que la pandemia amenaza los logros del movimiento de mujeres y la agenda MPS. Por tanto, su mensaje es claro: no podemos darnos el lujo de dar marcha atrás. La implementación del acuerdo de paz y la agenda MPS debe continuar a pesar de los nuevos y crecientes desafíos. ¡La paz simplemente no puede esperar!

La paz en Colombia, más frágil que nunca

La firma del acuerdo de paz entre el Gobierno de Colombia y las FARC en el 2018 fue un gran logro para el movimiento de las mujeres en el país. El acuerdo, que incluye más de 120 disposiciones con enfoque de género, ha sido aclamado internacionalmente como un ejemplo de buena práctica. En gran medida, su fuerza provino de las contribuciones de las mujeres, tanto como negociadoras así como miembros de la sociedad civil. Sin embargo, como remarca el informe del Instituto Kroc de 2018, la implementación del acuerdo ha sido lenta y ha habido muchos retrasos, especialmente en lo que respecta a las disposiciones con enfoque de género. En parte, las demoras se deben a que el presidente Iván Duque y su administración no han logrado avanzar en elementos clave del acuerdo, tales como la reintegración de los excombatientes y la reforma económica rural.

Una gran preocupación entre las mujeres constructoras de paz es que la pandemia de COVID-19 ralentice aún más la ya demorada implementación. En los últimos tiempos han advertido que los recursos nacionales se han desviado de la implementación del acuerdo hacia la respuesta de emergencia sanitaria. Asimismo, las mujeres exigen el cumplimiento de la adopción e implementación de los planes de desarrollo a nivel municipal, departamental y nacional por temor a que se retrasen debido a la pandemia. Los planes de desarrollo representan instrumentos clave para traducir el acuerdo de paz en acciones concretas sobre el terreno. “La crisis actual se utiliza como excusa para evitar abordar cuestiones relacionadas con la paz. Para [el gobierno], solo hay una prioridad: la pandemia”, explica Francy Jaramillo, integrante de la Red Departamental de Mujeres del Cauca. A su vez, en una investigación realizada por GNWP, las mujeres constructoras de paz han destacado que su trabajo resulta cada vez más difícil debido a que la pandemia se percibe como una excusa para desviar fondos de las instituciones de justicia transicional establecidas en virtud del acuerdo de paz, incluida la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz.

Paralelamente, el frágil proceso de paz en Colombia se ve aún más amenazado por los constantes combates entre grupos armados que se disputan el control de territorios claves. Durante la pandemia, los grupos se han movilizado para consolidar su poder y la lucha se intensificó en muchos departamentos. En Cauca, por ejemplo, los grupos armados impusieron medidas de confinamiento a las comunidades locales. En la mayoría de los casos, estas restricciones fueron más severas que las impuestas por el gobierno nacional. En Popayán, por otra parte, los grupos armados controlaban a quién se le permitía salir y entrar en ciertos territorios, dejando a las mujeres y comunidades completamente a su merced. “Ahora tenemos que enfrentar dos crisis: el conflicto en curso en Colombia y la nueva crisis del COVID-19”, enfatizó Jaramillo.

Lamentablemente también se ha intensificado el reclutamiento por parte de los grupos armados durante la pandemia. El cierre de escuelas y guarderías ha aumentado la vulnerabilidad de los niños, las mujeres y los hombres jóvenes y ha permitido que los grupos recluten y exploten fácilmente a niñas y niños, que no cuentan con la protección de un aula. A su vez, se ha producido un aumento en el número de niñas y mujeres asesinadas por armas de fuego en las zonas rurales, donde los enfrentamientos entre grupos criminales han aumentado de manera dramática. Todos estos hechos demuestran que el proceso de paz de Colombia se encuentra más frágil que nunca.

Mujeres colombianas amenazadas durante la pandemia

COVID-19 ha exacerbado las amenazas que enfrentan las mujeres y niñas en Colombia, muchas de las cuales se han convertido en blanco de niveles de violencia sin precedentes, especialmente en áreas rurales. Según Indepaz, una organización que realiza el monitoreo del conflicto, al menos 251 líderes comunitarios y de derechos humanos han sido asesinados en Colombia durante el 2020. Además, el número de femicidios aumentó a un ritmo extremadamente alarmante. En septiembre, 86 mujeres fueron asesinadas en todo el país, el total mensual más alto desde 2017. El Cauca sigue siendo uno de los departamentos más peligrosos para las mujeres constructoras de paz y defensoras de derechos humanos. Según Jaramillo, desde el inicio de la pandemia se han registrado 38 femicidios en este departamento. Sin embargo, al igual que el trabajo realizado por mujeres constructoras de paz, los ataques a las mujeres permanecen invisibles y muchos de los casos no son reportados por los medios de comunicación.

Las medidas de contención implementadas por el gobierno para detener la propagación del virus mortal han incrementado el riesgo de violencia para las mujeres, ya que muchas de ellas permanecieron atrapadas con sus abusadores. Como resultado, la línea directa de violencia doméstica (“línea púrpura”) en Bogotá recibió el doble de denuncias de violencia doméstica durante el encierro en comparación al período previo a la cuarentena. A su vez, a causa de estas medidas, varias mujeres activistas no pudieron llevar a cabo su trabajo de promoción y defensa por la paz. Tuvieron que renunciar a su independencia y libertad por la que tanto habían luchado. “No sé si lograremos que las mujeres abandonen sus hogares y vuelvan a ser políticamente activas”, compartió Jaramillo, y agregó que la situación es aún más desafiante para las mujeres indígenas. “Muchos nos dicen que, para ellos, no hay pandemia porque siempre han vivido así”.

La pandemia de COVID-19 también ha puesto de manifiesto la brecha digital de género y las desigualdades que persisten entre las zonas rurales y urbanas de Colombia. Debido a la falta de conectividad a Internet en áreas remotas, muchas mujeres rurales no pudieron participar activamente en la promoción para la implementación del acuerdo de paz, y una mejor protección de las mujeres activistas. Esto afectó particularmente a las comunidades indígenas y afrocolombianas, ya que antes de la pandemia tenían un acceso más limitado a la tecnología y a los recursos para su utilización. Como se puede observar, el acceso a la tecnología se ha convertido en un derecho básico; por lo tanto, es fundamental ampliar las plataformas para amplificar las voces de las mujeres y las niñas en todos los niveles posibles.

Una oportunidad para la movilización y la innovación

Simultáneamente, COVID-19 también ha destacado la resistencia del movimiento de mujeres. A pesar de los desafíos y las barreras en el acceso a los espacios digitales, las mujeres constructoras de paz no detuvieron su trabajo. Según Jaramillo, “el movimiento de mujeres se ha fortalecido al recurrir a estrategias alternativas; esto sirve como impulso para un movimiento más conectado”. Las mujeres constructoras de paz que participaron en convocatorias virtuales organizadas por GNWP y RNM señalaron que la participación ciudadana no se suspendió durante el COVID-19, y que algunas mujeres incluso se sienten más cómodas con esta nueva situación, ya que tienen la posibilidad de apagar sus videos y expresar sus sentimientos en un ambiente seguro. “La pandemia puede dividirnos físicamente, pero no nos silencia”, expresó uno de los participantes de los talleres de localización en Cauca durante una de las reuniones virtuales semanales que RNM y GNWP realizaron para monitorear el avance del acuerdo de paz.

Las mujeres en Colombia y en todo el mundo están utilizando la pandemia como una oportunidad para reclamar cambios estructurales necesarios para la construcción de una paz sostenible e inclusiva. Estos cambios incluyen:

  • Valorar el trabajo no remunerado de las mujeres

Beatriz Quintero, directora de RNM, coincide en que la crisis de salud ha contribuido a resaltar el trabajo de cuidado de la mujer. “Un lado positivo de esta pandemia es que los colombianos finalmente han comenzado a hablar sobre el trabajo no remunerado que ejercen las mujeres”, y a su vez agrega que “los legisladores deben reconocer el valor de lo que se ha considerado una tarea natural de las mujeres”. Asimismo, los grupos feministas también están aprovechando este momento para abogar por políticas económicas más equitativas que permitan a las mujeres en el sector informal tener más seguridad laboral y recibir pensiones y otros beneficios sociales.

