Category: News

Category: News

More than helpless victims – Kenyan journalists use the WPS agenda to change the narrative about women in conflict

February 23, 2021 by Wevyn Muganda

“After this training [facilitated by GNWP and RWPL], I will retell the narrative of what women go through in conflicts – to show them as leaders, and not helpless victims.” – Evans Kipkura, Nation Media, Elgeyo Marakwet

Kenya launched its 2nd National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in April 2020, at a time when the global COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for effective communication, coordination, and implementation of the WPS agenda more urgent than ever. Accurate and reliable information is critical to effective management of the pandemic and building sustainable and inclusive peace. During COVID-19, misinformation and disinformation have been a threat to both peace and security, and to gender equality. In Kenya, false or inaccurate information about the virus and how to prevent it contributed to these negative impacts. The media plays a key role in not only sharing, but also fact-checking information, in order to support crisis response, lower tensions between communities, and maintain peace.

Recognizing the important role of the media in promoting gender equality and sustainable peace, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in partnership with Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL) and with support from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) held a training workshop on WPS for Kenyan journalists on December 8-9, 2020. The training is part of GNWP’s ongoing efforts to engage journalists and raise their awareness and skills needed to fulfil their role in the implementation of the WPS resolutions. With support from ADC, similar trainings were also held in Georgia and Moldova in 2020, and further trainings in Armenia and Uganda are planned for 2021. The workshop in Kenya was held in a hybrid form – with most participants meeting in person, and some experts, including GNWP staff, joining via Zoom. During the workshop, 22 journalists from different counties in the North Rift and Western Kenya regions discussed the role of the media in the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and other WPS resolutions. The workshop convened journalists working in local and national media houses, who shared their experiences in reporting the stories of women living in conflict-affected areas. They also reflected on how they can more effectively contribute to the implementation of the WPS agenda.

The workshop’s sessions included expert presentations on the UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda and on Kenya’s NAP on WPS. These were complemented by interactive discussions, during which the journalists spoke of the impact of their work and the challenges they encounter in reporting about women in conflict and peacebuilding. From the discussions, it was apparent that the journalists have a good understanding of the conflict and security situation across the country. From raising awareness about the female genital mutilation, to reporting on gender-based violence cases, electoral violence and ethnic conflict, the journalists have been key players in increasing awareness on the impact of conflict on women and girls in the country. With digitalization and a growing number of internet users in Kenya, there has been increased consumption of media reports over the past few years, accompanied by a rise in community and digital journalism. Civil society groups in Kenya rely heavily on the information provided by the media when working to implement and monitor the implementation of the WPS agenda and to hold institutions such as the police, and individuals who instigate violence, accountable.

The training demonstrated that despite their reporting on issues of conflict and violence, the journalists’ knowledge of UNSCR 1325, and understanding of their own role in implementing it, was minimal. Since the media remains the primary source of information for most people in the country, the journalists’ lack of understanding of the agenda translates into a lack of knowledge and broad-base support for its implementation, especially at the community level. Overall, much more remains to be done to increase the media’s role in challenging the portrayal of women as passive victims of violence in the country, and highlighting their leadership – a foundational idea behind the WPS agenda.

During the workshop, GNWP and RWPL highlighted the importance of changing the narrative, and sharing more stories of women’s participation and leadership in peace processes, peacebuilding and decision-making. To fully implement the ground-breaking WPS agenda, the media must break with the narrative of women as victims. It should provide women across all levels – especially at the grassroots – with a platform to showcase their involvement in building sustainable peace, and support their efforts by giving visibility to the impact of their work.

Workshop participants agreed that a media strategy to support the implementation of the WPS agenda through gender-sensitive reporting in Kenya is necessary to follow-up on the training’s conclusions. GNWP and its partner RWPL are committed to continuing the work with the journalists to develop and adopt such a strategy.

GNWP and RWPL will also continue to amplify the role of journalists in the implementation of WPS resolutions in Kenya through continued training and providing incentives for gender-responsive reporting. Following the training in December 2020, in January 2021, we launched the first Media and WPS competition in Kenya. The competition invites journalists and journalism students to submit publications that aim at amplifying the stories of women’s leadership in peacebuilding and conflict prevention. We cannot wait to read the stories told and continue to work jointly with the media in Kenya towards gender equality and effective implementation of the WPS agenda!

Solidarity with the People of Myanmar

February 4, 2021

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:

  1. Respect and protection of the human rights of the people of Myanmar, including but not limited to their civil liberties and freedom of expression.
  2. Immediate release of political leaders and civil society activists and all those detained unlawfully by the military.
  3. Restoration of democracy, resumption of Parliament, and respect for the outcome of the November 2020 national elections.
  4. Irreversible reforms to national frameworks to strengthen language on human rights and democracy and prevent recurrence of such actions.
  5. Immediate restoration of the internet and all other forms of communication in Myanmar.
  6. Uninhibited delivery of humanitarian aid to refugees and internally displaced persons.
  7. Boycott of Myanmar military-owned companies which continue to make profits while citizens are driven into deeper poverty.
  8. 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.

Meet the 2021 Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellows

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.

From strong institutions to inclusive peace: Gendering the conversation about corruption, human rights, and peace and security

December 10, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“The most important characteristic of a peaceful society is a set of institutions that enable its members to live together in peace. This entails an absence of high levels of corruption and the existence of the rule of law. Strong institutions promote the peaceful co-existence of individuals and groups with differing interests and values and are a necessary condition for human flourishing.”

This is how one of the participants of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders’ (GNWP) research on local women and civil society’s perspectives on sustaining peace defined a peaceful society. The research reached over 1,600 women and men in 50 countries. When asked what peace means to them, the largest number – 40% of all respondents – indicated good governance and strong institutions. In line with this, corruption – within governments, civil society, and even donor institutions – was listed as one of the persistent challenges to sustainable and inclusive peace. 10% of all respondents believed that corruption is the biggest obstacle to peace. Respondents pointed out that corruption prevents grassroots peacebuilders from accessing funding to support their work, breeds distrust between citizens and their government, fuels economic inequality, and aggravates grievances. All of these factors are also the root causes of conflict and violence.

Corruption is a security concern

The findings of our research have added to the growing literature and policy discussions on the impacts of corruption on peace and security. A 2015 study by the Institute for Economics & Peace revealed that “corruption has a major influence over decreased levels of peace, including violent crime and the homicide rate.” In a similar vein, an analysis by Transparency International showed that “11 of the 20 most corrupt countries have been affected by violent conflict, often lasting many years.” As noted above, corruption aggravates the root causes of conflict. At the same time, armed conflict creates a fertile ground for corruption – as the influx of outside funds in post-conflict countries provides incentives for officials to make corrupt deals for personal gain.

The interlinkages between corruption and peace have also been recognized in global policy discussions. Recognizing the link between corruption and peace and security, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a briefing on corruption and conflict in September 2018. The UNSC has also addressed corruption in country-specific discussions and briefings. Misappropriation of financial resources is one of the criteria for sanctions in the cases of Somalia and Libya. Corruption has also been tackled in discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While preventing and combatting corruption is not a stand-alone SDG, tackling corruption, bribery, and money laundering, as well as recovering stolen assets, are specific targets under SDG 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

Where are the women? Bringing a gender lens to policy discussions on corruption

Despite the strong linkages between corruption and peace, most research, analysis, and policy discussions on corruption remain gender-blind and leaves the myriad of ways in which corruption affects women and men in conflict-affected situations unexplored. There is evidence that women and men are affected differently by corruption: corruption affects women’s access to literacy education, as well as their access to health, including maternal health, education, and economic opportunities. Still, analyses of the gendered impacts of corruption is not systematic in the literature on the issue, or in the policy discussions and recommendations related to corruption.

To address this gap, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Directorate of International Law of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, conducted research which applied a gender lens and conflict lens to the impact of corruption on peace and security, and on human rights. We used in-depth analysis of existing literature, policy documents, and ongoing global policy debates on corruption to map out existing trends and identify some good practices. Additionally, we conducted key informant interviews and focus group discussions in Nepal and Nigeria. Using the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda as a framework, the research highlights the interlinkages between corruption’s impact on human rights, peace, and gender equality, including women’s effective participation. The findings of the research are detailed in a policy brief and two in-depth case studies from Nepal and Nigeria. While not surprising, they serve as a critical wake-up call.

We found that corruption affects the implementation of all four pillars of WPS, and thus is a threat to both human rights, and to sustainable and gender-equal peace:

1. Corruption’s well-documented negative impact on human rights and women’s rights undermines the implementation of the Protection pillar of the WPS agenda. In North-East Nigeria, wide-spread corruption in internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps has increased the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and contributed to impunity for SGBV perpetrated by armed actors. Research respondents noted that corruption facilitates the spread of forced prostitution and human trafficking, as corrupt officials allow influential persons to “take girls outside the camp in the pretext of giving them better education but most often exploiting them either as sex workers or house helps, sometimes trafficking them to other states or communities.” Respondents also noted that there have been cases of police officers demanding payment from SGBV victims before filing their reports.

2. Corruption is a security concern, and a key factor undermining the implementation of the WPS Prevention pillar, as it can trigger conflict and aggravate existing insecurities, particularly for vulnerable groups, including women. The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) has noted the link between corruption and women’s personal security. For example, in its Concluding Observations to Ukraine from 2017, the Committee notes that the continued hostility and impunity for violations especially in Eastern Ukraine “along with pervasive corruption, has contributed to an increase in the level of violence against women by State and non-State actors and to the reinforcement of traditional and patriarchal attitudes that limit women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights”. However, corruption is also a threat to international peace and security. The UNDP report “Journey to Extremism in Africa” shows that the groups most susceptible to recruitment are characterized by significantly limited confidence in government and a sense of grievance towards the State. The belief that the government only looks after the interests of a few, the level of trust in authorities, and the willingness to report experiences of bribe paying were all key indicators in analyzing the susceptibility of young people to voluntarily joining a violent extremist group.

3. Corruption restricts women’s ability to meaningfully participate in decision-making, thus undermining the WPS agenda’s Participation pillar. A number of countries have noted in their State Party reports to the CEDAW Committee that corruption has an adverse effect on women’s political participation. For example, the 2004 Guatemala State Party report states that “women have no faith in the political process and believe that they have been deceived and exploited by male politicians. The 2009 State Party report of Papua New Guinea and the 2010 State Party report of Kenya also points to corruption as a major barrier to women’s political participation. The Papua New Guinea report notes that the prevalence of corruption increases the cost of running for office, thus making it impossible for women to stand as candidates.

4. Corruption has a documented negative impact on women’s access to justice, which undermines the post-conflict transition to a peaceful society and the implementation of the WPS Relief and Recovery pillar. In Nepal, research respondents noted that the police and judiciary officials are often hostile or disrespectful towards women, and there is a lack of understanding and appropriate guidelines on how violations of women’s human rights, including SGBV, are to be addressed. The lack of effective transparency and accountability mechanisms perpetuates such gender inequalities, as there are no checks and balances that would prevent security and justice officials from bringing their own biases into the system. Respondents also stated that widespread corruption at police and courts prevents speedy case clearance. As one respondent stated, “If there is ‘khuwai piyai’ (term used to indicate bribes provided – in cash or in kind – to obtain favors) then work moves ahead, otherwise it does not.” As a result, it could take up to 5-6 years for a case of SGBV to be considered in court. This effectively prevents women from accessing justice, as they do not have the resources to pay the bribes or to cover the legal fees during such a lengthy period.

Corruption is therefore not only a security concern – it is a WPS concern. Yet, it remains largely absent from discussions on conflict prevention and peace and security, including in the framework of WPS. Our call is clear: conflict-sensitive gender analysis must be a part of all discussions, policies, and actions to curtail corruption. Likewise, the issue of corruption should be acknowledged and discussed in policy fora dedicated to gender equality and sustainable peace – be it within the UN Security Council, the CEDAW Committee, or in national parliaments.

Five Years of Progress: Young Women Reflect on the Achievements of the Youth, Peace & Security Agenda

Happy 5th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250!

Join us by watching: Five Years of Progress: Young Women Reflect on the Achievements of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda

The 5th anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda, following shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, presents an opportunity for reflection and renewed action in the implementation of the interlinked resolutions. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) hosted a global consultation to create space for young women-led networks and women’s rights organizations to exchange experiences, reflect on their achievements, and identify key opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions. Today, on the anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, we share with you some of their recommendations and reflections.