Category: Articles

Category: Articles

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!

See Us, Hear Us, Join Us! Women Peacebuilders in Colombia Defy COVID-19 and Promote Inclusive Peace

November 30, 2020

By Beatriz Ciordia and Cecilia Lazara

Edited by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“We will never be seen as changemakers if the public does not see, read or listen about the work that we, as women, do in our communities”, noted women’s rights activist and a member of the Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network; RNM) Vanessa Liévano during a Localization of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) workshop held in December 2019 in Popayán. Popayán is the capital of Cauca, one of the departments most affected by the decades-long conflict in Colombia. The workshop was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in partnership with RNM and Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca (Departmental Network of Women in Cauca), and with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Liévano’s words resonate even louder today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – a public health crisis that has had severe impacts on women’s rights, human security and peace in Colombia. The pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities, put women at a greater risk of violence, and created new challenges for the implementation of the peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC).

Despite these challenges, women and youth peacebuilders in Colombia have been at the forefront of the response to the intersecting health, humanitarian and security crises caused by COVID-19. RNM supported women peacebuilders to prepare and distribute food packages, hygiene and reproductive health products, such as contraceptive pills, condoms and pregnancy tests, to women and girls, the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees, and internally displaced persons. RNM collaborated with the indigenous guard to make sure that the packages reach indigenous women and girls living in remote areas. In parallel, women activists have also continued their peacebuilding work, monitoring the peace agreement implementation, translating local needs into concrete policy proposals, and advocating for the inclusion of gender-responsive provisions in local development plans.

However, illustrating the truth of Vanessa Liévano’s words, the work of Colombian women to address COVID-19 and its impacts remains largely unseen and unsupported. Against this background, women peacebuilders warn that the pandemic threatens the achievements of the women’s movement and the WPS agenda. Their message is clear: we cannot afford to back down. The implementation of the peace agreement and WPS agenda needs to continue despite the new and growing challenges. Peace simply cannot wait!

Peace in Colombia is more fragile than ever

The signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC in 2018 was a great achievement for the women’s movement in the country. The agreement, which includes more than 120 gender-responsive provisions, has been hailed internationally as an example of good practice. Its strength came to a large extent from the contributions of women—both as negotiators and civil society. However, as a 2018 Kroc Institute report points out, the implementation of the agreement has been slow, and there have been many delays, especially on the implementation of gender-responsive provisions. The delays are partly due to the failure of President Iván Duque and his administration to make progress on key elements of the agreement, including the reintegration of the former combatants and the rural economic reform.

Women peacebuilders are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will further slow down the already delayed implementation. They warn that resources are diverted from peace agreement implementation to emergency health response. They also urge that adoption and implementation of the development plans at the municipal, departmental and national levels must not be delayed due to the pandemic, since they are key instruments in translating the peace agreement into concrete actions on the ground. “The current crisis is being used as an excuse not to address issues related to peace. For [the government], there’s only one priority: the pandemic”, says Francy Jaramillo, a member of the Red Departmental de Mujeres del Cauca. Women who participated in a recent research conducted by GNWP stressed that pandemic was used as an excuse to channel funds away from the transitional justice institutions established under the peace agreement, including the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, making their work more difficult.

Colombia’s fragile peace is further endangered by the ongoing fighting among armed groups to control key territories. During the pandemic, the groups have moved to consolidate their power, and fighting intensified in many departments. In Cauca, armed groups imposed confinement measures on local communities. In most cases, these restrictions were more severe than those imposed by the national government. In Popayán, for instance, armed groups dictated who was allowed to leave and enter certain territories, leaving women and communities completely at their mercy. “We now have to face two crises: the ongoing, worsening conflict in Colombia, and the new COVID-19 crisis”, Jaramillo stressed.

The armed groups have also stepped up their recruitment during the pandemic. The closure of schools and daycare centers has made children and young women and men more vulnerable, and allowed armed groups to easily recruit and exploit girls and boys, who no longer have the protection of a classroom. There has also been a spike in the number of girls and women killed by firearms in rural areas, where clashes between criminal groups have increased dramatically. All of this has made the peace in Colombia more fragile than ever.

Colombian women are under threat during the pandemic

In parallel, COVID-19 has exacerbated threats faced by women and girls in Colombia, many of whom have become targets of unprecedented levels of violence, especially in rural areas. According to Indepaz, a local watchdog organization, at least 251 community and human rights leaders have been murdered in Colombia in 2020. The number of femicides increased at an extremely alarming rate  in September, when 86 women were murdered across the country—the highest monthly total since 2017. Cauca continues to be one of the most dangerous departments for women peacebuilders and human rights defenders. According to Jaramillo, since the beginning of the pandemic, 38 femicides have been registered in this department. Yet, like the work done by women peacebuilders, the attacks on women remain invisible, and many of the cases have not been reported by the media.

The lockdown measures implemented by the government have further exposed women to risk, as many of them found themselves trapped with their abusers. As a result, the domestic violence hotline (“linea purpura”) in Bogotá received twice as many reports of domestic violence during the lockdown as before. Moreover, as Colombia was put under lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly virus, many women were unable to carry out their work and advocacy. They had to give up the independence and freedom they had fought so hard for. “I don’t know if we’ll manage to make women leave their homes and become politically active again”, shared Jaramillo, adding that the situation is even more challenging for indigenous women. “Many of them tell us that, for them, there is no pandemic because they’ve always lived like this”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the gendered digital gap and the inequalities that persist between rural and urban areas in Colombia. Due to the lack of internet connectivity in remote areas, many rural women were unable to actively participate in the advocacy for the implementation of the peace agreement, and better protection of women activists. This affected particularly indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, which had more limited access to technology, and capacity to make use of it, before the pandemic. Access to technology has become a basic right; therefore, it is essential to expand platforms to amplify the voices of women and girls at all levels.

An opportunity for mobilization and Innovation

At the same time, COVID-19 has also demonstrated the resilience of the women’s movement. Despite the challenges and the barriers in access to the digital spaces, women peacebuilders did not stop their work. According to Jaramillo, “the women’s movement has been strengthened as we resort to alternative strategies; this serves as a push for a more connected movement”. Women peacebuilders who participated in virtual convenings organized by GNWP and RNM pointed out that citizen involvement did not stop during COVID-19, and that some women feel more comfortable in the new situation, as they have the possibility to turn off their videos and express their feelings in a safe environment. “The pandemic can divide us physically, but it does not silence us”, said one of the participants of the Localization workshops in Cauca during one of the weekly virtual meetings RNM and GNWP held to monitor the progress of the peace agreement.

Women in Colombia and around the world are using the pandemic as an opportunity to call for structural changes needed to build sustainable and inclusive peace. These include:

  • Valuing women’s unpaid work

Beatriz Quintero, head of RNM, agrees that the health crisis has contributed to bringing more attention to women’s care work. “One positive side of this pandemic is that Colombians have finally started talking about women’s unpaid work”, she reflected, adding that “policy-makers must recognize the value of what has been considered a natural female task”. Additionally, feminists groups are also seizing this moment to advocate for more equitable economic policies that allow women in the informal sector to have more job security and receive pensions and other social benefits.

  • Shifting from militarized culture to human security

COVID-19 also creates an opportunity to re-evaluate global priorities. The record-high global military expenditure in 2019  has not stopped the health crisis, nor made anyone safer during COVID-19. On the contrary, the pandemic has brought to light the dangers of over-militarized cultures, including the abuse of power. Jaramillo shared that although “the military forces have always abused power in Colombia”, the distrust between the security forces and Colombian society has deepened since the pandemic.

  • Recognizing and amplifying women’s leadership

Women’s work can no longer be obscured by patriarchal narratives and approaches. As Liévano emphasized during the Localization workshop held by GNWP and RNM in December 2019, it is of utmost importance to recognize the efforts made by women peacebuilders to achieve sustainable and inclusive peace in their communities, especially during these challenging times.

At GNWP, we believe that journalists and media practitioners are critical allies in our fight for the recognition and advancement of women’s rights and sustainable and inclusive peace. They can define the way people perceive women and girls, either representing them as sex objects and helpless victims, or highlighting their agency and leadership. Unfortunately, the dominant narrative usually portrays women as passive victims in need of protection, rather than promoting their role as active agents for peace.

To challenge this perspective, GNWP and RNM, in partnership with Pacifista and with the support of Norad, launched a National Media and WPS Prize, to encourage journalists to write, film and record stories that promote women’s leadership in the peace process and showcase their relentless activism. Look out for our next blog sharing the results of the Prize!

COVID-19 gave rise to unprecedented challenges to peace, and to women’s rights, in Colombia and around the world. However, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on what type of future we hope for – and how to achieve it. Colombian women we engaged through GNWP’s Localization work want a peaceful world that has overcome unequal gender barriers, a world where women’s voices are heard, and their leadership capacity is justly recognized.

GNWP’s experience working with women peacebuilders around the world tells us that this is possible – but only if women are meaningfully included and their relentless work for just and equal societies recognized and supported. We are committed to continue our efforts towards this future. To our members and partners who are leading this change in Colombia and beyond, we say: we see you, we hear you and we are with you!


¡Mírenos, escúchenos, únase a nosotras! Mujeres constructoras de paz en Colombia desafían al COVID-19 y promueven una paz inclusiva.

30 de noviembre de 2020

Por Beatriz Ciordia y Cecilia Lazara

Editado por Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

 “Nunca podremos ser reconocidas como agentes de cambio si otros no ven, leen o escuchan sobre el trabajo que nosotras, como mujeres, hacemos en nuestras comunidades”, señaló la activista por los derechos de las mujeres y miembro de la Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) Vanessa Liévano durante el taller de Localización sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS) realizado en diciembre de 2019 en Popayán. Popayán es la capital del Cauca, uno de los departamentos más afectados por el conflicto armado de Colombia. El taller fue organizado por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) en colaboración con RNM y la Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca, y con el apoyo de la Agencia Noruega para Cooperación al Desarrollo (Norad). Hoy en día, las palabras de Liévano resuenan aún más fuerte en medio de la pandemia de COVID-19 – una crisis de salud pública que ha causado un severo impacto sobre los derechos de las mujeres, la seguridad humana y la paz en Colombia. La pandemia ha exacerbado las desigualdades de género, ha puesto a las mujeres en mayor riesgo de violencia y ha creado nuevos desafíos para la implementación del acuerdo de paz con las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

A pesar de estos desafíos, en Colombia, las mujeres, así como las jóvenes y los jóvenes constructores de paz, han estado a la vanguardia de la respuesta a las crisis entrecruzadas de salud, humanitarias y de seguridad causadas por COVID-19. RNM ha estado apoyando a las mujeres constructoras de paz, preparando y distribuyendo paquetes de alimentos y productos de higiene y salud reproductiva (como píldoras anticonceptivas, condones y pruebas de embarazo) a mujeres y niñas, ancianos, personas con discapacidad, refugiados y desplazados internos. RNM también ha colaborado ​​con la guardia indígena para asegurarse de que los paquetes lleguen a las mujeres y niñas indígenas que viven en áreas remotas. Paralelamente, las mujeres activistas también han continuado su trabajo de consolidación de paz, monitoreando la implementación del acuerdo, traduciendo las necesidades locales en propuestas de políticas concretas y abogando por la inclusión de disposiciones con enfoque de género en los planes de desarrollo local.

Sin embargo, como bien ha señalado Vanessa Liévano, el trabajo de las mujeres colombianas para abordar el COVID-19 y sus impactos permanece en gran parte invisible y sin respaldo. En este contexto, las mujeres constructoras de paz advierten que la pandemia amenaza los logros del movimiento de mujeres y la agenda MPS. Por tanto, su mensaje es claro: no podemos darnos el lujo de dar marcha atrás. La implementación del acuerdo de paz y la agenda MPS debe continuar a pesar de los nuevos y crecientes desafíos. ¡La paz simplemente no puede esperar!

La paz en Colombia, más frágil que nunca

La firma del acuerdo de paz entre el Gobierno de Colombia y las FARC en el 2018 fue un gran logro para el movimiento de las mujeres en el país. El acuerdo, que incluye más de 120 disposiciones con enfoque de género, ha sido aclamado internacionalmente como un ejemplo de buena práctica. En gran medida, su fuerza provino de las contribuciones de las mujeres, tanto como negociadoras así como miembros de la sociedad civil. Sin embargo, como remarca el informe del Instituto Kroc de 2018, la implementación del acuerdo ha sido lenta y ha habido muchos retrasos, especialmente en lo que respecta a las disposiciones con enfoque de género. En parte, las demoras se deben a que el presidente Iván Duque y su administración no han logrado avanzar en elementos clave del acuerdo, tales como la reintegración de los excombatientes y la reforma económica rural.

Una gran preocupación entre las mujeres constructoras de paz es que la pandemia de COVID-19 ralentice aún más la ya demorada implementación. En los últimos tiempos han advertido que los recursos nacionales se han desviado de la implementación del acuerdo hacia la respuesta de emergencia sanitaria. Asimismo, las mujeres exigen el cumplimiento de la adopción e implementación de los planes de desarrollo a nivel municipal, departamental y nacional por temor a que se retrasen debido a la pandemia. Los planes de desarrollo representan instrumentos clave para traducir el acuerdo de paz en acciones concretas sobre el terreno. “La crisis actual se utiliza como excusa para evitar abordar cuestiones relacionadas con la paz. Para [el gobierno], solo hay una prioridad: la pandemia”, explica Francy Jaramillo, integrante de la Red Departamental de Mujeres del Cauca. A su vez, en una investigación realizada por GNWP, las mujeres constructoras de paz han destacado que su trabajo resulta cada vez más difícil debido a que la pandemia se percibe como una excusa para desviar fondos de las instituciones de justicia transicional establecidas en virtud del acuerdo de paz, incluida la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz.

Paralelamente, el frágil proceso de paz en Colombia se ve aún más amenazado por los constantes combates entre grupos armados que se disputan el control de territorios claves. Durante la pandemia, los grupos se han movilizado para consolidar su poder y la lucha se intensificó en muchos departamentos. En Cauca, por ejemplo, los grupos armados impusieron medidas de confinamiento a las comunidades locales. En la mayoría de los casos, estas restricciones fueron más severas que las impuestas por el gobierno nacional. En Popayán, por otra parte, los grupos armados controlaban a quién se le permitía salir y entrar en ciertos territorios, dejando a las mujeres y comunidades completamente a su merced. “Ahora tenemos que enfrentar dos crisis: el conflicto en curso en Colombia y la nueva crisis del COVID-19”, enfatizó Jaramillo.

Lamentablemente también se ha intensificado el reclutamiento por parte de los grupos armados durante la pandemia. El cierre de escuelas y guarderías ha aumentado la vulnerabilidad de los niños, las mujeres y los hombres jóvenes y ha permitido que los grupos recluten y exploten fácilmente a niñas y niños, que no cuentan con la protección de un aula. A su vez, se ha producido un aumento en el número de niñas y mujeres asesinadas por armas de fuego en las zonas rurales, donde los enfrentamientos entre grupos criminales han aumentado de manera dramática. Todos estos hechos demuestran que el proceso de paz de Colombia se encuentra más frágil que nunca.

Mujeres colombianas amenazadas durante la pandemia

COVID-19 ha exacerbado las amenazas que enfrentan las mujeres y niñas en Colombia, muchas de las cuales se han convertido en blanco de niveles de violencia sin precedentes, especialmente en áreas rurales. Según Indepaz, una organización que realiza el monitoreo del conflicto, al menos 251 líderes comunitarios y de derechos humanos han sido asesinados en Colombia durante el 2020. Además, el número de femicidios aumentó a un ritmo extremadamente alarmante. En septiembre, 86 mujeres fueron asesinadas en todo el país, el total mensual más alto desde 2017. El Cauca sigue siendo uno de los departamentos más peligrosos para las mujeres constructoras de paz y defensoras de derechos humanos. Según Jaramillo, desde el inicio de la pandemia se han registrado 38 femicidios en este departamento. Sin embargo, al igual que el trabajo realizado por mujeres constructoras de paz, los ataques a las mujeres permanecen invisibles y muchos de los casos no son reportados por los medios de comunicación.

Las medidas de contención implementadas por el gobierno para detener la propagación del virus mortal han incrementado el riesgo de violencia para las mujeres, ya que muchas de ellas permanecieron atrapadas con sus abusadores. Como resultado, la línea directa de violencia doméstica (“línea púrpura”) en Bogotá recibió el doble de denuncias de violencia doméstica durante el encierro en comparación al período previo a la cuarentena. A su vez, a causa de estas medidas, varias mujeres activistas no pudieron llevar a cabo su trabajo de promoción y defensa por la paz. Tuvieron que renunciar a su independencia y libertad por la que tanto habían luchado. “No sé si lograremos que las mujeres abandonen sus hogares y vuelvan a ser políticamente activas”, compartió Jaramillo, y agregó que la situación es aún más desafiante para las mujeres indígenas. “Muchos nos dicen que, para ellos, no hay pandemia porque siempre han vivido así”.

La pandemia de COVID-19 también ha puesto de manifiesto la brecha digital de género y las desigualdades que persisten entre las zonas rurales y urbanas de Colombia. Debido a la falta de conectividad a Internet en áreas remotas, muchas mujeres rurales no pudieron participar activamente en la promoción para la implementación del acuerdo de paz, y una mejor protección de las mujeres activistas. Esto afectó particularmente a las comunidades indígenas y afrocolombianas, ya que antes de la pandemia tenían un acceso más limitado a la tecnología y a los recursos para su utilización. Como se puede observar, el acceso a la tecnología se ha convertido en un derecho básico; por lo tanto, es fundamental ampliar las plataformas para amplificar las voces de las mujeres y las niñas en todos los niveles posibles.

Una oportunidad para la movilización y la innovación

Simultáneamente, COVID-19 también ha destacado la resistencia del movimiento de mujeres. A pesar de los desafíos y las barreras en el acceso a los espacios digitales, las mujeres constructoras de paz no detuvieron su trabajo. Según Jaramillo, “el movimiento de mujeres se ha fortalecido al recurrir a estrategias alternativas; esto sirve como impulso para un movimiento más conectado”. Las mujeres constructoras de paz que participaron en convocatorias virtuales organizadas por GNWP y RNM señalaron que la participación ciudadana no se suspendió durante el COVID-19, y que algunas mujeres incluso se sienten más cómodas con esta nueva situación, ya que tienen la posibilidad de apagar sus videos y expresar sus sentimientos en un ambiente seguro. “La pandemia puede dividirnos físicamente, pero no nos silencia”, expresó uno de los participantes de los talleres de localización en Cauca durante una de las reuniones virtuales semanales que RNM y GNWP realizaron para monitorear el avance del acuerdo de paz.

Las mujeres en Colombia y en todo el mundo están utilizando la pandemia como una oportunidad para reclamar cambios estructurales necesarios para la construcción de una paz sostenible e inclusiva. Estos cambios incluyen:

  • Valorar el trabajo no remunerado de las mujeres

Beatriz Quintero, directora de RNM, coincide en que la crisis de salud ha contribuido a resaltar el trabajo de cuidado de la mujer. “Un lado positivo de esta pandemia es que los colombianos finalmente han comenzado a hablar sobre el trabajo no remunerado que ejercen las mujeres”, y a su vez agrega que “los legisladores deben reconocer el valor de lo que se ha considerado una tarea natural de las mujeres”. Asimismo, los grupos feministas también están aprovechando este momento para abogar por políticas económicas más equitativas que permitan a las mujeres en el sector informal tener más seguridad laboral y recibir pensiones y otros beneficios sociales.

  • Pasar de una cultura militarizada a una cultura que tenga en cuenta la seguridad humana

COVID-19 también crea una oportunidad para reevaluar las prioridades globales. El gasto militar mundial récord durante el 2019 no ha detenido la crisis de salud ni ha garantizado una mayor seguridad para los individuos. Por el contrario, la pandemia ha develado los peligros de las culturas sobre-militarizadas, incluido el abuso de poder. Jaramillo compartió que aunque “las fuerzas militares siempre han abusado del poder en Colombia”, la desconfianza entre las fuerzas de seguridad y la sociedad colombiana se ha profundizado desde el inicio de la emergencia sanitaria.

  • Reconocer y ampliar el liderazgo de las mujeres

El trabajo de las mujeres no puede seguir oculto detrás de narrativas y enfoques patriarcales. Como bien destacó Liévano durante el taller de localización celebrado por GNWP y RNM en diciembre de 2019, es esencial que se reconozcan los esfuerzos realizados por las mujeres constructoras de paz para lograr una paz sostenible e inclusiva en sus comunidades, especialmente durante estos tiempos desafiantes.

En GNWP, creemos que los periodistas y los profesionales de los medios de comunicación son aliados fundamentales en nuestra lucha por el reconocimiento y el avance de los derechos de las mujeres y una paz sostenible e inclusiva. Estos actores pueden definir la forma en que las personas perciben a las mujeres y las niñas, ya sea representándolas como objetos sexuales y víctimas indefensas, o destacando su agencia y liderazgo. No obstante, desafortunadamente, la narrativa dominante suele presentar a las mujeres como víctimas pasivas que necesitan protección, en lugar de promover su papel como agentes activos para la paz.

Para desafiar esta perspectiva, GNWP y RNM, en asociación con Pacifista y con el apoyo de Norad, lanzaron un Premio Nacional de Medios y MPS. Su objetivo principal fue alentar a los periodistas a escribir, filmar y grabar historias que promuevan el liderazgo de las mujeres en el proceso de paz y muestren su implacable activismo. ¡Estén atentos a nuestro próximo blog que compartirá los resultados del Premio!

COVID-19 generó desafíos sin precedentes para la paz y los derechos de las mujeres en Colombia y en el mundo. Sin embargo, también representa una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre el tipo de futuro que deseamos y cómo lograrlo. Las mujeres colombianas, que tuvimos el placer de conocer a través del trabajo de localización de GNWP, desean un mundo pacífico que haya superado las barreras de género desiguales; un mundo donde se escuchen sus voces y se reconozca con justicia su capacidad de liderazgo.

La experiencia de GNWP, trabajando con mujeres constructoras de paz en todo el mundo, nos dice que esto es posible – pero sólo si se incluye a las mujeres de manera significativa y se reconoce y apoya su incansable trabajo para construir sociedades justas e igualitarias. Estamos comprometidas para continuar nuestros esfuerzos para avanzar hacia este futuro. A todxs nuestrxs miembrxs y aliadxs globales que están liderando este cambio en Colombia y más allá, les queremos decir que: ¡lxs vemos, lxs escuchamos y estamos con ustedes!

Investing in Human Security: How Reducing Military Spending Can Ensure Gender-Equal and Safe Communities

November 26, 2020 by Nikou Salamat

Edited by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

The year 2020 marks numerous milestones for the international community’s dedication to building sustainable, inclusive and gender-equal peace. These include the 25th Anniversary of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, the 5th Anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, and the 2020 Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. These critical normative frameworks recognize the importance of addressing root causes of armed conflict – including gender inequality and the exclusion of youth – in order to build sustainable peace. Yet, governments across the world continue to prioritize their national defense interests over their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women and youth and their populations in general.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to human rights globally and magnified insecurities, especially for the 2 billion people worldwide living in areas affected by fragility, conflict and violence. The pandemic has also exacerbated social, economic and health inequalities around the world. Preliminary estimates project that in 2020, as a result of the compounded impacts of COVID-19 and other ongoing crises, between an additional 88 to 115 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty, bringing the total to between 703 and 729 million. Meanwhile, governments’ over-militarized responses to the pandemic have led to human rights violations, abuses of state power and increases in violence against civilians in various contexts, but have failed to halt the spread of the virus to all regions of the world. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) reports that political violence increased globally in 2019, and state forces were responsible for over one quarter of all violence targeting civilians which amounted to a greater proportion than any other type of actor.

In 2020, states have never been less secure – despite the record $1.917 trillion USD of global military expenditure, representing 2.2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this staggering figure represents an increase of 3.6% compared to the 2018 total, and is the largest annual growth in global military spending in the past decade. Yet, the Global Peace Index (GPI) reports that the level of global peacefulness deteriorated in 2020, marking the ninth deterioration in the past 12 years. In fact, the average level of global peacefulness has declined by 2.5% since 2008, with 79 countries improving and 81 countries recording a deterioration overall between 2008 to 2020. Additionally, the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security (GIWPS) reports that despite significant advances, more than 50 countries fell 10 or more positions on its WPS Index for 2019-2020, which measures women’s inclusion, access to justice, and security.

The pandemic highlights the ineffectiveness of massive military spending 

The failure to deliver on WPS commitments, the limited progress to reduce barriers to women’s participation and access to justice, and the widespread lack of access to basic services due to dismal investments in public infrastructure have clear, profound and alarming implications for peace globally. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a prime example of the ineffectiveness of global increases in military spending to protect human rights during concurrent health, economic and political crises. These crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlight that public investments in social services and social protections are of fundamental importance in protecting all people, their rights, and the planet. As Danai Gurira, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, eloquently stated at the UN Security Council Open Debate on WPS in October 2020: “$1.9 trillion in military spending is not making us safer today.”  

At the heart of the WPS agenda is a focus on peace as a prerequisite for equality, social justice and human security. Human security is an approach introduced that calls on Member States to identify and address “widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.” This approach introduced in the 1994 Human Development Report (HDR) outlined seven dimensions of human security, namely economic, health, personal, political, food, environmental, and community. The 1994 HDR also called on Member States to target reductions in military spending as an opportunity to move from investments in arms to investments in sustainable development, by making clear and explicit links between reduced military spending and increased social spending.

From a feminist perspective, the core challenge to achieving human security is the highly militarized, state-centric and patriarchal nature of the present international security system, as explained by Dr. Betty Reardon, world-renowned leader in peace education and human rights. Too often, the concept of national security, with a focus on state’s military interests and territorial integrity, is at the forefront of discussions on peace and security. While national security remains essential, its prioritization comes at the detriment of funding for social services that seek to implement and ensure human security. It also impedes full implementation of WPS agenda – particularly in cases when National Action Plans (NAPs) and other policies and strategies designed to implement the agenda, have a narrow militaristic focus. They center on the reform of the security sector and increasing women’s participation in the military. While important to the effective implementation of WPS, these considerations are not sufficient to realize the agenda’s core ambition to end armed conflict and build gender-equal, democratic and peaceful societies.

Framing national security through a gender-responsive, people-centered lens would allow states to prepare to effectively respond to global crises surpassing international borders, such as COVID-19 and the climate crisis, through cooperation and multilateralism. The notion of human security acknowledges the need for coordinated efforts to prevent conflicts and crises, because “in an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe”, as asserted by the UN Secretary-General in his speech to the European Union in May 2020. The notion of human security is also central to the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace twin resolutions, adopted by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly in 2016. Most notably, the twin resolutions call for a “comprehensive approach to sustaining peace, particularly through the prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes, strengthening the rule of law at the international and national levels”. Sustainable peace also requires accounting for the different ways in which diverse groups of people are impacted by militarization and the intersecting effects of racism, sexism, classism and other forms of discrimination. This includes using intersectional, gender-sensitive and conflict-sensitive analyses to inform crisis response and recovery and ensure equitable and inclusive outcomes for all.

It is imperative that states begin to shift their focus away from militarization and weapons spending toward efforts to ensure human security for all their citizens. Global efforts must be made to support and maintain peacebuilding strategies that would provide an alternative to the present costly, maladapted and militarized approach to state security. This includes recognizing women peacebuilders as leaders and pioneers in devising and implementing such strategies, and investing in their work at local, national and international levels. It also entails investing in the implementation of the WPS resolutions, as a transformative tool to build gender-equal and sustainable peace. Presently, only 18 out of 83 NAPs have budgets, representing a major challenge to the implementation and localization of their objectives. It is essential that states commit to tangible investments in the leadership of women, in all their diversity, to guarantee human security of their populations.  

Reducing military spending is possible

Good practices in moving towards the implementation of a feminist human security framework exist. GPI reports that between 2008-2020, 100 countries reduced their military expenditure as a percentage of their GDP, and 67 lowered their levels of nuclear and heavy weapons. However, these reductions were outweighed by the increase in spending by other countries. In the context of an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery, all states must commit to a shift in priorities, beginning with “an end to the constant upward trend of global military spending” as urged by the UN Secretary-General. This shift must be accompanied by a re-evaluation of decision-making on resource allocation. A diversion of public funds away from militarization and weapons spending toward investments in peacebuilding and sustainable development is crucial in order to materialize international commitments to peace, human rights and gender equality into concrete actions. Investing in human security means ensuring that women, youth, and their communities are supported in their efforts to deliver crisis response, prevent conflict, and build sustainable peace.

Now, more than ever, it has become apparent that in order to build sustainable, inclusive and feminist peace, state actors must shift priorities, divest from militarized approaches, and divert resources to achieving human security. Conflict prevention has shown to be a cost-effective approach to ensuring peace and national security. The move towards human-centric security frameworks, with gender equality and prevention at their core, is therefore not only right, but also “smart.” In the face of ongoing and emerging crises, it can fulfil the promise of maintaining international peace and security, without the inflated mutli-billion-dollar price tag.

Sustainable peace requires transformative action! What do local women peacebuilders have to say ahead of the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security agenda?

Sustainable peace requires transformative action! What do local women peacebuilders have to say ahead of the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security agenda?

October 12, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos[1]

“Women are the future of sustaining peace! Their work has to be supported.”

With these words, Tintswalo Cassandra Makhubele, a peace activist from South Africa, called for the inclusion of the perspectives of local women peacebuilders in global decision-making about peacebuilding and sustaining peace.[2] Her call came at a critical time, as 2020 marks the 20th Anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 – a groundbreaking international law that recognized women’s important roles in building and sustaining peace, and called for their meaningful participation in all processes designed to prevent conflict, build and sustain peace.

As the international community prepares itself for this critical milestone, Tintswalo’s words remind of a deeper truth – women are not only the future of sustaining peace, but also its present, and its past. Women’s peace movements have espoused the values of preventative action, cross-sectoral response and inclusivity long before they were captured in global discussions. Women are the pioneers of building and sustaining peace – as well as its future.

I met Tintswalo in Pretoria, South Africa, during a consultation on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the UN Peacebuilding Architecture, organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), UN Women and the Embassy of Ireland to South Africa on March 2, 2020. Over 30 local women from across the country participated in the consultation to discuss their peace and security priorities and formulate key recommendations to inform the milestone anniversaries and review processes taking place in 2020. Similar consultations were also held in Kampala, Uganda; Bogotá, Colombia, and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Across the four countries, many of the same challenges and recommendations resonated among the women peacebuilders. They talked about women’s roles in peace negotiations. They warned about the lack of economic opportunities and the impacts of climate change as drivers of conflict. They told us about their initiatives to bridge the gap between the needs and realities of their communities, and the political processes taking place in capitals, including their efforts to monitor elections and campaign for the protection of human rights.

The year 2020: A milestone for women peacebuilders

“2020 is an opportunity to reflect on what works and what does not work in peacebuilding, and how local women and their perspectives can be better included” – Tintswalo Makhubele, South Africa Congress of Non-Profit Organizations (SANOCO)

The year 2020 is a milestone for women activists and peacebuilders. It marks the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 – a historic resolution, which provided a normative framework for women’s meaningful participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding, as well as the protection of women from gender-based violence during conflict. It also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action – the blueprint for women’s empowerment and gender equality, and a foundational document of UNSCR 1325. Both documents were the result of an unyielding advocacy of civil society and women’s movements, including from local women peacebuilders. While responsibility for implementation of these global commitments lies in large part with governments, women peacebuilders are also at the forefront of their implementation. And despite women’s work on the ground to mediate and prevent conflict and negotiate peace, they remain largely excluded and still face many barriers to full and meaningful participation in decision-making and conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding processes around the world. 2020 is also the year of the Peacebuilding Architecture Review – a process designed to “take stock of the work done by the United Nations on peacebuilding” and to identify concrete ways to improve UN’s peacebuilding work.

The convergence of the Peacebuilding Architecture Review, the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325, and the Generation Equality Forum planned for 2021[3] to commemorate 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action, jointly provide an important opportunity. 2020 is the year to take stock of the progress made thus far, and to look to the future and identify concrete ways to build durable and inclusive peace, that is led by local women and men of all ages and backgrounds.

What works for peace: The lens of local women

It was with this opportunity in mind that GNWP, UN Women and Ireland have set out to organize a series of consultations with local women to inform the 2020 Peacebuilding Architecture Review and the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

Tintswalo, along with one of the participants from the consultation conducted by UN Women in Colombia – Ana Cristina Piño from the Corporación Centro de Apoyo Popular (CENTRAP) – were able to bring the voices of their colleagues to the international forum. They provided briefings to the PBC members ahead of their meeting on Women, Peace and Security. This was a remarkable opportunity for the grassroots activists to directly share their priorities and recommendations with global policy-makers, using their own, unique voice.

Tintswalo and Ana Cristina shared specific recommendations, which reflected those discussed in the consultations in Belfast, Bogotà, Kampala and Pretoria:

  • Proactively include women peacebuilders in conflict analysis, planning, design and implementation of all peacebuilding programs.

The women emphasized that governments, international donors and the UN should invest more funds and efforts to make sure that they include local women’s perspectives in their planning. The women in Uganda noted that while they are the ones doing the work on the ground, they are not always aware when national or international projects are being organized. They stressed the importance of engaging women’s networks – who often bring together women from across the country – when designing peacebuilding programs, to identify and consult with local women peacebuilders. They also called for more investment into women’s networks, to support their work of organizing, mobilizing and bringing together grassroots women.

  • Increase investment in women-led peacebuilding.

Across the four countries where we conducted the consultations, women identified limited funding as a key challenge. The women in South Africa pointed out that international funding is often not accessible to them because of administrative requirements related to the size of the organization and experience in managing international grants. This leads to small, local organizations being left out. They called on donors to revise the restrictive funding requirements and create more opportunities that are designed for grassroots peacebuilders. They also called for more investment in enhancing skills of local peacebuilders – for example, on grant applications, results monitoring and reporting to donors – to make sure that they are not dependent on larger organizations that have this expertise.

  • Train women as mediators, and include them in official peace negotiations.

Women we spoke to in Colombia pointed out that women’s participation in the peace negotiation between the Government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) contributed to strengthening of the women’s movement in Colombia, and led to a change in the Colombian society towards more inclusive and respectful of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. But despite such testimonies, women face an uphill battle when it comes to participation in peace negotiations, even when they are highly trained and capable. For example, in Uganda, women are excluded from local peace committees, as well as local and national legislative bodies. As a result, key policies related to peacebuilding – such as the transitional justice policy – are gender-blind and do not reflect women’s concerns and priorities. The women called for national and international decision-makers to strengthen their efforts to ensure that women can participate in negotiations – for example, by creating national pools of women mediators to react to outbreaks of violence; and including women in local peace committees.

  • Zero tolerance for violence against women, and use of innovative measures to address the threats against women activists, peacebuilders, and human rights defenders.

The women we consulted recognized that physical and sexual violence remains one of the key barriers to women’s meaningful participation. Participants in Northern Ireland also noted that sexual violence can be used as a means of community control and coercion, both during conflict and afterwards.Women in Uganda noted that women peacebuilders are often regarded as “trouble-makers” and shunned from their communities. They called for the creation of more rapid response mechanisms to support women who are facing threats. They also called for civil society-led early warning mechanisms to be able to react to increases in violence against women.

  • Support women’s economic inclusion as a driver of peace.

For the women we consulted with, there was no doubt that women’s economic inclusion is necessary to build durable peace. Even when women are the primary earners in the family, due to the traditional power structures, they do not have a say in the decision-making on family finances. This fuels domestic violence and affects women’s security and access to justice. The women asked for the governments to ensure a minimum of 50% of women’s inclusion in public financial institutions, to create more equitable financial laws and policies.

 “Sustainable peace is only possible if we change the dominant models of the economy and challenge patriarchy”

– Ana Cristina Piño, Corporación Centro de Apoyo Popular (CENTRAP)

The message of the women we consulted was clear: in order to achieve sustainable peace, women’s meaningful participation and their leadership as peacebuilders must be recognized and supported. 20 years after Resolution 1325 was adopted, this recognition and support are long overdue. As we commemorate the many milestones of the year 2020 and look to the future, we must commit to, and invest in concrete, specific and localized peacebuilding efforts that put the trust in local women, and are long-term in nature, transformative in design, and bold in their ambitions.

GNWP thanks the Government of Ireland and UN Women for their support to this project.

Full report with recommendations from the consultations conducted by GNWP, UN Women and the Government of Ireland in Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Uganda, will be launched on October 26, 2020. Please contact Agnieszka@gnwp.org for more details.


[1] Agnieszka Fal -Dutra Santos is a Program Coordinator and Policy Specialist at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. She co-facilitated the consultations with local women peacebuilders in South Africa and Uganda, and co-wrote the submission to the Peacebuildig Commission, summarizing the conclusions from all four consultations.

[2] Tintswalo Makhubele briefed the Peacebuilding Commission – an intergovernmental body designed to support peacebuilding efforts in conflict-affected countries – in April 2020. The virtual meeting on Women, Peace and Security she participated in was part of the review of the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture.

[3] Originally planned to take place in 2020, which is the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Generation Equality Forum was delayed to 2021 due to the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic.