In September 2020, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) began boycotting Facebook to protest their role in threatening peace and democracy on and offline.
Today, on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, over a year later, GNWP continues the #FacebookPromotesViolence campaign in light of indisputable evidence that the platform knowingly harms those most vulnerable and marginalized. Facebook fosters harmful misinformation, polarization, and hate speech around the world. Despite Facebook’s aim to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” their algorithms and policies disproportionately affect marginalized groups, such as women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) people, and other minority groups.
A trove of internal Facebook—now Meta—documents revealed that Instagram knowingly damaged teen mental health, failed to remove hate speech before the January 6th insurrection in the United States as well as during tensions in Northern India, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly presented misinformation regarding the company’s safety performance. Facebook prioritizes profit over safety, which is antithetical to GNWP’s core mission: elevate the power of women and amplify their voices to build sustainable and inclusive peace. Therefore, GNWP will continue to boycott Facebook and join efforts to hold them accountable for their contributions to violence in the digital space which promotes violence in real life.
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.
The global momentum generated by the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on October 31st, 2020, was much anticipated. At the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) we began preparing more than a year prior to this milestone moment. We discussed and strategized with our national and local partners, and produced concrete recommendations, research and strategies. We spearheaded advocacy to ensure meaningful integration of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) in the preparations for the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action. We worked with our colleagues at the NGO Working Group on WPS to develop a Civil Society Roadmap on WPS. The question that guided us in all this was: How do we accelerate implementation, and ensure that commitments made during this momentous year do not remain empty words, but translate into concrete actions beyond 2020? To us, it was clear that the 20th Anniversary of the landmark Resolution 1325 – a resolution that was conceived of and drafted by women peacebuilders – needs to be a moment of awakening and radical re-commitment, rather than merely celebration.
So, from Armenia to South Africa, from Colombia to South Sudan, from the Philippines to Ukraine, women peacebuilders discussed, planned and prepared. But for all the foresight that went into the 20th Anniversary, none of us expected that it will happen the way it did. COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated many of the challenges and barriers faced by women peacebuilders around the world. It also set the stage for the first virtual Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and Open Debate on WPS.
At the same time, COVID-19 has also underscored the resilience of women peacebuilders and the feminist and women’s movements around the world. Throughout the pandemic, we remained connected, despite the gendered digital gap, which leaves many women without access to the internet. We maintained high levels of coordination and continued our advocacy for effective implementation of UNSCR 1325. Throughout the month of October, women peacebuilders, separated by distance and time difference, have found ways to connect – gathering in small groups in offices with internet access to attend virtual events, purchasing mobile phones and mobile credit to stay in touch, creating social media hashtags and campaigns.
The unparalleled ability of women peacebuilders to adapt and innovate in the face of crisis and uncertainty once again underscores that they are the leaders and pioneers in building and sustaining peace.
It was in this spirit that on October 26, 2020, just a few days ahead of the Open Debate on WPS, GNWP, the Government of Ireland and UN Women organized a high-level event “Learning from Grassroots Women Peacebuilders: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Beyond 2020”. The event brought together women peacebuilders from Colombia, Northern Ireland and Uganda, as well as the representatives of governments and the UN. It was designed to provide the women peacebuilders to share their experiences, perspectives and recommendations for action with key policy- and decision-makers ahead of the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325. As Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GNWP underlined in her remarks during the event, “it is the time for the international community to talk less, and instead listen more and learn from women peacebuilders.”
Taking WPS beyond 2020: What do women peacebuilders have to say?
During the event, Beatriz Quintero, Executive Director of the Red Nacional de Mujeres in Colombia, Elizabeth Law, Chair of the Northern Irish European Women’s Platform and Rebecca (Becky) Turyatunga Juna, a young activist from Uganda, reflected on the key challenges to the full and effective implementation of the WPS resolutions, and the way in which COVID-19 has affected it. Their recommendations reflected those from the report commissioned by Ireland, and prepared by GNWP with support from UN Women.
The research, and the interventions of Beatriz, Elizabeth and Becky underscored many recurring themes on the implementation gaps that have been identified in previous years. At the same, they also identified innovative ways forward and locally-driven solutions that need to be recognized, amplified and replicated, particularly in the context of COVID-19 recovery.
Here is what women peacebuilders have to say:
1. It’s time to move from words to action!
Women peacebuilders who participated in the research carried out by GNWP agreed that the legal and normative framework on WPS at the global level is strong and sufficient. They called for translating the existing global laws into local languages, and into concrete policies and actions at the national and local levels. They emphasized the importance of adopting National Action Plans (NAPs), which allow the civil society to hold their government accountable for their WPS commitments. To date, 85 out of the 193 UN Member States adopted NAPs on WPS. However, only 24% of NAPs had dedicated budgets at adoption. Women peacebuilders interviewed by GNWP urgently called for an increased commitment to, and investment in, NAPs – including through the use of localization of UNSCR 1325 as a key implementation strategy.
In line with this call, Beatriz Quintero reminded participants of the high-level event that full implementation of UNSCR 1325 and gender provisions in peace agreements is necessary to build a more stable and secure world. She warned that COVID-19 has been used as an excuse to slow down the implementation and divert funding away from women-led peacebuilding and the implementation of the peace agreement.
2.Peace is more than an absence of war – to sustain it, we need to change our global culture!
To women peacebuilders, peace is more than an absence of war. When GNWP asked 1,600 women and men across 50 countries “What does peace mean to you?” in a research conducted in 2018 with support from UN Women, their responses painted a holistic, human-centric vision of peace. Peace means living without fear in one’s own home. Peace means having a say in decisions about one’s future. Peace means all girls – including those living in marginalized communities, refugee and IDP girls – being able to go to, and graduate from, school.
This year these words ring particularly true. Elizabeth Law warned that as security risks and tensions within communities rise during the pandemic, it is necessary to ensure delivery of basic services, address trauma and mental health issues, and consolidate the human rights framework. This is the only way to guarantee sustainable peace. Women are already doing this, she stressed. They have mobilized to address the needs of their communities and respond to increased tensions and reduced safety. But they remain excluded from decision-making!
Military responses are not successful in staving off the deadly pandemic. Today more than ever, peace means more than an absence of war. It means having access to protective equipment, quality healthcare, including mental health services, and a safe space to turn to if one faces violence at home.
3.Women’s exclusion is not an accident – structural barriers hinder meaningful participation!
Law, Quintero and Juna all emphasized the exclusion of women from peace negotiations and decision-making, including on peace and security and COVID-19 response and recovery.
Women who participated in research and consultations across Colombia, Northern Ireland highlighted that the exclusion is systematic and deeply rooted in cultures and institutions. In a similar vein, Beatriz stressed that in Colombia, “pre-existing inequalities and the patriarchal system mean that women, ethnic minorities and lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19”, yet they are not included in official discussions about pandemic response and recovery.
Becky highlighted the importance of the digital divide as a barrier to women’s participation. Globally, women are 23 percent less likely than men to use mobile internet. Becky was able to join the discussion, because she borrowed a smartphone from a friend, and had her mobile data purchased by organizers. “But what about women in rural settings who do not have access to a smartphone?” – she asked poignantly.
Patriarchal systems, unequal access to technology, education and economic opportunities, and over-militarized cultures that render women’s contributions to peace invisible are all at the root of their exclusion. Addressing it requires a systemic change.
Over 20 years ago, women peacebuilders made history, by drafting a UN Security Council Resolution that formally recognized that women’s “equal participation and full involvement” as essential to “all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” As we enter the 21st year of the ground-breaking WPS agenda, women peacebuilder’s message is clear: we need deep, structural changes to create a culture more conducive to women’s meaningful participation in peace and security processes at all levels.
Suchsystemic and cultural changes can only take place if women from all walks of life have a seat at the table and equal say in all decisions. This requires investment in addressing the persistent barriers to participation, including violence and the threat of violence, lack of financial independence, and restrictive societal norms. The road to full and effective implementation of the WPS agenda still faces many challenges. But women peacebuilders have the solutions. It is time we listened to them.
October 2020 marked a critical milestone for women peacebuilders: the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Resolution 1325. To us at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), it was a time to reflect on achievements to date and persistent barriers, strengthen our advocacy, and do what we do best: amplify women’s voices for sustainable and inclusive peace.
Throughout the month of October, we hosted a number of events, which brought together women peacebuilders working at local, national, regional and global levels, with representatives of UN Member States, international and regional organizations, academia and other stakeholders.
Our events reached over 1,500 people from 50 countries. Read more about the discussions we held below!
Beijing+25: Is the Generation Equality Compact on Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Fit for Purpose? Civil Society Perspectives and Recommendations Ahead of the Generation Equality Forum | October 8, 2020
GNWP kicked off the busy month with this event, which we organized on behalf of the civil society-led Beijing+25 Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) Coalition, in partnership with UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. This virtual panel discussion raised awareness of the Generation Equality Compact on Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA). As a dedicated outcome of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), the Compact on WPS-HA will serve as “a connector between the existing WPS-HA normative frameworks” to realize commitments. It presents a defining opportunity to increase the meaningful participation of women, young women, adolescent girls, and gender non-conforming individuals from conflict and crisis-affected areas in decision-making at all levels on peace, security, humanitarian action, and gender equality.
Convening over 200 representatives from Member States, civil society, and UN entities, the event created space for grassroots women and youth peacebuilders and frontline responders from Libya, Nigeria, Venezuela, France, Uganda, Nepal, and Fiji to share their recommendations, priorities, and hopes for the Compact with the Generation Equality Forum Core Group stakeholders (UN Women, Mexico, and France). All panelists, including Mexican Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro, French Ambassador Delphine O who serves as the Secretary-General of the Generation Equality Forum 2021, the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Åsa Regnér, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, Ambassador Victoria Sulimani, and the Libyan youth activist, Hajer Shareif, emphasized the urgent need for strengthening accountability, mobilizing funding for, and accelerating implementation of existing commitments on WPS, YPS, and Humanitarian Action. At a time when women—including young women—and youth continue to be excluded from peace and security processes, political decision-making, and COVID-19 response and recovery taskforces, and attacks against women and youth human rights defenders and peace activists increase, the Compact presents an important arena through which civil society, Member States, and UN entities can work together to promote sustainable peace and gender equality.
Women Peacebuilders & First Responders Define Priorities for Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding & COVID-19 Recovery in 2020 & Beyond |October 15, 2020
In partnership with the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and the Austrian Development Cooperation, GNWP held a panel discussion, which built on the recommendations of the Global Women’s Forum for Peace & Humanitarian Action (GWF 2020) in Vienna, Austria on February 19-20, 2020. The concrete policy recommendations formulated during the forum were included in the Vienna 2020 Declaration.
The panel discussion, held virtually on October 15, 2020, brought together women peacebuilders and first responders from Georgia, Kenya and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), who participated in the GWF 2020, to share the key recommendations from the Vienna 2020 Declaration. The panelists reflected on the increased urgency of these recommendations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Julia Kharashvili, the speaker from Georgia noted, COVID-19 had multilayered impacts. It influenced women’s physical health, psychological wellbeing, and their security. She emphasized the vulnerability of the internally displaced persons during the pandemic, and the new threats faced by women leaders and peacebuilders – including online harassment and cyberbullying. Mercy Jerop from Kenya highlighted the leadership of women and youth in addressing the pandemic, and in promoting the WPS agenda. She pointed out that in Kenya women and young women have been the key drivers behind the development of the country’s National Action Plan; yet, their work is often unrecognized. She called for media organizations to increase the portrayal of women as leaders and peacebuilders, rather than only helpless victims. Amal Tarazi, the speaker from OPT stressed the importance of economic empowerment as a pre-requisite for sustainable peace, and a key factor that enables women to meaningfully participate in decision-making. A key call from all speakers was: there is a need for more predictable, sustainable, and flexible funding to support women-led peacebuilding work! It is a requisite for ensuring effective implementation of the WPS agenda.
Ensuring Feminist and Localized Humanitarian Emergency Response: Where Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Meet | October 19, 2020
In partnership with UN Women, the WPHF, Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Permanent Missions of Canada and Norway to the United Nations, GNWP organized a virtual roundtable discussion to examine the linkages between peacebuilding, sustainable development, and humanitarian action. A resounding message from the event was: the WPS agenda is a critical instrument that brings both a gender and a conflict lens to humanitarian action. Grassroots women and youth peacebuilders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Uganda – countries in the midst of the world’s most severe refugee crises and armed conflicts – highlighted their critical contributions to humanitarian action and peacebuilding. They advocated for increased recognition and investment in their work. They also called for the full and effective implementation of the WPS, which intersects with, and reinforces, humanitarian action frameworks.
Representatives from the UN Women’s Humanitarian Research and Innovation Division, WPHF, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Gender Unit provided guidance on operationalizing the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus. Effectively bridging the gaps between humanitarian action, gender equality and peacebuilding requires investing in the capacities of local actors, particularly women’s rights organizations. It also requires strengthening national systems to implement effective and empowering humanitarian emergency response rooted in the human security framework. Ms. Krista House, Deputy Director of the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program at Global Affairs Canada, and Ms. Hilde Salvesen, Policy Director for Humanitarian Affairs at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared their perspectives as donors for humanitarian action and WPS implementation, emphasizing their commitments to increasing funding for gender-sensitive crisis response and recovery and the meaningful participation of grassroots women and youth peacebuilders in the design and implementation of humanitarian action.
Peacebuilding during a Pandemic: Launch of the COVID-19 and WPS Database | October 21, 2020
In partnership with UN Women and the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, GNWP hosted a virtual panel for the launch of a Database on COVID-19 and its impacts on Women, Peace and Security. The COVID-19 and WPS Database documents a number of different impacts and responses with 30 sub-categories divided under 5 main brackets: (1) impact of COVID-19 on women and gender equality; (2) impact of COVID-19 on women’s rights and peacebuilding organizations; (3) impact of COVID-19 on peace and security; (4) women-led humanitarian response to COVID-19; and (5) women-led peacebuilding and conflict prevention during the pandemic.
Recognizing the context-specific nature of pre-existing inequalities exacerbated by the concurrent health, humanitarian, socio-political and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 at the country-level, GNWP built the database on interviews, consultations and written contributions received by its partners – local and national women peacebuilders. The virtual panel discussion featured some of the grassroots experts, who have contributed to the development of the database. Each of them brought a unique perspective, informed by their experiences as first responders in the pandemic.
Dr. Roopa Dhatt, a medical practitioner from the United States of America and the chair of Women in Global Health emphasized the importance of women’s unpaid work, and the vast contributions women in public health. Sally Maforchi Mboumien Ndeh, director of COMAGEND organization from Cameroon shared women’s advocacy for an effective ceasefire in the country, emphasizing that while peace is more than an absence of war, the continued fighting exacerbates the health and humanitarian impacts of COVID-19. Dieketseng Diale, Chief Executive Officer of the Lady of Peace Community Foundation in South Africa focused on women’s resilience in the time of crisis. She shared how women peacebuilders have continued to communicate on WhatsApp, holding weekly discussions to share issues of violence and insecurity in their communities, jointly identify their roots and develop concrete strategies to address them. Finally, Helen M. Rojas, Chief of Staff of the Chair of the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women from the Philippines shared how the local government in the conflict-affected Bangsamoro Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has taken steps towards institutionalizing a gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response and recovery, by integrating measures to address the pandemic in the Regional Action Plan on WPS. Overall, the stories shared by the panelists highlighted women’s resilience agency and transformative leadership in response to COVID-19. They called for meaningful inclusion of women in COVID-19 task forces and committees, increasing funding for women peacebuilders who are at the frontlines of pandemic response, and basing COVID-19 recovery on a recognition and appreciation of the unpaid care work done by women around the world.
Learning from Grassroots Women Peacebuilders: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Beyond 2020 | October 26, 2020
In partnership with the Government of Ireland, UN Women, and the Governments of South Africa, Uganda, and Colombia, GNWP held a high-level side event, which showcased local women peacebuilders’ perspectives and priorities for advancing the WPS agenda beyond its 20th Anniversary. The event served as a launch of a report commissioned by the Government of Ireland and produced by GNWP with support from UN Women. The report presents local women’s unique perspectives and innovative recommendations on what is needed to strengthen the implementation of the WPS agenda. Her Excellency Mary Robinson, the Chair of The Elders and Former President of Ireland delivered a keynote address during the event, during which she emphasized the need for a “structural change to enable inclusive and sustainable peace”, made clear in the report. H.E. Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence of Ireland and H. E. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s Executive Director also delivered remarks reinforcing the report’s recommendations.
The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, during which women peacebuilders from Colombia, Northern Ireland and Uganda shared their perspectives. Elizabeth Law, the chair of the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform underlined that COVID-19 has aggravated some of the conflict dynamics in the country, but that gender and peacebuilding perspectives were not reflected in the COVID-19 response. Citing one of the women peacebuilders who contributed to the report, she reflected that exclusion of women from decision-making – especially on peace and security – “is not an accident; it is an aspiration.” Rebecca Turyatunga Juna, a young peacebuilder from Uganda emphasized the importance of inclusion of young women, especially those living in rural or remote areas, in WPS planning and implementation. Building on the findings of the research, which highlighted Localization as a key implementation strategy, she also added that young women must be given access to global spaces. The digital divide is a major barrier that has to be addressed, she said. “I was able to borrow a smartphone to join you today. But what about women in rural settings who do not have access to a smartphone?” Beatriz Quintero, the Executive Director of the Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network) in Colombia also agreed that broad-base inclusion is the most important next frontier to move the implementation of the WPS agenda forward. She stressed that preexisting inequalities and the patriarchal system mean that women, ethnic minorities and lesbian, bay and transgender persons have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. They need to be included in the planning for recovery – as well as in WPS implementation!
GNWP’s Chief Executive Officer Mavic Cabrera-Balleza underscored that many of the recommendations put forth by the women peacebuilders are not new. But they take on a renewed urgency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women peacebuilders have concrete ideas on how to fulfil those recommendations. “The good practices and locally-driven solutions presented by local women peacebuilders need to be recognized, supported, amplified and replicated. It is the time for the international community to talk less, and instead listen more and learn from women peacebuilders,” she strongly emphasized.
The powerful remarks of women peacebuilders were intertwined with interventions from Member State representatives. This allowed for an exchange of perspectives and a much needed reality check on the status of WP implementation.
“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. 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
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 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.