  • Pasar de una cultura militarizada a una cultura que tenga en cuenta la seguridad humana

COVID-19 también crea una oportunidad para reevaluar las prioridades globales. El gasto militar mundial récord durante el 2019 no ha detenido la crisis de salud ni ha garantizado una mayor seguridad para los individuos. Por el contrario, la pandemia ha develado los peligros de las culturas sobre-militarizadas, incluido el abuso de poder. Jaramillo compartió que aunque “las fuerzas militares siempre han abusado del poder en Colombia”, la desconfianza entre las fuerzas de seguridad y la sociedad colombiana se ha profundizado desde el inicio de la emergencia sanitaria.

  • Reconocer y ampliar el liderazgo de las mujeres

El trabajo de las mujeres no puede seguir oculto detrás de narrativas y enfoques patriarcales. Como bien destacó Liévano durante el taller de localización celebrado por GNWP y RNM en diciembre de 2019, es esencial que se reconozcan los esfuerzos realizados por las mujeres constructoras de paz para lograr una paz sostenible e inclusiva en sus comunidades, especialmente durante estos tiempos desafiantes.

En GNWP, creemos que los periodistas y los profesionales de los medios de comunicación son aliados fundamentales en nuestra lucha por el reconocimiento y el avance de los derechos de las mujeres y una paz sostenible e inclusiva. Estos actores pueden definir la forma en que las personas perciben a las mujeres y las niñas, ya sea representándolas como objetos sexuales y víctimas indefensas, o destacando su agencia y liderazgo. No obstante, desafortunadamente, la narrativa dominante suele presentar a las mujeres como víctimas pasivas que necesitan protección, en lugar de promover su papel como agentes activos para la paz.

Para desafiar esta perspectiva, GNWP y RNM, en asociación con Pacifista y con el apoyo de Norad, lanzaron un Premio Nacional de Medios y MPS. Su objetivo principal fue alentar a los periodistas a escribir, filmar y grabar historias que promuevan el liderazgo de las mujeres en el proceso de paz y muestren su implacable activismo. ¡Estén atentos a nuestro próximo blog que compartirá los resultados del Premio!

COVID-19 generó desafíos sin precedentes para la paz y los derechos de las mujeres en Colombia y en el mundo. Sin embargo, también representa una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre el tipo de futuro que deseamos y cómo lograrlo. Las mujeres colombianas, que tuvimos el placer de conocer a través del trabajo de localización de GNWP, desean un mundo pacífico que haya superado las barreras de género desiguales; un mundo donde se escuchen sus voces y se reconozca con justicia su capacidad de liderazgo.

La experiencia de GNWP, trabajando con mujeres constructoras de paz en todo el mundo, nos dice que esto es posible – pero sólo si se incluye a las mujeres de manera significativa y se reconoce y apoya su incansable trabajo para construir sociedades justas e igualitarias. Estamos comprometidas para continuar nuestros esfuerzos para avanzar hacia este futuro. A todxs nuestrxs miembrxs y aliadxs globales que están liderando este cambio en Colombia y más allá, les queremos decir que: ¡lxs vemos, lxs escuchamos y estamos con ustedes!

Investing in Human Security: How Reducing Military Spending Can Ensure Gender-Equal and Safe Communities

November 26, 2020 by Nikou Salamat

Edited by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

The year 2020 marks numerous milestones for the international community’s dedication to building sustainable, inclusive and gender-equal peace. These include the 25th Anniversary of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, the 5th Anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, and the 2020 Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. These critical normative frameworks recognize the importance of addressing root causes of armed conflict – including gender inequality and the exclusion of youth – in order to build sustainable peace. Yet, governments across the world continue to prioritize their national defense interests over their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women and youth and their populations in general.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to human rights globally and magnified insecurities, especially for the 2 billion people worldwide living in areas affected by fragility, conflict and violence. The pandemic has also exacerbated social, economic and health inequalities around the world. Preliminary estimates project that in 2020, as a result of the compounded impacts of COVID-19 and other ongoing crises, between an additional 88 to 115 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty, bringing the total to between 703 and 729 million. Meanwhile, governments’ over-militarized responses to the pandemic have led to human rights violations, abuses of state power and increases in violence against civilians in various contexts, but have failed to halt the spread of the virus to all regions of the world. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) reports that political violence increased globally in 2019, and state forces were responsible for over one quarter of all violence targeting civilians which amounted to a greater proportion than any other type of actor.

