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Category: COVID-19

Category: COVID-19

Taking Women, Peace and Security beyond 2020: It’s time to listen to women peacebuilders!

November 19, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“You need to take risks for peace to build peace! I was struck by the severity of the challenges the report [produced by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders with support from the Government of Ireland and UN Women] revealed. It makes it clear that there is a need for structural change to enable inclusive and sustainable peace.”

H.E. Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders and former President of the Republic of Ireland

The global momentum generated by the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on October 31st, 2020, was much anticipated. At the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) we began preparing more than a year prior to this milestone moment. We discussed and strategized with our national and local partners, and produced concrete recommendations, research and strategies. We spearheaded advocacy to ensure meaningful integration of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) in the preparations for the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action. We worked with our colleagues at the NGO Working Group on WPS to develop a Civil Society Roadmap on WPS. The question that guided us in all this was: How do we accelerate implementation, and ensure that commitments made during this momentous year do not remain empty words, but translate into concrete actions beyond 2020? To us, it was clear that the 20th Anniversary of the landmark Resolution 1325 – a resolution that was conceived of and drafted by women peacebuilders – needs to be a moment of awakening and radical re-commitment, rather than merely celebration.

So, from Armenia to South Africa, from Colombia to South Sudan, from the Philippines to Ukraine, women peacebuilders discussed, planned and prepared. But for all the foresight that went into the 20th Anniversary, none of us expected that it will happen the way it did. COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated many of the challenges and barriers faced by women peacebuilders around the world. It also set the stage for the first virtual Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and Open Debate on WPS.

At the same time, COVID-19 has also underscored the resilience of women peacebuilders and the feminist and women’s movements around the world. Throughout the pandemic, we remained connected, despite the gendered digital gap, which leaves many women without access to the internet. We maintained high levels of coordination and continued our advocacy for effective implementation of UNSCR 1325. Throughout the month of October, women peacebuilders, separated by distance and time difference, have found ways to connect – gathering in small groups in offices with internet access to attend virtual events, purchasing mobile phones and mobile credit to stay in touch, creating social media hashtags and campaigns.

The strength of solidarity and sisterhood in the face of the pandemic was, to me, one of the defining features of this year, and the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

The unparalleled ability of women peacebuilders to adapt and innovate in the face of crisis and uncertainty once again underscores that they are the leaders and pioneers in building and sustaining peace.

It was in this spirit that on October 26, 2020, just a few days ahead of the Open Debate on WPS, GNWP, the Government of Ireland and UN Women organized a high-level event “Learning from Grassroots Women Peacebuilders: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Beyond 2020”. The event brought together women peacebuilders from Colombia, Northern Ireland and Uganda, as well as the representatives of governments and the UN. It was designed to provide the women peacebuilders to share their experiences, perspectives and recommendations for action with key policy- and decision-makers ahead of the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325. As Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GNWP underlined in her remarks during the event, “it is the time for the international community to talk less, and instead listen more and learn from women peacebuilders.”  

Taking WPS beyond 2020: What do women peacebuilders have to say?

During the event, Beatriz Quintero, Executive Director of the Red Nacional de Mujeres in Colombia, Elizabeth Law, Chair of the Northern Irish European Women’s Platform and Rebecca (Becky) Turyatunga Juna, a young activist from Uganda, reflected on the key challenges to the full and effective implementation of the WPS resolutions, and the way in which COVID-19 has affected it. Their recommendations reflected those from the report commissioned by Ireland, and prepared by GNWP with support from UN Women.

The research, and the interventions of Beatriz, Elizabeth and Becky underscored many recurring themes on the implementation gaps that have been identified in previous years. At the same, they also identified innovative ways forward and locally-driven solutions that need to be recognized, amplified and replicated, particularly in the context of COVID-19 recovery.

