Category: COVID-19

Category: COVID-19

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:

Ending the Misinformation Epidemic: GNWP Develops a COVID19 – Women and Peace & Security, Database and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy

Ending the Misinformation Epidemic: GNWP Develops a COVID19 – Women and Peace & Security, Database and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives and realities of women across the globe, who have been disproportionately impacted by the health crisis. The mandatory isolation and social distancing policies have alarmingly aggravated domestic violence, as they trap women at home with their abusers, while women’s shelters and domestic violence hotlines are struggling to meet demand. As primary caregivers for the sick and elderly, women also face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, women comprise the majority of health and social care workers and are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Finally, the outbreak has led to an increase in the unpaid domestic labor burden on women, including childcare as schools and nurseries have closed.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbated by armed conflict, ongoing violence, and humanitarian emergencies, where refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are at an extremely high risk. The pandemic has impacted peacebuilding efforts because of violations of human rights including suppression of freedom of speech and of the press, attacks on women human rights defenders, increased surveillance by the government and heavily militarized responses. The travel and mobility restrictions have severely inhibited the delivery of essential services and humanitarian aid to refugees and IDPs and other vulnerable groups. The situation is further aggravated by dwindling resources, which have also disrupted the work of many women’s rights organization and civil society groups who work to promote and protect women’s rights, and build inclusive and sustainable peace.

Nonetheless, women and youth peacebuilders continue their work in the face of COVID-19.While advocating for the implementation of peace accords or monitoring the implementation of ceasefire agreements, they make face masks and distribute them along with food packages and hygiene products, to the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees and IDPs. Women and youth are also at the forefront of tackling the “epidemic of misinformation” that has accompanied the outbreak of COVID-19, as recognized in the United Nations Secretary-General’s announcement of the United Nations Communications Response. Women peacebuilders translate accurate information about COVID-19 to local languages, organize media and social media campaigns to counter fake news and hate speech, and monitor impacts of the pandemic.

Despite their contributions, women and youth peacebuilders remain marginalized in the crisis and excluded in the decision-making on the response. This year we mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) and 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women and Peace and Security. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges and discrimination that women still face in their work, and the gaps in the implementation of the two groundbreaking international instruments. Much more remains to be done to fulfill the promise of UNSCR 1325 and the BPFA – and it starts with ensuring gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive response to the COVID-19 crisis!

Such response must be based on evidence from grassroots women and civil society, and reliable, sex- and age-disaggregated data. However, while much attention has been given to the impact of COVID-19 on women, there is no systematized source of information about the gendered impacts of COVID-19, and its impacts on peace and security.   

COVID-19 and WPS Database

To address this gap, GNWP is developing a COVID-19 and WPS database, which will document the impacts of COVID-19 on local communities affected by conflict as well as on women’s work on peacebuilding, conflict prevention and sustaining peace. GNWP is using its global network of over 100 organizations around the world to collect accurate and up-to-date information. The database will contribute to the objective of UN Communications Response Initiative objective to inform “responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance”. The database will also aim to encourage the development of gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive interventions on COVID-19. The COVID19- WPS database is a living document that will continuously be updated with information provided by local women and youth peacebuilders as well as secondary data. 

GNWP has also developed a Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy and Appeal to guide its work during the pandemic and present critical recommendations to mitigate its impact without sacrificing peacebuilding efforts and human rights. In addition, GNWP will be regularly publishing country-specific profiles that contain information on the impacts of the pandemic on women and peace and security. This will help “flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation.”

Help Frontline Women and Youth Peacebuilders Counter COVID-19

Women and youth peacebuilders provide vital assistance to counter COVID-19 in areas affected by violent conflicts. They need lifesaving resources today. During this growing pandemic, they face great risks to their health and safety. Your gift ensures that women and youth peacebuilders are able to purchase face masks, disinfectants, disseminate factual information to prevent mass panic, and are able to respond quickly to the crisis.