In 2020, states have never been less secure – despite the record $1.917 trillion USD of global military expenditure, representing 2.2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this staggering figure represents an increase of 3.6% compared to the 2018 total, and is the largest annual growth in global military spending in the past decade. Yet, the Global Peace Index (GPI) reports that the level of global peacefulness deteriorated in 2020, marking the ninth deterioration in the past 12 years. In fact, the average level of global peacefulness has declined by 2.5% since 2008, with 79 countries improving and 81 countries recording a deterioration overall between 2008 to 2020. Additionally, the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security (GIWPS) reports that despite significant advances, more than 50 countries fell 10 or more positions on its WPS Index for 2019-2020, which measures women’s inclusion, access to justice, and security.

The pandemic highlights the ineffectiveness of massive military spending 

The failure to deliver on WPS commitments, the limited progress to reduce barriers to women’s participation and access to justice, and the widespread lack of access to basic services due to dismal investments in public infrastructure have clear, profound and alarming implications for peace globally. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a prime example of the ineffectiveness of global increases in military spending to protect human rights during concurrent health, economic and political crises. These crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlight that public investments in social services and social protections are of fundamental importance in protecting all people, their rights, and the planet. As Danai Gurira, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, eloquently stated at the UN Security Council Open Debate on WPS in October 2020: “$1.9 trillion in military spending is not making us safer today.”  

At the heart of the WPS agenda is a focus on peace as a prerequisite for equality, social justice and human security. Human security is an approach introduced that calls on Member States to identify and address “widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.” This approach introduced in the 1994 Human Development Report (HDR) outlined seven dimensions of human security, namely economic, health, personal, political, food, environmental, and community. The 1994 HDR also called on Member States to target reductions in military spending as an opportunity to move from investments in arms to investments in sustainable development, by making clear and explicit links between reduced military spending and increased social spending.

From a feminist perspective, the core challenge to achieving human security is the highly militarized, state-centric and patriarchal nature of the present international security system, as explained by Dr. Betty Reardon, world-renowned leader in peace education and human rights. Too often, the concept of national security, with a focus on state’s military interests and territorial integrity, is at the forefront of discussions on peace and security. While national security remains essential, its prioritization comes at the detriment of funding for social services that seek to implement and ensure human security. It also impedes full implementation of WPS agenda – particularly in cases when National Action Plans (NAPs) and other policies and strategies designed to implement the agenda, have a narrow militaristic focus. They center on the reform of the security sector and increasing women’s participation in the military. While important to the effective implementation of WPS, these considerations are not sufficient to realize the agenda’s core ambition to end armed conflict and build gender-equal, democratic and peaceful societies.

Framing national security through a gender-responsive, people-centered lens would allow states to prepare to effectively respond to global crises surpassing international borders, such as COVID-19 and the climate crisis, through cooperation and multilateralism. The notion of human security acknowledges the need for coordinated efforts to prevent conflicts and crises, because “in an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe”, as asserted by the UN Secretary-General in his speech to the European Union in May 2020. The notion of human security is also central to the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace twin resolutions, adopted by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly in 2016. Most notably, the twin resolutions call for a “comprehensive approach to sustaining peace, particularly through the prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes, strengthening the rule of law at the international and national levels”. Sustainable peace also requires accounting for the different ways in which diverse groups of people are impacted by militarization and the intersecting effects of racism, sexism, classism and other forms of discrimination. This includes using intersectional, gender-sensitive and conflict-sensitive analyses to inform crisis response and recovery and ensure equitable and inclusive outcomes for all.

It is imperative that states begin to shift their focus away from militarization and weapons spending toward efforts to ensure human security for all their citizens. Global efforts must be made to support and maintain peacebuilding strategies that would provide an alternative to the present costly, maladapted and militarized approach to state security. This includes recognizing women peacebuilders as leaders and pioneers in devising and implementing such strategies, and investing in their work at local, national and international levels. It also entails investing in the implementation of the WPS resolutions, as a transformative tool to build gender-equal and sustainable peace. Presently, only 18 out of 83 NAPs have budgets, representing a major challenge to the implementation and localization of their objectives. It is essential that states commit to tangible investments in the leadership of women, in all their diversity, to guarantee human security of their populations.  

Reducing military spending is possible

Good practices in moving towards the implementation of a feminist human security framework exist. GPI reports that between 2008-2020, 100 countries reduced their military expenditure as a percentage of their GDP, and 67 lowered their levels of nuclear and heavy weapons. However, these reductions were outweighed by the increase in spending by other countries. In the context of an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery, all states must commit to a shift in priorities, beginning with “an end to the constant upward trend of global military spending” as urged by the UN Secretary-General. This shift must be accompanied by a re-evaluation of decision-making on resource allocation. A diversion of public funds away from militarization and weapons spending toward investments in peacebuilding and sustainable development is crucial in order to materialize international commitments to peace, human rights and gender equality into concrete actions. Investing in human security means ensuring that women, youth, and their communities are supported in their efforts to deliver crisis response, prevent conflict, and build sustainable peace.

Now, more than ever, it has become apparent that in order to build sustainable, inclusive and feminist peace, state actors must shift priorities, divest from militarized approaches, and divert resources to achieving human security. Conflict prevention has shown to be a cost-effective approach to ensuring peace and national security. The move towards human-centric security frameworks, with gender equality and prevention at their core, is therefore not only right, but also “smart.” In the face of ongoing and emerging crises, it can fulfil the promise of maintaining international peace and security, without the inflated mutli-billion-dollar price tag.

Launching Young Women Leaders for Peace Myanmar: An important step in the advancement of the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security agendas

November 20, 2020

By Mallika Iyer and Heela Yoon

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

We are not afraid to hold our government accountable. We are ready to mobilize for constitutional reform and military accountability,” expressed a young peacebuilder[1] during the “Training of Trainers” (ToT) on the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) agendas organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Yangon Youth Network, with support from Global Affairs Canada.  

With support from Global Affairs Canada, the ToT was held as a series of workshop sessions, that convened 27 young women leaders, LGBTQIA+ youth, and male gender equality allies from Yangon, Karen, Shan, Kachin, and Rakhine States between September 26 and October 24, 2020. The ToT raised awareness and knowledge about the WPS and YPS agendas among young people in Myanmar. The ToT included sessions on leadership, peacebuilding, electoral participation, economic empowerment, and the use of social media for advocacy. It also served as the official launch of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) in Myanmar. Coordinated by GNWP, the YWL is an international network of young women and gender equality allies who are advocating for the effective implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas in conflict-affected situations. It also works on the intersection of these agendas with humanitarian action including the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A key advocacy message for the YWL is to ensure local young women’s participation in peace and security processes and in the design and implementation of humanitarian response.   

Prior to the ToT, GNWP facilitated a virtual focus group discussion on September 12, 2020, during which young peacebuilders analyzed peace, security, and gender equality in Myanmar. They discussed barriers to their meaningful participation in peacebuilding and political decision-making; and identified the training and advocacy needed to overcome them. The focus group discussion enabled GNWP and the Yangon Youth Network to contextualize the ToT and ensure that it is tailor-fit to the needs and awareness and knowledge level of the participants.

Reflections on the implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas in Myanmar

The implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions in Myanmar has been quite bleak. “It’s not enough to have a woman as the leader of our country. We need women leaders who believe in and work towards gender equality, women’s rights, and human rights,” explained one of the young women participants in the ToT. Women, particularly from historically marginalized ethnic minorities, are significantly underrepresented in political decision-making, constituting only ten percent of the seats in the National Parliament. Despite quotas for women’s participation in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the number of women meaningfully participating in the ongoing Panglong Peace Process has decreased from 21 to 11 percent over the years. Women’s civil society groups have also been largely excluded from participating in the government-run taskforce on WPS and violence against women. As a result, the Union Peace Accord fails to meet the needs of conflict-affected women and girls; nor does it include gender-responsive budgeting for the limited provisions on women’s rights.  Similarly, while youth organizations across the country have an established record of involvement in community organizing and activism, young women and LGBTQIA+ youth have very limited or no opportunities to participate in peacebuilding and political decision-making. The Government of Myanmar does not have a National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 or a roadmap on YPS. Instead, the government adopted the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (NSPAW) and a National Youth Policy, which are yet to be effectively implemented.

According to the young peacebuilders, a key challenge in the achievement of sustainable peace and gender equality is the limited awareness of the relevance and importance of the WPS and YPS resolutions amongst government, women’s rights groups, and youth organizations in Myanmar. “We need a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. It would define our priorities on peace and security in Myanmar,” a participant shared. “We could use the NAP to hold our government accountable for gender equality and human rights.” During the training, they committed to advocating for the adoption of a NAP through an inclusive drafting process. 

Full and effective implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions has never been more urgent. There are reports of continued conflict-related sexual violence amongst other human rights violations inflicted on the Rohingya despite the request for provisional measures by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requiring Myanmar to prevent its military from committing acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide. The request for provisional measures was made a result of the ongoing case filed by the Government of the Gambia concerning violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the Government of Myanmar.

During the ToT, the participants discussed the perception of the Rohingya community in Myanmar. One of the Rohingya participants said, “Intruder. Kalar[2]. Dirty. Illegal. Too many kids and wives. Immigrant. Cockroach. Ugly. Sharp nose. We, Rohingya, have been called many names except our own. Many people in Myanmar are allergic to our name.” The ToT participants also discussed the increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence against other ethnic groups in the Kachin, Northern Shan, and Karen states. Human rights violations, particularly against ethnic groups, continue to occur even as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar accused the Burmese military of using the COVID-19 pandemic as “a cover to commit war crimes”.

Due to state repression against groups and individuals advocating for an end to the atrocities against the Rohingya, there is notable silence on this issue inside Myanmar. Thus, perpetrators within the government and military continue to enjoy impunity. Nonetheless, the young women leaders and gender equality allies bravely declared: “We need to respect and recognize the rights of ethnic groups in Myanmar. We are ready to fight for peace now—not later.” The ToT was one of the few discussions about the Rohingya genocide and the ongoing ICJ case amongst young peacebuilders in Myanmar. The members of the Young Women Leaders network highlighted the need for accessible global and regional mechanisms and platforms to condemn and demand accountability from their government for the Rohingya genocide and effective implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions.

The young peacebuilders also identified electoral participation as a key strategy to demand accountability for gender equality, human rights, and sustainable peace from political decision-makers.  But while the Union Election Commission’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and Action  Plan encourages political parties to increase the membership of women, the actual numbers of women politicians are much lower. “It’s hard to change things if we are not part of the system. If we want more women in peace processes, we need to elect more women politicians. Most political party leaders are currently men.” a participant explained. The ToT participants also shared their perspectives on the barriers to political participation with some young women candidates prior to the national elections on November 8, 2020[3] from the Democratic Party for New Society and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. A young woman politician described some of the challenges she experienced in campaigning: “I face so many threats, with people monitoring my social media accounts and attacking my gender identity and sexual orientation. I’m thought to have no knowledge or experience. I am sexualized in the media. Men in my constituency try to shame and silence me. I need the support of a sisterhood of young women peacebuilders who believe in me. I am brave. I am dedicated to the cause. That’s why I won’t step down.” During the training, the young peacebuilders developed initiatives to generate support in their communities for politicians who promote gender equality and peace. These include social media campaigns to amplify their messages and counter fake news and mentorship schemes between seasoned and younger politicians in communities.  

Ultimately, the online workshops established a network of Young Women Leaders, supported by gender equality allies and LGBTQIA+ youth, who will meaningfully participate in, influence, and lead community-based peacebuilding, and advocacy for the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions, human rights, and an immediate cessation of armed conflict and violence. The Young Women Leaders for Peace Myanmar are ready to get to work! The active participation of young women leaders, LGBTQIA youth and gender equality allies in the focus group discussion and the ToT; as well as the establishment of the Young Women Leaders – Myanmar are all indicators of success in advancing the WPS and YPS agendas in this country. They represent a sign of hope in a country where independent civil society voices have been re


[1] Names have been redacted to protect youth peacebuilders.  

[2] “Kalar” is a racist term to describe a person of Indian heritage in Myanmar.

[3] There is still no available gender and age disaggregated data on the full results of the elections on November 8, 2020. GNWP and the Yangon Youth Network are closely monitoring the results as part of our efforts to hold elected officials accountable to laws and policies on human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, gender equality, and peace and security.

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