Here is what women peacebuilders have to say:

1. It’s time to move from words to action!

Women peacebuilders who participated in the research carried out by GNWP agreed that the legal and normative framework on WPS at the global level is strong and sufficient. They called for translating the existing global laws into local languages, and into concrete policies and actions at the national and local levels. They emphasized the importance of adopting National Action Plans (NAPs), which allow the civil society to hold their government accountable for their WPS commitments. To date, 85 out of the 193 UN Member States adopted NAPs on WPS. However, only 24% of NAPs had dedicated budgets at adoption. Women peacebuilders interviewed by GNWP urgently called for an increased commitment to, and investment in, NAPs – including through the use of localization of UNSCR 1325 as a key implementation strategy.

In line with this call, Beatriz Quintero reminded participants of the high-level event that full implementation of UNSCR 1325 and gender provisions in peace agreements is necessary to build a more stable and secure world. She warned that COVID-19 has been used as an excuse to slow down the implementation and divert funding away from women-led peacebuilding and the implementation of the peace agreement.

2. Peace is more than an absence of war – to sustain it, we need to change our global culture!

To women peacebuilders, peace is more than an absence of war. When GNWP asked 1,600 women and men across 50 countries “What does peace mean to you?” in a research conducted in 2018 with support from UN Women, their responses painted a holistic, human-centric vision of peace. Peace means living without fear in one’s own home. Peace means having a say in decisions about one’s future. Peace means all girls – including those living in marginalized communities, refugee and IDP girls – being able to go to, and graduate from, school.

This year these words ring particularly true. Elizabeth Law warned that as security risks and tensions within communities rise during the pandemic, it is necessary to ensure delivery of basic services, address trauma and mental health issues, and consolidate the human rights framework. This is the only way to guarantee sustainable peace. Women are already doing this, she stressed. They have mobilized to address the needs of their communities and respond to increased tensions and reduced safety. But they remain excluded from decision-making!

If COVID-19 made one thing clear, it’s that weapons do not make us safer.

Military responses are not successful in staving off the deadly pandemic. Today more than ever, peace means more than an absence of war. It means having access to protective equipment, quality healthcare, including mental health services, and a safe space to turn to if one faces violence at home. 

3. Women’s exclusion is not an accident – structural barriers hinder meaningful participation!

Law, Quintero and Juna all emphasized the exclusion of women from peace negotiations and decision-making, including on peace and security and COVID-19 response and recovery.

Women who participated in research and consultations across Colombia, Northern Ireland highlighted that the exclusion is systematic and deeply rooted in cultures and institutions. In a similar vein, Beatriz stressed that in Colombia, “pre-existing inequalities and the patriarchal system mean that women, ethnic minorities and lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19”, yet they are not included in official discussions about pandemic response and recovery.

Becky highlighted the importance of the digital divide as a barrier to women’s participation. Globally, women are 23 percent less likely than men to use mobile internet. Becky was able to join the discussion, because she borrowed a smartphone from a friend, and had her mobile data purchased by organizers. “But what about women in rural settings who do not have access to a smartphone?” – she asked poignantly.

Patriarchal systems, unequal access to technology, education and economic opportunities, and over-militarized cultures that render women’s contributions to peace invisible are all at the root of their exclusion. Addressing it requires a systemic change.


Over 20 years ago, women peacebuilders made history, by drafting a UN Security Council Resolution that formally recognized that women’s “equal participation and full involvement” as essential to “all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” As we enter the 21st year of the ground-breaking WPS agenda, women peacebuilder’s message is clear: we need deep, structural changes to create a culture more conducive to women’s meaningful participation in peace and security processes at all levels.

Such systemic and cultural changes can only take place if women from all walks of life have a seat at the table and equal say in all decisions. This requires investment in addressing the persistent barriers to participation, including violence and the threat of violence, lack of financial independence, and restrictive societal norms. The road to full and effective implementation of the WPS agenda still faces many challenges. But women peacebuilders have the solutions. It is time we listened to them.

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

July 17, 2020 by Katrina Leclerc

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

On July 14, 2020, the United Nations Security Council adopted its third resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS), co-sponsored by France and the Dominican Republic. Resolution 2535 (2020) aims to accelerate and strengthen the implementation of the YPS resolutions by:

  • institutionalizing the agenda within the UN system and establishing a 2-year reporting mechanism;
  • calling for system-wide protection of youth peacebuilders and activists;
  • emphasizing the urgency of the meaningful participation of youth peacebuilders in decision-making on humanitarian response; and
  • recognizing the synergies between the anniversaries of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (women, peace and security), the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Some of the key strengths of UNSCR 2535 build on the persistent work and advocacy of civil society groups, including the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). As we welcome the new resolution, we look forward to their effective implementation!

Intersectionality

A highlight of the resolution is that it emphasizes the intersectionality of the YPS agenda and recognizes that youth are not a uniform group, calling for “protection of all youth, particularly young women, refugees and internally displaced youth in armed conflict and post-conflict and their participation in peace processes.” GNWP has been advocating for, and implementing, intersectional approaches to peace and security for over a decade. We believe that to build sustainable peace, it is necessary to address cumulative barriers that different people and groups face based on their gender, sex, race, (dis)ability, social and economic status, and other factors.

Removing barriers to participation

In practice, intersectionality means recognizing and removing barriers to participation in peacebuilding processes – including conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. Such barriers are outlined throughout UNSCR 2535, which calls for comprehensive approaches to peacebuilding and sustaining peace by addressing root causes to conflict.

This is particularly important because structural barriers still limit the participation and capacity of youth, particularly young women. GNWP’s Young Women Leaders (YWL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experience first-hand the “insufficient investment in facilitating inclusion.” For example, in the province of North Kivu, young women have created and run micro-businesses for two and a half years providing them with small revenues to sustain their field work and modest personal expenses. Despite the low income of their micro-businesses, and the fact that they invest all profits into initiatives that benefit their communities, local authorities have been imposing seemingly arbitrary ‘taxes’ on the young women – without documentation or justification. This has hindered their capacity for growth and economic development as many have found that these ‘taxes’ were not proportionally adjusted to their small revenue. It has also impeded their ability to reinvest their small profits to support their peacebuilding initiatives.

The recognition by UNSCR 2535 of the complex and multi-layered barriers to youth participation is important to ensure unjust and burdensome practices, imposed to young people and particularly to young women, are eliminated. Supportive systems must be prioritized to ensure the success of local youth initiatives who contribute to the overall progress and good of societies.

Young people and preventing violent extremism

The resolution also recognizes the role of young people in counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE). GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace are an example of youth leadership on PVE. In Indonesia, YWL are using education and advocacy to tackle radicalization of young women. In the provinces of Poso and Lamongan, where the YWL operate, they work to prevent and counter violent extremism by addressing the root causes within a human security framework.

Call for WPS and YPS synergies

The resolution calls on Member States to recognize and promote synergies between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS); and Youth, Peace and Security agendas – including the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (women, peace and security) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Civil society, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, have long called for greater synergies between WPS and YPS agendas as many of the barriers and challenges faced by women and youth are part of the same exclusionary cultures. The discrimination, marginalization and violence girls and young women experience often continue to adulthood, unless enabling conditions are created for their empowerment. On the other hand, girls and young women who have strong support from family, school and other social institutions are better equipped to realize their full potentials as adults.

GNWP has taken this call for stronger synergies between WPS and YPS in the processes around the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) through its advocacy for an Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. This advocacy was recognized by the Core Group of the GEF with the development of the Compact Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action within the Beijing+25 review process. While the name of the Compact does not include YPS, the inclusion of young women in decision-making has been highlighted in the Compact’s concept note.

Role of youth in humanitarian response

The resolution recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people as well as the role they take in responding to this health crisis. It calls on policy-makers and stakeholders to guarantee meaningful youth engagement in humanitarian planning and response as essential to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance.

Young people have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, providing lifesaving support in local communities gravely affected and vulnerable to the health crisis. For example, GNWP’s Young Women Leaders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and South Sudan have been providing relief support and information dissemination to promote safe precautionary measures and counter ‘fake news’ within social media. In the Philippines, YWL have distributed ‘dignity kits’ to local communities to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable individuals and families who have been further isolated by the pandemic.

