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The World’s First National Action Plan on Youth, Peace and Security – An analysis of Finnish commitments

9 December 2021

Katrina Leclerc[1]

In August 2021, the peace and security community welcomed the first National Action Plan (NAP) on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) under Finnish leadership.

The Finnish NAP (2021-2024) comes at a time when we are witnessing a rise in the impact of the YPS community – with thousands of youth-led social justice movements providing emergency assistance in pandemic responses in the Philippines, to global anti-racism demands in the United States, to civil disobedience following the February coup in Myanmar. Young people are making waves on the international stage, further demonstrating their agency in peace.

Finland is one of the pioneers of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, having first announced its NAP development process in 2019, and co-hosting the first international symposium on the positive role of young people in peace processes in Helsinki in March of that year. The Finnish YPS NAP builds on the standard for NAP drafting, strongly inspired by the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. National action plans have been the primary method to translate international law into actionable commitments by governments, since the ground-breaking adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR on WPS) in 2000.

Effective implementation of policy commitments

Following the adoption of UNSCR 2250 on YPS in 2015, young peacebuilders and their allies have been debating whether or not NAPs are the most effective tool to institutionalize and operationalize the agenda. Nevertheless, the Finnish NAP, followed by the Nigerian NAP, paves the way for Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, and the Philippines, among others, who have announced their development of national action plans on this thematic area.

The question of effective NAP development aside – the NAP process outlined by Finland demonstrates the need for an inclusive consultation and drafting process.

“Our 2250 network of youth organizations and other civil society actors played a key role at all stages of the NAP process. We organized two rounds of consultations that produced input for the NAP, we were invited to give comments to draft documents, and had a constant dialogue with the ministry formally and informally. We also received some public funding that enabled us to organize the consultations. In general, our views were very well received and taken into account. Of course there is always room for improvement, and we are confident that our active role and youth involvement will continue in the next stages.” – Kaisa Larjomaa, International Advocacy Specialist at the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi; Coordinator of the 2250 network of Finland

It also addresses a critical gap in some other countries’ NAPs, that of domestic implementation. Several countries which are considered “at peace,” such as Finland, have been criticized for adopting NAPs on WPS (or other thematic areas) which have little to no domestic focus. This means that a country’s NAP is almost exclusively linked to its international commitments rather than also addressing local gaps in peace and security. Finland’s NAP is refreshingly diverse in its approach and recognizes, targets, and prioritizes a dual implementation – both domestic and foreign.  

The priority areas in Finland’s NAP on YPS follow the five pillars of the YPS agenda (participation, prevention, partnerships, protection, and disengagement and reintegration). Importantly, it also includes a cross-cutting theme on intersectionality. It pulls from lessons learned from UNSCR 1325, and the WPS agenda, and demands an intersectional analysis inspired by the long-examined context of sex and gender. Finland commits to also addressing the specific marginalization of boys and young men. In Finland, young women are more likely to meaningfully participate in political decision-making. Interestingly, the NAP does not have young women-specific measures in this regard.

The Finnish NAP expands further to various other facets of young people’s identities such as sexual orientation, disability, race, religion, social-economic and educational backgrounds. By doing so, Finland recognizes the diversity of young people and focuses on their strengths and barriers – an emerging approach promoted by intersectional feminist actors.

“An intersectional approach will be promoted in the action plan by involving different types of young people and youth organisations and by providing them with the opportunity to also participate in the plan’s monitoring and evaluation. […] The intersectional approach also means taking into account that some young people need more support in order to play a meaningful role in decision-making.” (Finland National Action Plan on Youth, Peace and Security, 2021, p. 26).

Overall, the priority areas of the Finnish NAP touch on a wide range of themes, including the humanitarian-development-peace “triple” nexus. Finland has committed to integrating a YPS perspective into development cooperation, humanitarian work, and peacebuilding. As an important donor to the humanitarian and peacebuilding communities, Finland could increase investment in youth-led initiatives. Additionally, Finland has committed to raising awareness of young human rights defenders’, peacebuilders’, and activists’ work, rights, and need for protection.

Within the context of this new digital era, it is fitting that the NAP also emphasizes social media as both a tool and a threat to peace and security. Finland outlines commitments to prevent the spread of misinformation and fake news by promoting media literacy and peace education. Furthermore, it recognizes the impact of mental health on young people and describes it as a barrier to participation and protection, while viewing it as a prevention issue.

The Finnish NAP is ground-breaking and innovative when it comes to priorities for Youth, Peace and Security implementation. There is no doubt that Finland has demonstrated significant leadership with the development and adoption of this policy – in partnership and cooperation with civil society and young people. Several questions remain in terms of implementation and monitoring, especially with the lack of a specific, dedicated budget attached to this NAP. However, with genuine commitment and continued leadership, Finnish young people and youth across the world will surely benefit from this innovative policy approach.

GNWP wishes to congratulate Finland on the collaborative process which led to the adoption of this first NAP on YPS. GNWP is enthusiastic and optimistic about its impact, and we look forward to collaborating for a localized implementation.


[1] Katrina Leclerc is the Youth, Peace and Security Policy Specialist and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. She manages GNWP’s global YPS policy work and Young Women Leaders for Peace programs in Eastern Africa.

Rwandan government and civil society discuss the use of CEDAW to advance women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and recovery

15 June 2021

By Emem Bassey, Peacebuilding Program Intern for Africa, GNWP

“To implement something well, you have to monitor it. Monitoring helps see the gaps. Reporting on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) gives us an opportunity to reflect on the gaps in the implementation of Women, Peace and Security resolutions” –Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos, Director of Programs, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)

GNWP in partnership with ISOKO Partners and Benimpuhwe, civil society organizations working in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, organized a workshop on the synergies between CEDAW and the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and its supporting resolutions from 31 March to 1 April 2021. The workshop was attended by representatives from the Rwandan Government, civil society, and UN entities, focused on the use of CEDAW as a complementary reporting mechanism on the implementation of the WPS resolutions. It was organized in relation to Rwanda’s report to CEDAW wherein both the Government and civil society will submit reports. The organizing of the workshop was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation.  

Importance of assessment of WPS resolutions’ implementation and reporting

The workshop enabled the government and civil society participants to assess the progress in the implementation of the WPS resolutions and the remaining gaps. They also identified concrete recommendations for more effective implementation of the WPS resolutions and the National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS. Specific to civil society participants, it was an opportunity to review the draft report prepared by the government and provide their comments.

The workshop allowed participants to discuss many topics including the ways women are affected by conflicts and refugee crises; women’s roles as actors for peace; the need for women to be present in security sector institutions; the meaningful participation of women in local decision-making and conflict resolution structures; and, the need to support women both as voters and candidates in national and local elections. Importantly, the participants discussed the progress and the persistent challenges in the implementation of the WPS agenda, which should be reflected in the upcoming CEDAW report.

Analyzing the progress and gaps in WPS resolutions’ implementation

The topics discussed during the workshops were far-reaching and covered a multitude of areas. Some of the highlights of the discussions are the following: 

  • Identifying important advances to the implementation of the WPS agenda. Advances included the establishment of the national machinery for the advancement of women, the mainstreaming of gender equality across government policies and development frameworks –  including the country’s “Vision 2050” strategy, and the introduction of a quota for women’s participation in District Councils and the Executive Council in the city of Kigali.
  • The prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) and lack of access to services for GBV victims and survivors. Rates of violence remain high despite the measures put in place by the government – such as the Gender Accountability Days (GAD), a series of activities held at the district level to raise awareness, enhance accountability for gender equality, and prevention and response to GBV. The participants emphasized that CEDAW implementation and the effective use of the media and communication channels are critical instruments to address GBV.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on WPS agenda implementation in the country, and the need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery be gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive. The pandemic has revealed the widened gaps in social systems, and their disproportionate impact on women and girls. Across Africa, lockdown measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus have left many women with no escape from abusive partners. As a result, the cases of domestic violence and GBV increased in Rwanda during the pandemic. The participants concluded that the pandemic underscored the urgent need for full and effective implementation of the WPS agenda, to ensure that women’s rights are protected and that they participate in advocacy and lead the search for solutions.
  • The importance of involving young women and men in conversations about WPS implementation and GBV prevention. The participants recommended that gender studies be included in school curricula, in order for children to grow up with the understanding of gender equality. They also emphasized the importance of localizing the WPS agenda (see #Localization1325), to raise local government’s awareness of this international law, and ensure they can effectively contribute to its implementation and eradication of GBV. They identified concrete strategies – such as town hall meetings and dissemination of leaflets – to ensure that community members, including women and young women, are aware of the government’s COVID-19 responses including the economic packages available to them.

Crisis and Risk Communications Training

The workshop on the synergies between CEDAW and the WPS resolutions was followed by a training focusing on the importance of communication during conflicts and crises, such as a pandemic. The training was organized by GNWP, in partnership with the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) with support from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, and was attended by women and gender equality activists from across Rwanda, who have been first-responders to the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on the findings of the workshop on the CEDAW and WPS synergies, the workshop created a space for women from civil society to develop an advocacy and communications strategy that calls for a gender-specific and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response and recovery.

During this second day of the workshop, participants identified advocacy messages around COVID-19 response and recovery and designed strategies to distribute messaging. As a follow-up to the workshop, GNWP and RWN will transform these messages into information, education and communications materials, which will be widely disseminated, and will complement civil society’s efforts to advance the implementation of WPS resolutions through CEDAW reporting and implementation.

The two workshops provided a rich space for discussion and resulted in concrete recommendations. GNWP and its civil society partners look forward to seeing them reflected in Rwanda’s State Party report and disseminated through information, education and communications materials. Stay tuned!

Background to GNWP’s work: UNSCR 1325 and the Rwandan Genocide

In Rwanda, the UNSCR 1325 was profoundly important, as it was adopted during Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 genocide. During the genocide, Rwandan women were subjected to a mass scale of sexual violence, perpetrated by members of the infamous Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe. Although the exact number of women who were raped will never be known, testimonies from survivors confirm that rape and other forms of sexual violence – including sexual slavery – were a widespread practice. Such practices contributed to the genocide having a devastating impact on Rwandan women.

Despite Rwandan women being greatly impacted by the genocide, women have been leaders in reconstructing the country. Even before the adoption of the UNSCR 1325 in 2000, Rwandan women have played a central role in maintaining peace and security in their communities, country and region. Women mobilized to take care of the orphans and non-accompanied children left in their communities after the genocide. It is estimated that between 400,000 and 500,000 children were fostered or adopted by families and women-headed households.

Rwandan women worked together to rebuild solidarity and mutual understanding as a first step towards national reconciliation. For example, the Forum of Rwandese women leaders and Unity Club were formed, bringing together influential women from Rwanda to promote the message of reconciliation in communities, and foster cooperation among women parliamentarians from different backgrounds. Today, women make up 61.25 percent of Rwanda’s parliament, making it the country with the highest proportion of women in the national legislature.

Recognizing the important roles of women in peacebuilding resulted in Rwanda adopting its first three-year National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 in 2009. The second generation of the NAP, adopted in 2018 for the period 2018-2022, commits Rwanda to continue its efforts to implement the four pillars of UNSCR 1325 and other WPS resolutions: Protection, Prevention, Participation and Relief and Recovery. Effective monitoring of UNSCR 1325 implementation will be essential to ensuring meaningful participation, respect and protection of women’s rights.

Why Localized Feminist Humanitarian Action is Essential: Learnings from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

April 27, 2021 by Mallika Iyer

In August 2017, the southeastern Bangladesh coastal town of Cox’s Bazar was irreversibly changed when over 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled the Myanmar military’s genocidal campaign in the Rakhine State. The majority of Rohingya refugees live in 34 extremely congested camps with precarious access to food, health care, education, sanitation, livelihood, and shelter.

Rohingya refugee women and girls, most of whom are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, constitute 52 percent of the camp population. Living within these challenging camp conditions means Rohingya women refugees faced further marginalization due to their restricted mobility, access to information, basic services and limited decision-making power within camp management.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, further impacting on the lives of Rohingya refugees. Although humanitarian actors were able to successfully curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the pandemic intensified existing hardships for the refugees, along with the surrounding host communities in Cox’s Bazar. For example, food insecurity and levels of poverty soared dramatically, with poor food consumption scores rising from 5 to 15 percent in the refugee camps and 3 to 8 percent in host communities, meaning the prevalence of hunger increased significantly during this short period.

For the women of Cox’s Bazar, the pandemic exacerbated an already dire situation as the pervasiveness of sexual and gender-based violence and early, forced, and child marriage significantly increased within the refugee camps and host communities. This alarming uplift in gender-based violence followed a global trend coined by the United Nations as the ‘shadow pandemic’.

The lockdown measures imposed by the Bangladeshi government to mitigate the spread of the virus also disrupted critical gender equality programming in humanitarian interventions. Literacy and numeracy classes for women and girls, income generation activities, relief and recovery services for survivors of gender-based violence, psychosocial counselling, and family planning services have all been paused for over a year. Therefore, the pandemic threatened achievements that have been made in the protection of women’s rights and gender equality.

Conditions, particularly for women and girls, further deteriorated following a massive fire which broke out in Camps 8W, 8E and 9 on March 22, 2021, destroying countless homes, learning centers, women and child friendly spaces, and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) facilities.

The pandemic also fueled tensions between Rohingya refugee and Bangladeshi host communities, exacerbated by long-existing poverty, and unequal access to – and competing demands for – resources and social services. Hate speech and anti-Rohingya rhetoric increased amongst host community members who accused Rohingya refugees of spreading the virus and humanitarian workers of unfairly prioritizing COVID-19 response and recovery operations within the camps.

Within the current context there is an urgent need for localized, feminist humanitarian action which moves beyond meeting basic needs to fostering social cohesion, community resilience, sustainable development, and gender equality. However, current humanitarian interventions do not invest in local women’s groups in Cox’s Bazar, including those led by Rohingya refugee women. Investment in women is essential to strengthen women’s roles as key actors on the frontlines of the crisis and foster a transition to self-reliance.

Most humanitarian decision-making structures remain dominated by international actors and exclusionary to Bangladeshi and Rohingya women and young women peacebuilders and activists. Without the meaningful participation and leadership of women, efforts to address humanitarian crises cannot lead to long-term peace, development and stability or adequately meet the needs of refugee and host community women and girls. Therefore, humanitarian interventions that promote gender equality and invest in the agency and needs of local women and girls are not only necessary—they are urgent and critical.

In 2018, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the local civil society group Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta (JNUS), young Bangladeshi women from host communities in the Ramu and Ukhiya upazilas (districts) in Cox’s Bazar to advocate for sustainable peace, women’s rights, and gender equality. The young women have since organized themselves as Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) and have conducted peacebuilding and humanitarian activities in Cox’s Bazar. For example, they hold age-appropriate literacy and numeracy classes for 180 Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls, who have since been empowered to sign their names on legal documents, read important signs within the refugee camps, and access important information. Through these literacy and numeracy classes, the young women dispel anti-Rohingya rhetoric and create positive dialogues between the refugee and host communities.  In February 2021, following a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the YWL members were able to re-start these classes.

In December 2020, with support from Global Affairs Canada, GNWP and JNUS organized a semi-virtual (see endnote), five-day capacity building Training of Trainers to increase the YWL members’ understanding of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace, and Security agendas and enhance their peacebuilding and leadership skills. Covering sessions on areas such as leadership, peacebuilding and literacy and numeracy the workshop gave the Young Women Leaders the necessary knowledge and tools to effectively influence decision-making on peace, security, and humanitarian action and hold decision-makers accountable to their obligations under international law.

Shortly after the workshop several Young Women Leaders from the host communities and Cox’s Bazar refugee camps participated in a closed virtual briefing organized by GNWP on the Rohingya Crisis with policymakers from Bangladesh, Canada, Indonesia, and the Netherlands. The briefing created a space for young women peacebuilders from Bangladesh and Myanmar to present their seldom-heard perspectives including the challenges they confront, their priorities and recommendations, for gender-responsive and localized interventions to the Rohingya Crisis.

Notably, this briefing was one of the few spaces which represented all key stakeholder groups in the Rohingya Crisis. The briefing was created in attempt to solicit greater commitment from the international community to pursue accountability for the genocide as well as other atrocities against the Rohingya people including, sexual violence committed against women and girls.

In addition, GNWP has worked with these Young Women Leaders to help them amplify their voices in local, regional, and global humanitarian coordination mechanisms including the Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group in Cox’s Bazar, the Global Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action, and the Generation Equality Compact on WPS and Humanitarian Action.

The Young Women Leaders urged effective implementation of Bangladesh’s first National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, with a particularly focus on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Cox’s Bazar. The NAP serves as an important tool for responding to the gender dynamics of the refugee crisis; its ensures the meaningful participation of both Rohingya and host community women and young women in peace, security, and humanitarian action decision-making; and the investment in the economic security and relief and recovery services for refugee and host community women and girls.

To share their priorities for NAP implementation with a broader audience, the YWL members contributed recommendations to an advocacy brief published by UN Women, in coordination with GNWP, JNUS, and other civil society groups. Launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, the policy brief was disseminated to local and national authorities, the Bangladeshi police, civil society, various UN entities, and the diplomatic community. The YWL members also plan to organize community dialogues with traditional and religious leaders and create media campaigns to raise awareness of the NAP and generate broad-based support for its effective implementation. 

The leadership and determination of Cox’s Bazar’s young women leaders serves as a shining example of the kind of localized, feminist humanitarian action that should be recognized, invested in, and amplified by Member States, UN entities, regional and international NGOs, civil society, academia, and private sector organizations. If we want to ensure that we are building back stronger communities and preventing further outbreaks of conflict, it is imperative that women’s voices are heard in conflict resolution. Without a more inclusive, gender-responsive approach to crisis recovery we risk not building a strong enough foundation for a stable and conflict-free future.

Endnote: Following government guidelines on social distancing, the participants, representatives from JNUS, and several Bangladeshi resource persons, convened in a training venue, wearing face masks and strictly observing proper hygiene. GNWP facilitated the workshop virtually.

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!

Financing for women’s organizations: The billion dollar question

December 4, 2020 by Jenaina Irani

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

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

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

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

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

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