The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) strongly condemns the military coup, which jeopardizes the peaceful democratic transition in Myanmar. On 1 February 2021, the Tatmadaw (military) arbitrarily detained civilian government officials and civil society leaders and declared a state of emergency on the grounds of disputed results of the national elections in November 2020. Internet connections and mobile phone service were restricted as fears of military-sponsored violence and unlawful detentions rose. The actions taken by the Tatmadaw infringe the civil liberties of the people of Myanmar.
The military rule in Myanmar has overseen a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya, along with countless other crimes against humanity targeted at marginalized ethnic minorities. The impunity for these crimes has encouraged further seizure of power and disruption of democratic processes. GNWP is deeply concerned that these recent actions by the military may lead to further violence and the disruption of humanitarian aid delivery to internally displaced ethnic minorities living in dire conditions. We call on the Tatmadaw to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks on civilians and arbitrary detention.
GNWP stands in solidarity with the people of Myanmar, especially grassroots women and youth peacebuilders. We echo their calls for:
Respect and protection of the human rights of the people of Myanmar, including but not limited to their civil liberties and freedom of expression.
Immediate release of political leaders and civil society activists and all those detained unlawfully by the military.
Restoration of democracy, resumption of Parliament, and respect for the outcome of the November 2020 national elections.
Irreversible reforms to national frameworks to strengthen language on human rights and democracy and prevent recurrence of such actions.
Immediate restoration of the internet and all other forms of communication in Myanmar.
Uninhibited delivery of humanitarian aid to refugees and internally displaced persons.
Boycott of Myanmar military-owned companies which continue to make profits while citizens are driven into deeper poverty.
Suspension of social media accounts of military and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) leaders which incite violence, sow divisions, and spread disinformation.
We urge the United Nations and the rest of the international community to take all actions necessary to protect civilians and prioritize their needs as they continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Community protection mechanisms must be established for civil society activists and peacebuilders leading civil disobedience campaigns to protest the coup. It is critical that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemn the coup, suspend all engagement with the Tatmadaw, and establish a global arms embargo. To hold perpetrators accountable for crimes of genocide, the situation in Myanmar must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Without swift, concerted action from the international community, the human rights of the people of Myanmar, particularly ethnic minorities, will continue to be violated without consequence.
The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is proud to welcome two new Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellows: Wevyn Muganda from Kenya and Manal El Tayar from Lebanon. Established in 2015 to honor Cora Weiss, a lifelong women’s rights, peace and social justice leader and activist, the Fellowship supports the training of young women peacebuilders on global policy advocacy. It helps ensure that more young people share Cora’s vision for sustainable peace and gender equality as strong and integral parts of the global culture. Through their experience of working with GNWP – both in New York and around the world – Fellows acquire experiences and skills, which enable them to advocate for women’s rights, inclusive and sustainable peace, and the participation of women at all levels of leadership and decision-making in their own countries. You can learn more about the Fellowship here.
As we welcome them to GNWP, we sat down with Wevyn and Manal to bring you their thoughts and experiences from their peacebuilding work in Kenya and Lebanon! Read the interview below:
Wevyn Muganda is a young human rights activist from Mombasa, Kenya. She initiated the Mutual Aid Kenya, a COVID-19 response initiative that supported communities in informal settlements of Mombasa and Nairobi with food relief packs, sanitation materials, education materials for children, medical supplies and organized the communities for political participation. Wevyn is also part of UNDP’s Global Youth Program ‘16×16’ that supports 16 activists from all over the world in advancing SDG 16. Read Wevyn’s full biography here.
Manal El Tayar is the co-founder of Unconventional International, a community led by young women for young women, and supporting the leadership and wellbeing of young women advancing peace and reconciliation. Manal is also TearFund’s Eurasia and North Africa Fragile States and Peacebuilding Advisor. Read Manal’s full biography here.
Date: January 25, 2021
Edited by: Natalia Valencia
Why are you excited to work with GNWP?
Wevyn: I am excited to join GNWP, as it is a women-led organization and a leader in advancing gender equality and women’s rights. I look forward to working with an organization that seeks to ensure women have equal access to opportunities in peace and security processes and decision-making. Most of all, I am looking forward to working with women for women — this is the sisterhood at work.
Manal: I am excited to join GNWP for three reasons. The first reason is the chance to work with incredible and like-minded women to bring about change. The second reason is the opportunity to translate global policies into concrete actions at the local level. Lastly, I look forward to learning more about working in partnership with different entities, including the government, in sustaining peace.
What do you see as the most pressing issues in the area of peace, security, and gender equality in the near future?