Protection of young activists and support to survivors

Historically, the resolution recognizes the need to protect the civic space of youth peacebuilders and activists – including the important need for explicit protections of human rights defenders. It also calls on Member States to provide “access to quality education, socio-economic support and skills development such as vocational training, to resume social and economic life” to survivors of armed conflict and survivors of sexual violence.

The experience of the Young Women Leaders in DRC has emphasized both the importance of multi-faceted and survivor-centered response to sexual violence, as well as the key roles of youth peacebuilders in addressing impacts of conflict. The young women peacebuilders are supporting survivors of sexual violence by providing psychological and moral support to survivors. Through awareness-raising and collaboration with local partners on the ground they have begun to shift the narrative from victim to survivor, important progress for the stigmatization and agency of young women. However, speaking out about this sensitive issue can put them at risk – therefore, it is essential to ensure adequate protections for young women activists.

Implementation and accountability mechanism

The UNSCR 2535 is also the most action-oriented of the YPS resolutions. It includes specific encouragement to Member States to develop and implement roadmaps on youth, peace and security – with dedicated and sufficient resources. These resources should be intersectional and realistic. This echoes GNWP’s long-standing advocacy for adequate resources to support peacebuilding led by women, including young women. Far too often, roadmaps and action plans are developed without dedicated budgets, which limits the implementation of the agenda and meaningful participation of young people in sustaining peace. Furthermore, the resolution encourages dedicated funding for youth-led and youth-focused organizations, and emphasizes the institutionalization of the YPS agenda within the UN. This will eliminate additional barriers faced by young people as they are often in precarious work and disadvantaged economically. Young people are expected to provide their skills and experiences as volunteers, which further increases the economic divide and forces many to remain or to live in poverty.

Young people have a role to play in sustaining peace and economic well-being of societies. Thus, it is crucial that they be included in all aspects of design, implementation, and monitoring of economic-focused opportunities and initiatives; especially, now within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic which has created additional disparities and burdens in the state of the world’s economy. The adoption of UNSCR 2535 is an important step towards guaranteeing that. Now – on to the implementation!


GNWP is having ongoing conversations with Young Women Leaders around the world on the relevance of UNSCR 2535 and other YPS resolutions. This is their views:

“UNSCR2535 is relevant both in our communities and globally because it reinforces the importance of youth’s meaningful participation in creating a just and humane society. Given that our country has passed the Anti-Terrorism Law recently, this resolution can also be a protective mechanism for youth activists engaged in different advocacies such as peacebuilding, protecting human rights and ensuring due process.” – Sophia Dianne Garcia, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As a worker in the local government unit, I think we need to engage the youth throughout this peacebuilding process. Engaging the youth means recognizing us, as one of the political actors that can influence decisions. And those decisions will affect us eventually. We don’t want to be ignored. And at worst, be wasted. Participation, hence is empowerment. And that’s important.” – Cynth Zephanee Nakila Nietes, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As UNSCR 2535 (2020) does not only recognize the specific situation of young people, but also leverages their role and potential for preventing conflicts, building peaceful and inclusive societies and effectively addressing humanitarian needs. That can be attained by strengthening the role of young peacebuilders, especially women, engaging youth in humanitarian response, inviting youth organizations to brief the Council, and considering the specific situation of youth in the organ’s deliberations and actions that all are needed at this age in everyone’s community.” – Shazia Ahmadi, Young Woman Leader in Afghanistan

“In my opinion, this is very relevant. Because as a member of the younger generation, especially in our region, we want to be able to participate with the guarantee of protection. So, with that, we can also be taken into account in efforts to maintain peace itself even in making decisions and other matters relating to peace and humanity.” – Jeba, Young Woman Leader in Indonesia

Women, peace and a pandemic: Translating gender provisions in peace deals into peaceful and inclusive societies during the COVID-19 outbreak

June 16, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace.” – Nigeria Renteria, principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC)

Ms. Renteria’s statement during the online panel discussion on Gender in Peace Deals and COVID-19 responses organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in collaboration with the New York University Center for Global Affairs (CGA) and UN Women on June 03, 2020, validates the findings of the research conducted by the NYU CGA in partnership with GNWP.

The research has established that more women at the peace table leads to greater inclusion in political and economic life after conflict; and that women’s meaningful participation is a pre-requisite for a just and inclusive peace.

The research was carried out by graduate students Ms. Jillian Abballe, Ms. Emma Grant, Ms. Foteini Papagioti, Ms. Dorie Reisman, and Ms. Nicole Smith as part of a practicum in late 2019. Using quantitative and qualitative analysis, the researchers examined the impacts of women’s participation in peace negotiations on political and economic outcomes five years after the conflict. They also analyzed existing opportunities and barriers for women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and in the implementation of peace agreements.

The findings were discussed, and validated, by  Ms. Ayak Chol Deng Alak, Deputy Coordinator for the South Sudan civil society forum, Ms. Nigeria Renteria, a principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, and Ms. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Chair of the Government Peace Panel in the peace negotiation between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Anne-Marie Goetz, a clinical professor at NYU CGA, and Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the GNWP.

This event could not have come at a more critical time. As we are approaching the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 this October as well as the Generation Equality Forum that commemorates 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action, a reflection on women’s meaningful participation in peace processes cannot be missing from these historical processes. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of women’s participation in peace negotiations and the implementation of peace agreements and brought to the fore many of the barriers they face.

The presentation of the final research report by Ms. Agnieszka-Fal Dutra Santos, Program Coordinator at GNWP, and Ms. Foteini Papagioti, NYU CGA graduate student, paved the way for a critical and lively discussion. The panelists were joined by over 250 people on the Zoom webinar, and over 3,000 watched via a live webcast.

Key recommendations from the NYU-GNWP research

1. The design of peace processes needs to be diverse and inclusive.

The meaningful participation of women requires thoughtful and intentional design. Tokenistic representation, or participation only in advisory or observer roles is not enough. Participatory peace processes need to be built on broad-based and diverse participation.

Participatory design leads to more inclusive processes, and a more just and equal peace. As stated by Nigeria Renteria, the inclusion of women negotiators and the creation of a gender commission in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC ensured that the interests of people of all sexual orientation and gender identity in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs at the political, social and economic levels. This is consistent with the messages of the GNWP-NYU research, which found that women’s participation in peace agreements predicted a higher labor force participation rate, women’s  higher share in the Gross National Income, and a lower female-to-male GNI ratio five years after the conflict. “Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace”, concluded Ms. Renteria.

In this context, it is critical to create stronger links between official (Track 1) peace negotiations and unofficial (Track 2 and Track 3) processes, where women are often at the forefront. This allows for more diverse participation and effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Read more about GNWP’s work to localize the peace agreement and bridge the gap between Track 1 and Track 2 & 3 peace processes here, here and here.

2. We need concrete action: gender provisions in peace agreements have to be actionable, context-specific and have a concrete implementation framework

In 2018, the proportion of peace agreements with gender-responsive provisions stood at only 7.7%, down from an average of 26% between 2001 and 2010. The GNWP-NYU research showed that concrete and actionable gender provisions – such as quotas for participation – can make a tangible difference in women’s political participation after conflict. With quotas, women use each successive election to increase their share of parliamentary seats.

However, panelists emphasized that implementation of the gender provisions – including quota – is not always a given. As attested by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, gender provisions in the Bangsamoro peace deal included a provision for a minimum number of political seats for women. Today, women form only 16% of total political representation in the transitional Bangsamoro Assembly. Coronel Ferrer emphasized that even though the number of the women in the Assembly is still not enough, their positive impact has already been apparent. She noted that these very leaders have been acting as catalysts of change in their communities via gender advocacy to change dominant, patriarchal culture.

Even where quotas have been formalized, such as in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), implementation has been extremely slow. Ms. Deng Alak pointed to the lack of political will, as well as patriarchal norms and attitudes toward women as the main reasons for this. Presently, only 4 of the 32 ministers are women; although that is a first, it still falls short of the 35%. Moreover, in political spaces, women are looked upon as “weak” and are forced to choose alliance to the party over the women’s movement or lose their career. Mali stands out in this matter, as pointed out by event attendee Ms. Mariam Diallo. Due to the 2015 gender quota law, Mali now has 29% of women parliamentarians, up significantly from the 10% or so representation prior to the law.

Thus, including quota in the peace agreements is important, but it is not sufficient in itself. Equally important is the inclusion of other gender provisions and concrete mechanisms for their implementation. In this context, Ms. Coronel-Ferrer shared that mandating concrete budgetary allocations for the implementation of gender provisions and for gender-responsive programs is a good practice for peace agreements to be effective.

3. Women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict countries must be a bigger priority for governments and donors.

This recommendation, echoed by the panelists and many of the event attendees, is not new. Local activists and peacebuilders constantly demand including women in decision-making on economic recovery. Event attendee Ms. Rahama Baloni from Mercy Corps, Nigeria commented that there is still very little support for peacebuilding programs that encompass economic empowerment. Ms. Deng Alak pointed out that economic empowerment and financial security is a must for women to have political participation and political support.

We have also seen the clear benefits of small economic empowerment initiatives. For example, young women whom GNWP trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shared that running their own small businesses increased their decision-making power within their families and communities. As highlighted by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, the current gender provisions have not prevented women from being disproportionately disadvantaged economically. All five provinces of the Bangsamoro are at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI) rank and women make up only 26.1% of employed members of the labor force.

Women’s meaningful participation in peace processes is one of the six priority areas of accelerated implementation for UN Women in the context of this year’s 20th anniversary of resolution 1325. Ms. Mireille Affa’a, a Policy Specialist in the Peace and Security Section, reaffirmed their commitment and spoke about how UN Women prioritizes women’s leadership and economic empowerment to ensure their peace interventions are sustained through economic recovery and inclusion in economic life post-conflict.

Impact of COVID-19 on women’s meaningful participation and implementation of peace agreements

The panelists also discussed the impacts of the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 on peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements. During this crisis, many functions of governments, UN, and other institutions have slowed down or cease. Financial, human, and technical resources for the implementation of peace agreements have shifted to COVID-19 response. However, as noted by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, the founder and chief executive officer of the GNWP, this is a self-defeating strategy, since conflict and violence amplify the impacts of the pandemic and conversely, the pandemic is also a conflict multiplier.

In Colombia, COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges to peace since 2016. It has affected the implementation of the public policy integrated into the government plans, as well as the development plans at the municipal, departmental, and national levels. The crisis is also aggravating the health and food security challenges in local communities, particularly marginalized communities, who do not have adequate medical and service infrastructure to address COVID 19.

Ms. Deng Alak stated that COVID 19 has brought South Sudan to a standstill. The national government is using the pandemic as an excuse to stall peace processes and keep women out. The threat of hunger and disease plagues the whole country, but women face an additional threat of violence, with reports of increased gang rapes of women by men in uniform during this period. In the Philippines, COVID-19 has further compounded ongoing issues of loss of overseas jobs, investments and tourism, all of which the region relies on heavily.

Despite ongoing challenges, women are expected to play a key role in the reconstruction and recovery of their community and society after this pandemic. As emphasized by UN Women’s Ms. Affa’a, concrete, and sustainable investments into women’s livelihoods are a necessary intervention to build societies up better than before.

The ongoing pandemic compounds many challenges that women peacebuilders and peacemakers face. Yet, as stated by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, “Peace cannot wait and peace cannot be a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis!”

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

April 23, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Katrina Leclerc

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

“Afghan women have been fighting for their right to be meaningfully included in the peace process with the Taliban throughout the past 20 years. Today, we are afraid that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this progress will be lost, and provisions on women rights will be removed from the peace agreement.” This concern, shared by Sadaf Tahib, the Communication Associate of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association (AWWDA), was echoed by many of over 50 youth peacebuilders from 11 countries, who came together in an online meeting to share their experiences of preventing conflict and violent extremism, building peace, and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

The meeting was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, on April 15, 2020. It was the first-time members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan, came together. They were joined by women and youth leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Ukraine. By discussing the peace and security problems and the solutions to them amidst the pandemic and despite network connectivity issues, the women and youth peacebuilders sent a powerful message: COVID-19 will not stop us!

The event was also an opportunity to launch the Toolkit and Film for Young Women and Girls on Literacy, Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Media, and Theater. The toolkit and film are evidence-based, context-specific resources for elevating the voices and work of young women in preventing conflict and violent extremism drawn from GNWP’s work. They were developed based on the experiences of young women peacebuilders in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and good practices drawn from GNWP’s work around the world.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows including the aggravated levels of personal anxiety and stress, the women and peacebuilders underscored the need to hold regular discussions and continue supporting each other. Members of the YWL shared their frontline initiatives to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and youth peacebuilders. This is showcased in the new podcast ‘GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security’: Episode 25 on the Young Women Leaders Global Dialogue.

Young women’s frontline leadership

Speaking from Bangladesh, Young Women Leaders Machen Hia and Mathenu Rakhine, shared that they joined the YWL program to “make sure that there is peace and gender equality in [their] community in Cox’s Bazar.” They emphasized that there is still a lot of challenges, and highlighted their contributions to improving the gender sensitivity of humanitarian emergency response to the influx of 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They also shared their experience pre-COVID of conducting gender-sensitive, age-appropriate fundamental literacy and numeracy classes to Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Young Women Leaders are workingto prevent, support and counter increased sexualized violence during the pandemic. During the meeting, Emilie Katondolo and Nicole Musimbi, shared that this work includes using media and technology to dismantle and challenge narratives of ‘victims’ to ‘survivors’ of sexual violence, and ensuring accurate and updated information is provided to women and youth across the communities of Eastern DRC. “Through our program, we try to provide women with opportunities to make income, so that they can improve their financial situation and change their life,” said Nicole.

In Indonesia, Young Women Leaders for Peace, conduct community-level advocacy on women’s rights; gender equality; youth, peace and security (YPS); and human security. Prior to COVID-19, young women have held advocacy meetings in their communities and have developed strong relationships with district-level leaders. Nur Aisyah Maullidah, Ilmiyah Maslahatul and Ririn Anggraeni, shared that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the YWL Indonesia have held online English classes to continue their capacity-building amidst the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Young Women Leaders are also at the forefront of COVID-19 response. Sophia Garcia and Lynrose Genon, presented that young women are distributing face masks, disinfectants, and ‘dignity kits’ to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met. These kits are prepared by YWL members and distributed to internally displaced women and youth in Sagonsongan Transitional Temporary Shelter in Marawi, a city ravaged by armed conflict between extremist groups and the Philippine Armed Forces.

Speaking from South Sudan, Elizabeth Biniya, a member ofYoung Women Leaders, and Nyuon Susan Sebit, former Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at GNWP, discussed their efforts in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. The South Sudanese young women leaders are using community radio to raise awareness of domestic violence and the available support for those affected. They also disseminate information on preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. Additionally, the South Sudanese Young Women Leaders organize theater performances in Torit, South Sudan to raise awareness on women’s rights, gender equality, and peace and security among local populations.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is important to recognize and promote the synergies between the women and peace and security (WPS) and youth and peace and security (YPS) agendas and how they are linked to humanitarian emergencies. This is highlighted during this global COVID-19 pandemic as we see young women peacebuilders who step up and become first responders in their local communities. In doing so, they not only mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis but they also secure the gains of Afghan women and all other women and youth peacebuilders who have been demanding to meaningfully participate in peace processes and all levels of decision-making.

Want to support young women leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic? Share and donate here.

GNWP is grateful for the support of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and the collaboration of the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta – Bangladesh for the production of the Toolkit and Film.

Please see also other articles produced by the GNWP on COVID-19 and the women and peace and security, and youth and peace and security agendas: