Category: Women's Rights

Category: Women’s Rights

Women, peace and a pandemic: Translating gender provisions in peace deals into peaceful and inclusive societies during the COVID-19 outbreak

June 16, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace.” – Nigeria Renteria, principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC)

Ms. Renteria’s statement during the online panel discussion on Gender in Peace Deals and COVID-19 responses organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in collaboration with the New York University Center for Global Affairs (CGA) and UN Women on June 03, 2020, validates the findings of the research conducted by the NYU CGA in partnership with GNWP.

The research has established that more women at the peace table leads to greater inclusion in political and economic life after conflict; and that women’s meaningful participation is a pre-requisite for a just and inclusive peace.

The research was carried out by graduate students Ms. Jillian Abballe, Ms. Emma Grant, Ms. Foteini Papagioti, Ms. Dorie Reisman, and Ms. Nicole Smith as part of a practicum in late 2019. Using quantitative and qualitative analysis, the researchers examined the impacts of women’s participation in peace negotiations on political and economic outcomes five years after the conflict. They also analyzed existing opportunities and barriers for women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and in the implementation of peace agreements.

The findings were discussed, and validated, by  Ms. Ayak Chol Deng Alak, Deputy Coordinator for the South Sudan civil society forum, Ms. Nigeria Renteria, a principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, and Ms. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Chair of the Government Peace Panel in the peace negotiation between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Anne-Marie Goetz, a clinical professor at NYU CGA, and Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the GNWP.

This event could not have come at a more critical time. As we are approaching the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 this October as well as the Generation Equality Forum that commemorates 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action, a reflection on women’s meaningful participation in peace processes cannot be missing from these historical processes. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of women’s participation in peace negotiations and the implementation of peace agreements and brought to the fore many of the barriers they face.

The presentation of the final research report by Ms. Agnieszka-Fal Dutra Santos, Program Coordinator at GNWP, and Ms. Foteini Papagioti, NYU CGA graduate student, paved the way for a critical and lively discussion. The panelists were joined by over 250 people on the Zoom webinar, and over 3,000 watched via a live webcast.

Key recommendations from the NYU-GNWP research

1. The design of peace processes needs to be diverse and inclusive.

The meaningful participation of women requires thoughtful and intentional design. Tokenistic representation, or participation only in advisory or observer roles is not enough. Participatory peace processes need to be built on broad-based and diverse participation.

Participatory design leads to more inclusive processes, and a more just and equal peace. As stated by Nigeria Renteria, the inclusion of women negotiators and the creation of a gender commission in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC ensured that the interests of people of all sexual orientation and gender identity in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs at the political, social and economic levels. This is consistent with the messages of the GNWP-NYU research, which found that women’s participation in peace agreements predicted a higher labor force participation rate, women’s  higher share in the Gross National Income, and a lower female-to-male GNI ratio five years after the conflict. “Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace”, concluded Ms. Renteria.

In this context, it is critical to create stronger links between official (Track 1) peace negotiations and unofficial (Track 2 and Track 3) processes, where women are often at the forefront. This allows for more diverse participation and effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Read more about GNWP’s work to localize the peace agreement and bridge the gap between Track 1 and Track 2 & 3 peace processes here, here and here.

2. We need concrete action: gender provisions in peace agreements have to be actionable, context-specific and have a concrete implementation framework

In 2018, the proportion of peace agreements with gender-responsive provisions stood at only 7.7%, down from an average of 26% between 2001 and 2010. The GNWP-NYU research showed that concrete and actionable gender provisions – such as quotas for participation – can make a tangible difference in women’s political participation after conflict. With quotas, women use each successive election to increase their share of parliamentary seats.

However, panelists emphasized that implementation of the gender provisions – including quota – is not always a given. As attested by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, gender provisions in the Bangsamoro peace deal included a provision for a minimum number of political seats for women. Today, women form only 16% of total political representation in the transitional Bangsamoro Assembly. Coronel Ferrer emphasized that even though the number of the women in the Assembly is still not enough, their positive impact has already been apparent. She noted that these very leaders have been acting as catalysts of change in their communities via gender advocacy to change dominant, patriarchal culture.

Even where quotas have been formalized, such as in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), implementation has been extremely slow. Ms. Deng Alak pointed to the lack of political will, as well as patriarchal norms and attitudes toward women as the main reasons for this. Presently, only 4 of the 32 ministers are women; although that is a first, it still falls short of the 35%. Moreover, in political spaces, women are looked upon as “weak” and are forced to choose alliance to the party over the women’s movement or lose their career. Mali stands out in this matter, as pointed out by event attendee Ms. Mariam Diallo. Due to the 2015 gender quota law, Mali now has 29% of women parliamentarians, up significantly from the 10% or so representation prior to the law.

Thus, including quota in the peace agreements is important, but it is not sufficient in itself. Equally important is the inclusion of other gender provisions and concrete mechanisms for their implementation. In this context, Ms. Coronel-Ferrer shared that mandating concrete budgetary allocations for the implementation of gender provisions and for gender-responsive programs is a good practice for peace agreements to be effective.

3. Women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict countries must be a bigger priority for governments and donors.

This recommendation, echoed by the panelists and many of the event attendees, is not new. Local activists and peacebuilders constantly demand including women in decision-making on economic recovery. Event attendee Ms. Rahama Baloni from Mercy Corps, Nigeria commented that there is still very little support for peacebuilding programs that encompass economic empowerment. Ms. Deng Alak pointed out that economic empowerment and financial security is a must for women to have political participation and political support.

We have also seen the clear benefits of small economic empowerment initiatives. For example, young women whom GNWP trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shared that running their own small businesses increased their decision-making power within their families and communities. As highlighted by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, the current gender provisions have not prevented women from being disproportionately disadvantaged economically. All five provinces of the Bangsamoro are at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI) rank and women make up only 26.1% of employed members of the labor force.

Women’s meaningful participation in peace processes is one of the six priority areas of accelerated implementation for UN Women in the context of this year’s 20th anniversary of resolution 1325. Ms. Mireille Affa’a, a Policy Specialist in the Peace and Security Section, reaffirmed their commitment and spoke about how UN Women prioritizes women’s leadership and economic empowerment to ensure their peace interventions are sustained through economic recovery and inclusion in economic life post-conflict.

Impact of COVID-19 on women’s meaningful participation and implementation of peace agreements

The panelists also discussed the impacts of the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 on peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements. During this crisis, many functions of governments, UN, and other institutions have slowed down or cease. Financial, human, and technical resources for the implementation of peace agreements have shifted to COVID-19 response. However, as noted by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, the founder and chief executive officer of the GNWP, this is a self-defeating strategy, since conflict and violence amplify the impacts of the pandemic and conversely, the pandemic is also a conflict multiplier.

In Colombia, COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges to peace since 2016. It has affected the implementation of the public policy integrated into the government plans, as well as the development plans at the municipal, departmental, and national levels. The crisis is also aggravating the health and food security challenges in local communities, particularly marginalized communities, who do not have adequate medical and service infrastructure to address COVID 19.

Ms. Deng Alak stated that COVID 19 has brought South Sudan to a standstill. The national government is using the pandemic as an excuse to stall peace processes and keep women out. The threat of hunger and disease plagues the whole country, but women face an additional threat of violence, with reports of increased gang rapes of women by men in uniform during this period. In the Philippines, COVID-19 has further compounded ongoing issues of loss of overseas jobs, investments and tourism, all of which the region relies on heavily.

Despite ongoing challenges, women are expected to play a key role in the reconstruction and recovery of their community and society after this pandemic. As emphasized by UN Women’s Ms. Affa’a, concrete, and sustainable investments into women’s livelihoods are a necessary intervention to build societies up better than before.

The ongoing pandemic compounds many challenges that women peacebuilders and peacemakers face. Yet, as stated by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, “Peace cannot wait and peace cannot be a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis!”

Ending the Misinformation Epidemic: GNWP Develops a COVID19 – Women and Peace & Security, Database and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy

Ending the Misinformation Epidemic: GNWP Develops a COVID19 – Women and Peace & Security, Database and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives and realities of women across the globe, who have been disproportionately impacted by the health crisis. The mandatory isolation and social distancing policies have alarmingly aggravated domestic violence, as they trap women at home with their abusers, while women’s shelters and domestic violence hotlines are struggling to meet demand. As primary caregivers for the sick and elderly, women also face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, women comprise the majority of health and social care workers and are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Finally, the outbreak has led to an increase in the unpaid domestic labor burden on women, including childcare as schools and nurseries have closed.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbated by armed conflict, ongoing violence, and humanitarian emergencies, where refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are at an extremely high risk. The pandemic has impacted peacebuilding efforts because of violations of human rights including suppression of freedom of speech and of the press, attacks on women human rights defenders, increased surveillance by the government and heavily militarized responses. The travel and mobility restrictions have severely inhibited the delivery of essential services and humanitarian aid to refugees and IDPs and other vulnerable groups. The situation is further aggravated by dwindling resources, which have also disrupted the work of many women’s rights organization and civil society groups who work to promote and protect women’s rights, and build inclusive and sustainable peace.

Nonetheless, women and youth peacebuilders continue their work in the face of COVID-19.While advocating for the implementation of peace accords or monitoring the implementation of ceasefire agreements, they make face masks and distribute them along with food packages and hygiene products, to the elderly, people with disabilities, refugees and IDPs. Women and youth are also at the forefront of tackling the “epidemic of misinformation” that has accompanied the outbreak of COVID-19, as recognized in the United Nations Secretary-General’s announcement of the United Nations Communications Response. Women peacebuilders translate accurate information about COVID-19 to local languages, organize media and social media campaigns to counter fake news and hate speech, and monitor impacts of the pandemic.

Despite their contributions, women and youth peacebuilders remain marginalized in the crisis and excluded in the decision-making on the response. This year we mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) and 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women and Peace and Security. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges and discrimination that women still face in their work, and the gaps in the implementation of the two groundbreaking international instruments. Much more remains to be done to fulfill the promise of UNSCR 1325 and the BPFA – and it starts with ensuring gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive response to the COVID-19 crisis!

Such response must be based on evidence from grassroots women and civil society, and reliable, sex- and age-disaggregated data. However, while much attention has been given to the impact of COVID-19 on women, there is no systematized source of information about the gendered impacts of COVID-19, and its impacts on peace and security.   

COVID-19 and WPS Database

To address this gap, GNWP is developing a COVID-19 and WPS database, which will document the impacts of COVID-19 on local communities affected by conflict as well as on women’s work on peacebuilding, conflict prevention and sustaining peace. GNWP is using its global network of over 100 organizations around the world to collect accurate and up-to-date information. The database will contribute to the objective of UN Communications Response Initiative objective to inform “responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance”. The database will also aim to encourage the development of gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive interventions on COVID-19. The COVID19- WPS database is a living document that will continuously be updated with information provided by local women and youth peacebuilders as well as secondary data. 

GNWP has also developed a Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy and Appeal to guide its work during the pandemic and present critical recommendations to mitigate its impact without sacrificing peacebuilding efforts and human rights. In addition, GNWP will be regularly publishing country-specific profiles that contain information on the impacts of the pandemic on women and peace and security. This will help “flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation.”

Where are the women and youth peacebuilders?

Civil society Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition launches its Advocacy Paper, calls for meaningful inclusion of Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security in Generation Equality Forum

March 30, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Katrina Leclerc

With the outbreak of the global pandemic of COVID-19, civil society-led Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition strategized and mobilized. The pandemic did not stop their global advocacy: on March 17, 2020, they hosted an online event “Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders?”, originally planned during the now-cancelled United Nations’ 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

As the situation continued to evolve – the CSW first postponed, then cancelled; gatherings in New York limited to maximum 10 people, then strongly discouraged altogether – women and youth peacebuilders who comprise the Action Coalition strategized and revised the modality of the event. Their determination and the success of the online discussion send a clear message: “Our resolve will not be stifled by the COVID-19. Our voices will not be silenced!”

Ultimately, the event took the form of a virtual roundtable discussion, which brought together 180 participants representing the civil society, Member States, and UN entities. They engaged in a strategic discussion on the necessary actions for the implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas and their intentional and meaningful inclusion in the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) process and outcomes, in order to prevent the weakening of agreed-upon language in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security resolutions.

“There cannot be empowerment without peace, and there cannot be peace without gender equality,” said Mallika Iyer, GNWP’s Program Officer, as she introduced the Advocacy Paper developed by the Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition identifying and coordinating messaging on key recommendations from civil society within the Beijing+25/GEF process. The key messages and recommendations of the paper were presented by participating organizations of the civil society-led Action Coalition from Afghanistan, Latin America, Iraq, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Ukraine, and Canada. Their message was echoed by many of the other high-level speakers and grassroots activists who took the floor during the discussion.

Keynote speakers included Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and initiator of UNSCR 1325, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, former Chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Bandana Rana, Vice-Chair of the CEDAW Committee, Ms. Paivi Kannisto, Chief, Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Section at  UN Women, Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security, Ms. Cecile Mazzacurati, Head of the Secretariat of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security at UNFPA and Ms. Shannon Kowalski, from the International Women’s Health Coalition and the civil society representative to the GEF Core Group and Dr. Lina Abirafeh, Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University. All of them have agreed that the GEF offers an important opportunity to step up the commitment and action for gender equality. As Ambassador Chowdhury put it, “The year 2020 gives us the opportunity to put renewed energy to roll back the dual scourges of patriarchy and misogyny” – but only if WPS and YPS are meaningfully integrated into all discussions and outcomes.

In an encouraging development for women and youth peacebuilders around the world, keynote speaker Ms. Sarah Hendricks, Director, Policy, Program, and Intergovernmental Division at UN Women announced that GEF’s core group set up a task force to identify specific actions that can strengthen WPS and YPS integration into the GEF process. The task force identified four possible modalities for WPS and YPS integration and conducted consultations with the civil society, from which two options emerged as the most viable:

1)        a stand-alone Action Coalition, or

2)        a “hybrid” mechanism, which, for now, has been termed a WPS compact

Ms. Hendricks explained that the compact approach has some strong level of support, as it would build on existing normative frameworks of both the WPS and YPS agendas, while remaining grounded in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Discussions on the potential compact will continue to be shaped based on consultations with civil society, Member States, and the core group of the GEF process.

The welcome announcement came as a result of persistent civil society advocacy over the past months. The strong and enthusiastic participation of peacebuilding organizations from around the world in the virtual discussion shows that women and youth peacebuilders are ready to continue the advocacy for their meaningful inclusion in GEF progress and outcomes. As Ms. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, CEO and founder of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders emphasized in her closing remarks, “COVID-19 will not stop women and youth peacebuilders from our advocacy to make our voices heard!”

Want to know more about the Beijing+25 Action Coalition on WPS-YPS? Click here.

For full recording of the March 17th event: Click here.

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

March 18, 2020 by Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Agnieszka Fal Dutra Santos and Katrina Leclerc with contributions from Jenaina Irani

The Women and Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, and Peace and Security (YPS) agendas cannot be siloed from the gender equality agenda! This was the resounding message from Ambassadors Ghanshyam Bhandari of Nepal, Xolisa Mabhongo of South Africa and Victoria Sulimani of Sierra Leone who co-sponsored the online roundtable discussion Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders? on March 17, 2020. The message from the three Ambassadors reinforces the persistent call and advocacy of more than 150 civil society networks and organizations that formed a civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[1] in November 2019: The call was further reiterated by the other speakers who expressed concern about the under-representation of women and youth peacebuilders in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and its new incarnation, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF); and called for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS.  

Making our voices heard: civil society Advocacy Paper on WPS and YPS

The roundtable discussion was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) on behalf of the civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[3]. It was initially planned as an in-person event. However, given the movement restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID19), the organizers have decided to hold the event online. This did not deter civil society, government and UN representatives from around the world from attending. A staggering 180+ participants joined the online roundtable to discuss the centrality of peace and security in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the GEF and its outcomes.

The discussion also served as the platform to launch the Advocacy Paper, a document which explores the nexus between the gender equality agenda and WPS and YPS agendas, and presents actionable recommendations for the achievement of lasting gender equality for all – with an inclusive peace as its pre-requisite. Developed through a participatory process with substantive inputs from regional, national and local organizations that form the civil society-led Action Coalition, the Advocacy Paper reflects a broad range of views and perspectives of what gender equality means in the context of conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations.  Its core message is clear: there can be no empowerment without peace; and no peace without gender equality!

This key message drove the civil-society led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition to staunchly advocate for the full, intentional and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS in all outcomes of the Beijing +25 and GEF processes. This includes in particular the Action Coalitions, the multi-stakeholder thematic groupings expected to catalyze collective action, spark global and inter-generational conversations, mobilize resources and political will, and deliver results that further advance equality for women and girls. WPS and YPS were not included among the Action Coalitions announced by UN Women in early 2020. Peace and security was also not included among the cross-cutting issues.

New possibilities: Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS

One of the highlights of the roundtable discussion was the presentation by Ms. Sarah Hendriks, UN Women’s Director of Policy, Program and Intergovernmental Division. She presented several different options to ensure meaningful and intentional integration of the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF, which were devised by the GEF Task Force in response to the civil society advocacy:

1. A stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS;

2. Broadening an existing Action Coalition by incorporating WPS and YPS;

3. Integrating WPS and YPS actions across all existing Action Coalitions; and

4. Building a Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS to spur action on the existing normative frameworks on WPS and humanitarian action.

According to Ms. Hendriks, consultations with women and youth peacebuilders in New York and around the world reveal that a Stand-alone Action Coalition and a Compact Coalition are the most acceptable and highly viable options. The Compact Coalition, which Ms. Hendricks referred to as a “hybrid solution” in particular emerged as a salient option, given the fact that there is already a strong normative framework and a number of coordination mechanisms on WPS. The Compact Coalition would help consolidate and advance the normative framework on WPS – including National Action Plans – and bring more visibility and opportunities for implementation of both WPS and YPS, without replicating already existing efforts. Ms. Hendricks explained some of the principles of the Compact Coalition further, including:

1. It would be grounded in the principles of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action;

2. It would purposely and intentionally engage young women peacebuilders & young women affected by crises;

3. It would strengthen coordination between the existing WPS and humanitarian action systems, networks, mechanisms, partnerships and capacities;

4. Women and young women peacebuilders & crisis-affected women and young women – would be meaningfully included in its design and management structure;

5. It would be guaranteed strong visibility throughout the GEF process and will serve as an opportunity to give impetus to the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325;

6. It would receive the recognition, political support and financial commitment akin to this given to the Action Coalitions;

7. It would be accompanied by sustainable and predictable financing, with due diligence applied to the funding partners; and would include an accountability mechanism.

We have come a long way: civil society advocacy for women and youth peacebuilders voices

The announcement of the four options – including the Compact Coalition – came following months of intense civil society advocacy for meaningful and intentional integration of WPS and YPS in the GEF. Prior to the roundtable discussion and the launch of the Advocacy Paper, the Beijing + 25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition under the coordination of GNWP, circulated an open letter to the core group of the GEF[2] calling for the official recognition of the WPS-YPS Action Coalition.  The UN High-Level Advisory Group for the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 under the coordination of Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury also sent out a letter to the GEF Core Group calling for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. GNWP CEO, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza wrote an op-ed “A Woman Peacebuilder’s Reflections on Beijing+25 & the Generation Equality Forum” published by Inter Press Service that explains why the success of the GEF and its outcomes are dependent on the extent and quality of the participation of civil society groups representing diverse issues and initiatives – including women and youth peacebuilders.

Since July 2019, GNWP has actively participated in numerous discussions on the Beijing + 25 and Generation Equality Forum processes. From July 2019 to February 2020, GNWP consulted with grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations as well as national, regional, and global civil society networks to develop an Advocacy Paper that presents shared messages and recommendations of women and youth peacebuilders for the GEF, as well as the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, 5th anniversary of UNSCR 2250, and 5-year review of the Sustainable Development Goals. In December 2019, it launched the civil society-led WPS and YPS Action Coalition. It monitored the national and regional Beijing + 25 Review processes outcome documents. It participated in the “design sprint” in Paris, in February 2020, during which the modalities and format of the proposed Action Coalitions were discussed, and used this platform to demonstrate the impossibility of simply mainstreaming WPS and YPS into existing Action Coalitions. It held numerous meetings with other civil society groups from around the world, Member States, UN agencies and entities, and high-level UN leadership to advocate for a stand-alone Coalition on WPS and YPS and find ways to meaningfully integrate the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF process and outcomes.

During the roundtable discussion, GNWP stressed the commitment of civil society to work closely with UN Women and other members of the GEF Core Group to examine the details of the Compact Coalition and ensure that it leads to full and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS priorities. We have come a long way, but there is still a way to go. The civil society and women and youth peacebuilders are ready for it!

To join the Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Global Coalition listserv, please fill out this form:

For more information, please contact: Mallika Iyer, Program Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders;

[1] The civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition is composed of more than 150 grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations and civil society networks around the world who are advocating for the meaningful participation of women and youth peacebuilders in the Generation Equality Forum.

[2] The Generation Equality Forum core group is composed of the Governments of France and Mexico, UN Women and the International Women’s Health Coalition and the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women representing civil society.

[3] In partnership with The Permanent Missions of Sierra Leone, Nepal, and South Africa; UN Women; UNFPA; UNDP; The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; the NGO CSW/NY; Oxfam; Wo=men the Dutch Gender Platform; Center for Civil Society and Democracy; Canadian Council of Young Feminists; Institute of International Women’s Rights; Fontaine-Isoko and the NGO Working Group on WPS in the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Women, Peace, and Security Network – Canada; Inclusive Society; Canadian Voice of Women for Peace; and the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women

GNWP’s Cora Weiss Fellow: Civil society briefer at UN CSW64

Remarks by Heela Yoon, Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; and Founder and Director of the Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association

Delivered during the procedural meeting of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women, 9 March 2020.

Your Excellencies, representatives of the UN, Member States, and fellow civil society actors, good morning!

Women, including young women, are critical actors, who build and sustain peace, advance sustainable development, and promote and protect human rights in their countries and communities. Over the past 50 years, significant achievements have been made to advance their rights and gender equality. The Commission on the Status of Women was created in 1961; the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted in 1995; the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted in 2000; and finally, UNSCRs 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, was adopted in 2015. However, despite some progress in the implementation of these international frameworks, women, young women and girls still face many challenges and threats; and our contributions to human rights, peace and development is often unrecognized and unsupported.

I stand here before you today, particularly grateful that I have been given the unique opportunity and enormous responsibility to represent young Afghan women who are advocating for gender equality, human rights, and sustainable peace in grassroots communities on a daily basis. As the world watches Afghanistan’s peace process unfold, it is important to remember that to end and prevent armed conflict and war, we must address its gendered impact. Afghan women, young women, and girls must meaningfully participate in peace processes and political decision-making at all levels in order to ensure sustainable and inclusive peace and development.

Shouldering large domestic burdens, denied access to education and economic opportunities, and experiencing discrimination based on assumptions about their capabilities and credibility, Afghan women, young women, and girls—like their counterparts around the world–face significant barriers to meaningful participation in political decision making, peace processes, and the national economy. For example, 87% of women are illiterate, only 2% of women have access to higher education. This reflects a global reality, wherein 76 million young women lack basic literacy skills.

In Afghanistan, like in many places around the world, most women face significant challenges in exercising their economic rights and participating in the labor force. Without financial independence and literacy skills, they are inhibited from participating in household and community decision-making. Moreover, close to 90% of Afghan women and girls suffer from at least one form of abuse, including physical or psychological violence; and 70-80% are subjected to early, forced, and child marriage, many before the age of 16.

According to the Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security, young women in conflict affected communities are stereotyped as victims, while young men are stereotyped as perpetrators of violence–rather than partners for peace. In an already limited space for women’s meaningful participation in political decision-making and peace processes, young women remain overlooked, marginalized, and excluded. However, young women are dispelling restrictive narratives of women as victims of conflict without agency and are advocating for gender equality and inclusive and sustainable peacebuilding measures.  In the absence of formal mechanisms and accessible opportunities to meaningfully participate socially, politically, and economically, young women have forged their own avenues to lead peacebuilding efforts and movements for progressive social transformation.

As the Founder of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association and as a Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, I work with young women and men  to challenge gender stereotypes in conflict affected rural communities. Through creative writing, art, and music, we discuss women’s rights, feminism, human rights, and sustainable development and peace. We are taking ownership of our bodies, examining religion, asserting our rights in the family and broader society. 

Today, most Afghan women, men, and youth fear that peace with the Taliban may mean war on us if we are marginalized from the peace process. The Afghan Peace Process is a decisive turning point in our country’s history. I urge all parties involved at the local, national, and international levels to remain committed to international human rights and women’s rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the WPS Agenda, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Afghan women have buried their sons, daughters, husbands, sisters and brothers. We want peace more than anything, and we know peace can only be achieved by recognizing our freedom and rights.

We want meaningful participation in the peace process and we want our voices to be heard and make a positive difference. Without women, this peace will be a broken peace! We are hopeful for an Afghanistan in which women, young women, and girls will be able to participate meaningfully in political decision-making at all levels; and realize their full potential. 

I’m inspired and bolstered by the activism of young women from across the world whose leadership in peacebuilding has brought new approaches to advocacy. Young women have led peaceful demonstrations and protests for good governance in India, Chile, and Algeria; sparked global action for climate change; and steered community service, humanitarian response, civic engagement, and social media revolutions. Young women leaders continue to demand and push for equality in a way that can revive the energy of all those around them. They have the power to mobilize.

Considering that youth make up the majority population in conflict-affected countries, their meaningful participation in peace processes and political decision making is both a demographic necessity and a democratic imperative for accountability of political institutions under international law. 2020 is a pivotal year for gender equality. The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference (Beijing+25)/Generation Equality Forum, the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and the 5th anniversary of UNSCR 2250, are catalytic moments to advance the gender equality agenda and improve the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions. These coinciding anniversaries present a global momentum for governments, UN entities, students, teachers, civil society, feminists, women’s rights activists, and young people to mobilize for our collective vision for gender equality, sustainable and inclusive peace. I call on the UN and Member States to ensure that the voices of women and youth peacebuilders are central to these global processes.