Wevyn: I identify three main issues. The first one is a transition to digitalization, which poses a problem for many women, particularly rural women who are illiterate or have little to no access to the internet, a smartphone, or a personal computer. The growing digital divide serves to widen gender inequalities. Secondly, poor mental health is a growing concern, and while there are many initiatives that tackle women’s well-being, it remains a problem, particularly for young people. The third issue is related to climate change and how our current trajectory — including worsening pollution, desertification and depletion of natural resources — could present a danger to the gains made towards building sustainable peace.
Manal: Growing up in Lebanon, I have seen armed conflict and deteriorating financial and economic conditions push many of my peers to emigrate. Those with enough economic resources or with networks to the gulf, Europe, or North America, relocated and pursued an education and/or jobs abroad. Others, with fewer economic resources and only networks locally, joined ranks and fought in Syria. As I observed these trends, I became attuned to how critical the intersection of peace and economic development is to address challenges faced by youth in fragile and conflict-affected states. From my lived experience, I also believe another pressing issue in this field is that of ensuring the well-being of women leaders working towards peace. For instance, identifying, addressing and dealing with the very trauma that may propel us into working for peace is necessary to ensure we are able to operate from a place of healing and abundance, and contributing to more holistic and effective communities.
What do you hope to gain from your fellowship experience? How will this experience further the work you have been doing in your country?
Wevyn: Given GNWP’s vast experience in the Localization of the UN Security Council Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) resolutions, I hope to learn from your expertise in this area in order to implement it back in Kenya. I am also very interested in learning how young women can become more active in civic, political, and democratic processes. The example of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as the youngest woman elected to serve in the United States Congress, and her journey, has inspired me to see how I can support young women leading in decision-making and political processes and institutions.
Manal: Localization of Women, Peace and Security is very important for me. I view this work as the equivalent of putting in the train tracks to enable local women and youth to move implementation in a specific direction.
What insights, knowledge, and experiences do you bring to the Fellowship?
Wevyn: I have previous experience with community organizing, particularly in engaging youth from diverse backgrounds. I also have experience with the Localization of Youth, Peace and Security in Kenya, and I hope I can bring this experience into my Fellowship.
Manal: Growing up in war-torn Lebanon and moving 21 homes before the age of 18 has shaped the person I have become today and my desire to see peace locally, regionally, and globally. For me, it is also important to take stock of the progress and reflect on the question “How could we have done this better?” This is because, if peacebuilders and non-governmental organizations are not critical, even with the best intentions, their work can often cause more harm than good. I am also grateful for the people that have supported me and the experiences that have shaped me up to this point.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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 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!
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.
Suchsystemic 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.
October 2020 marked a critical milestone for women peacebuilders: the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Resolution 1325. To us at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), it was a time to reflect on achievements to date and persistent barriers, strengthen our advocacy, and do what we do best: amplify women’s voices for sustainable and inclusive peace.
Throughout the month of October, we hosted a number of events, which brought together women peacebuilders working at local, national, regional and global levels, with representatives of UN Member States, international and regional organizations, academia and other stakeholders.
Our events reached over 1,500 people from 50 countries. Read more about the discussions we held below!
Beijing+25: Is the Generation Equality Compact on Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Fit for Purpose? Civil Society Perspectives and Recommendations Ahead of the Generation Equality Forum | October 8, 2020
GNWP kicked off the busy month with this event, which we organized on behalf of the civil society-led Beijing+25 Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) Coalition, in partnership with UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. This virtual panel discussion raised awareness of the Generation Equality Compact on Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA). As a dedicated outcome of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), the Compact on WPS-HA will serve as “a connector between the existing WPS-HA normative frameworks” to realize commitments. It presents a defining opportunity to increase the meaningful participation of women, young women, adolescent girls, and gender non-conforming individuals from conflict and crisis-affected areas in decision-making at all levels on peace, security, humanitarian action, and gender equality.
Convening over 200 representatives from Member States, civil society, and UN entities, the event created space for grassroots women and youth peacebuilders and frontline responders from Libya, Nigeria, Venezuela, France, Uganda, Nepal, and Fiji to share their recommendations, priorities, and hopes for the Compact with the Generation Equality Forum Core Group stakeholders (UN Women, Mexico, and France). All panelists, including Mexican Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro, French Ambassador Delphine O who serves as the Secretary-General of the Generation Equality Forum 2021, the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Åsa Regnér, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, Ambassador Victoria Sulimani, and the Libyan youth activist, Hajer Shareif, emphasized the urgent need for strengthening accountability, mobilizing funding for, and accelerating implementation of existing commitments on WPS, YPS, and Humanitarian Action. At a time when women—including young women—and youth continue to be excluded from peace and security processes, political decision-making, and COVID-19 response and recovery taskforces, and attacks against women and youth human rights defenders and peace activists increase, the Compact presents an important arena through which civil society, Member States, and UN entities can work together to promote sustainable peace and gender equality.
Women Peacebuilders & First Responders Define Priorities for Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding & COVID-19 Recovery in 2020 & Beyond |October 15, 2020
In partnership with the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and the Austrian Development Cooperation, GNWP held a panel discussion, which built on the recommendations of the Global Women’s Forum for Peace & Humanitarian Action (GWF 2020) in Vienna, Austria on February 19-20, 2020. The concrete policy recommendations formulated during the forum were included in the Vienna 2020 Declaration.
The panel discussion, held virtually on October 15, 2020, brought together women peacebuilders and first responders from Georgia, Kenya and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), who participated in the GWF 2020, to share the key recommendations from the Vienna 2020 Declaration. The panelists reflected on the increased urgency of these recommendations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Julia Kharashvili, the speaker from Georgia noted, COVID-19 had multilayered impacts. It influenced women’s physical health, psychological wellbeing, and their security. She emphasized the vulnerability of the internally displaced persons during the pandemic, and the new threats faced by women leaders and peacebuilders – including online harassment and cyberbullying. Mercy Jerop from Kenya highlighted the leadership of women and youth in addressing the pandemic, and in promoting the WPS agenda. She pointed out that in Kenya women and young women have been the key drivers behind the development of the country’s National Action Plan; yet, their work is often unrecognized. She called for media organizations to increase the portrayal of women as leaders and peacebuilders, rather than only helpless victims. Amal Tarazi, the speaker from OPT stressed the importance of economic empowerment as a pre-requisite for sustainable peace, and a key factor that enables women to meaningfully participate in decision-making. A key call from all speakers was: there is a need for more predictable, sustainable, and flexible funding to support women-led peacebuilding work! It is a requisite for ensuring effective implementation of the WPS agenda.
Ensuring Feminist and Localized Humanitarian Emergency Response: Where Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Meet | October 19, 2020
In partnership with UN Women, the WPHF, Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Permanent Missions of Canada and Norway to the United Nations, GNWP organized a virtual roundtable discussion to examine the linkages between peacebuilding, sustainable development, and humanitarian action. A resounding message from the event was: the WPS agenda is a critical instrument that brings both a gender and a conflict lens to humanitarian action. Grassroots women and youth peacebuilders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Uganda – countries in the midst of the world’s most severe refugee crises and armed conflicts – highlighted their critical contributions to humanitarian action and peacebuilding. They advocated for increased recognition and investment in their work. They also called for the full and effective implementation of the WPS, which intersects with, and reinforces, humanitarian action frameworks.
Representatives from the UN Women’s Humanitarian Research and Innovation Division, WPHF, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Gender Unit provided guidance on operationalizing the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus. Effectively bridging the gaps between humanitarian action, gender equality and peacebuilding requires investing in the capacities of local actors, particularly women’s rights organizations. It also requires strengthening national systems to implement effective and empowering humanitarian emergency response rooted in the human security framework. Ms. Krista House, Deputy Director of the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program at Global Affairs Canada, and Ms. Hilde Salvesen, Policy Director for Humanitarian Affairs at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared their perspectives as donors for humanitarian action and WPS implementation, emphasizing their commitments to increasing funding for gender-sensitive crisis response and recovery and the meaningful participation of grassroots women and youth peacebuilders in the design and implementation of humanitarian action.
Peacebuilding during a Pandemic: Launch of the COVID-19 and WPS Database | October 21, 2020
In partnership with UN Women and the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, GNWP hosted a virtual panel for the launch of a Database on COVID-19 and its impacts on Women, Peace and Security. The COVID-19 and WPS Database documents a number of different impacts and responses with 30 sub-categories divided under 5 main brackets: (1) impact of COVID-19 on women and gender equality; (2) impact of COVID-19 on women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations; (3) impact of COVID-19 on peace and security; (4) women-led humanitarian response to COVID-19; and (5) women-led peacebuilding and conflict prevention during the pandemic.
Recognizing the context-specific nature of pre-existing inequalities exacerbated by the concurrent health, humanitarian, socio-political and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 at the country-level, GNWP built the database on interviews, consultations and written contributions received by its partners – local and national women peacebuilders. The virtual panel discussion featured some of the grassroots experts, who have contributed to the development of the database. Each of them brought a unique perspective, informed by their experiences as first responders in the pandemic.
Dr. Roopa Dhatt, a medical practitioner from the United States of America and the chair of Women in Global Health emphasized the importance of women’s unpaid work, and the vast contributions women in public health. Sally Maforchi Mboumien Ndeh, director of COMAGEND organization from Cameroon shared women’s advocacy for an effective ceasefire in the country, emphasizing that while peace is more than an absence of war, the continued fighting exacerbates the health and humanitarian impacts of COVID-19. Dieketseng Diale, Chief Executive Officer of the Lady of Peace Community Foundation in South Africa focused on women’s resilience in the time of crisis. She shared how women peacebuilders have continued to communicate on WhatsApp, holding weekly discussions to share issues of violence and insecurity in their communities, jointly identify their roots and develop concrete strategies to address them. Finally, Helen M. Rojas, Chief of Staff of the Chair of the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women from the Philippines shared how the local government in the conflict-affected Bangsamoro Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has taken steps towards institutionalizing a gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response and recovery, by integrating measures to address the pandemic in the Regional Action Plan on WPS. Overall, the stories shared by the panelists highlighted women’s resilience agency and transformative leadership in response to COVID-19. They called for meaningful inclusion of women in COVID-19 task forces and committees, increasing funding for women peacebuilders who are at the frontlines of pandemic response, and basing COVID-19 recovery on a recognition and appreciation of the unpaid care work done by women around the world.
Learning from Grassroots Women Peacebuilders: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Beyond 2020 | October 26, 2020
In partnership with the Government of Ireland, UN Women, and the Governments of South Africa, Uganda, and Colombia, GNWP held a high-level side event, which showcased local women peacebuilders’ perspectives and priorities for advancing the WPS agenda beyond its 20th Anniversary. The event served as a launch of a report commissioned by the Government of Ireland and produced by GNWP with support from UN Women. The report presents local women’s unique perspectives and innovative recommendations on what is needed to strengthen the implementation of the WPS agenda. Her Excellency Mary Robinson, the Chair of The Elders and Former President of Ireland delivered a keynote address during the event, during which she emphasized the need for a “structural change to enable inclusive and sustainable peace”, made clear in the report. H.E. Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence of Ireland and H. E. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s Executive Director also delivered remarks reinforcing the report’s recommendations.
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, during which women peacebuilders from Colombia, Northern Ireland and Uganda shared their perspectives. Elizabeth Law, the chair of the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform underlined that COVID-19 has aggravated some of the conflict dynamics in the country, but that gender and peacebuilding perspectives were not reflected in the COVID-19 response. Citing one of the women peacebuilders who contributed to the report, she reflected that exclusion of women from decision-making – especially on peace and security – “is not an accident; it is an aspiration.” Rebecca Turyatunga Juna, a young peacebuilder from Uganda emphasized the importance of inclusion of young women, especially those living in rural or remote areas, in WPS planning and implementation. Building on the findings of the research, which highlighted Localization as a key implementation strategy, she also added that young women must be given access to global spaces. The digital divide is a major barrier that has to be addressed, she said. “I was able to borrow a smartphone to join you today. But what about women in rural settings who do not have access to a smartphone?” Beatriz Quintero, the Executive Director of the Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network) in Colombia also agreed that broad-base inclusion is the most important next frontier to move the implementation of the WPS agenda forward. She stressed that preexisting inequalities and the patriarchal system mean that women, ethnic minorities and lesbian, bay and transgender persons have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. They need to be included in the planning for recovery – as well as in WPS implementation!
GNWP’s Chief Executive Officer Mavic Cabrera-Balleza underscored that many of the recommendations put forth by the women peacebuilders are not new. But they take on a renewed urgency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women peacebuilders have concrete ideas on how to fulfil those recommendations. “The good practices and locally-driven solutions presented by local women peacebuilders need to be recognized, supported, amplified and replicated. It is the time for the international community to talk less, and instead listen more and learn from women peacebuilders,” she strongly emphasized.
The powerful remarks of women peacebuilders were intertwined with interventions from Member State representatives. This allowed for an exchange of perspectives and a much needed reality check on the status of WP implementation.
Guaranteeing full sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is a key element of a “survivor-centered” approach to sexual violence stipulated by the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2467 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has also made it clear that full access to SRHR is a “prerequisite for safeguarding women’s human rights”. At GNWP, we believe that SRHR is an essential element of the implementation of WPS resolutions and a necessary element of sustainable peace. Poland is a Member State of the UN, has a National Action Plan on WPS, and has also ratified CEDAW. It has an obligation to respect, protect and promote women’s human rights including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We stand in solidarity with the peaceful protesters in Poland, and call on the Polish Government to listen to their demands, in particular:
the call for guaranteeing full scope of reproductive rights, including access to safe abortion, free contraception and high standards of maternal healthcare.
the call for the implementation of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
the call to improve women’s economic situation, including by valuing women’s care work and closing the gender pay gap; and
the call to ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights of all in the country.
We also express deep concern about the reports of police brutality towards the peaceful protests. The use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests, and deployment of riot police to meet the protesters are uncalled for and are a violation of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We call on the Polish police force to respect and protect the full scope of human rights of the Polish people.