Tag: GNWP Blog

Tag: GNWP Blog

GNWP Reports from Istanbul, Türkiye: “Women’s Networks WIN Together” Regional Conference on Networks across Women Peacebuilders and Mediators in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia

24 August 2023 by Natia Kostava* and Sophia Farion**

Edited by Shawna Crystal

“Nothing survives without action. We need to be strategic, creative, innovative, resourceful and think outside the box to revitalize and sustain networks.” – Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)

On 26 and 27 June 2023, women peacebuilders and mediators from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan convened in Istanbul, Türkiye, to exchange best practices and lessons learned. These women were gathered for the “Women’s Networks WIN Together” regional conference with the goal of revitalizing women’s networks on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and gender equality in their respective regions. The convening further offered one of the first opportunities since COVID-19 for local women peacebuilders and mediators to share updates on the status of National Action Plans (NAPs) on WPS in their countries. This intergenerational conference was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) “WIN – Women & Men Innovating and Networking for Gender Equality” (WIN) project. 

The ongoing war in Ukraine has brought to the fore local and regional dimensions of unresolved conflicts and crises in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. For example, a refugee crisis across Eastern Europe, clashes over disputed territories in the South Caucasus and inter-communal violence in Central Asia. “The real knowledge about peacebuilding is on the ground. Usually, [this knowledge] is not only silenced at the local level, but women leaders’ voices are also absent at the international level,” stressed one of the conference participants. As local women peacebuilders and mediators continue to advocate for their full and meaningful participation in formal decision-making — a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable peace — participants emphasized how WPS networks remain crucial in promoting peace, conflict resolution and social cohesion.

While successful examples of WPS networks exist, many networks are unsustainable or ineffective as a result of insufficient and inflexible funding, re-emerging conflict and other factors. Furthermore, although a few cross-regional networks focus on WPS-related matters such as gender-based violence, there are no regional networks in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus or Central Asia dedicated to the implementation of the WPS agenda. To bridge the gap between women peacebuilders’ need for strong WPS networks and the current dearth of impactful options, GNWP’s “Women’s Networks WIN Together” conference transformed challenges, best practices and lessons learned from women peacebuilders and mediators on the ground into a strategy “roadmap” for efficient WPS networks. This roadmap will provide local and national civil society organizations with a practical guide to establishing, revitalizing and sustaining efficient networks on WPS and women’s meaningful participation in peace processes in the OSCE area.

To complement the efforts delineated in the strategy roadmap, each participant also crafted an individual action plan with three concrete SMART goals they committed to implementing in the coming months to revitalize a stalled or inefficient network of which they are members. These commitments ranged from sharing what they learned during the conference with their connections, to pitching a proposal to restructure their network’s operational model, to conducting training on WPS and leadership organized jointly by conference participants from different countries. “Through this event, I gained not only knowledge but also a renewed sense of motivation to actively participate in peacebuilding initiatives and support the rights and empowerment of women,” stated a Turkmen participant. GNWP will organize check-in meetings to follow up on the progress of the implementation of individual action plans in the fall of 2023.

The initial outcomes of these collective and individual revitalization efforts will culminate in January 2024, at a second OSCE conference in Vienna, Austria. During this convening, GNWP will introduce the finalized strategy roadmap, and women peacebuilders and mediators will have the opportunity to present their key messages to national and multilateral stakeholders. Participants will further engage in a constructive dialogue with key policymakers to jointly identify concrete actions and strategies for supporting women peacebuilders and mediators across the region. These discussions will contribute to building the capacity and momentum of women’s networks working to implement WPS across the regions. 

GNWP extends its gratitude to the OSCE for their continued support through the “WIN-Women & Men Innovating and Networking for Gender Equality” initiative. 

On 27 June 2023, GNWP, the OSCE and the UN Women Europe and Central Asia Regional Office organized a side event featuring the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA). It centered local women activists' key priorities and how the WPS-HA Compact can facilitate support for them. "Our objective now, given the pushbacks and challenges,” remarked Dr. Lara Scarpitta, OSCE Senior Advisor on Gender Issues at the Office of the Secretary-General, “is to find ways to collectively push women's voices forward and put them into a discussion of peacebuilding and decision-making."

* Natia Kostava is the Program Officer for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).

** Sophia Farion is the Senior Program Officer for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia at GNWP.

GNWP Reports from Indonesia: Advancing Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) and Humanitarian Action in Southeast Asia

24 February 2023 by Bianca Pabotoy* and Katrina Leclerc**

Two months after the adoption of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security (RPA WPS), the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) made its way to Indonesia. In partnership with the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia, UN Women Indonesia, and with support from Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP), GNWP launched on 13 February 2023 in Jakarta the policy brief entitled “Intersections of Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) and Humanitarian Action across Southeast Asian Nations.” 

The brief presents documented achievements and challenges in the effective implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas and gender-responsive humanitarian action within countries of ASEAN. It also outlines recommendations for a stronger, harmonized implementation of the policies, and encourages the meaningful participation of women and young women in peace, security and humanitarian response in Southeast Asia.

During the launch, Ms. Nina Kondracki, Counsellor and Head of Cooperation at Canada’s Mission to ASEAN, underscored: “This strong collaboration bodes very well for the implementation of the Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security, advancing the policy dialogue on the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, and exploring the important linkages between both in the ASEAN region, especially in the context of humanitarian action.”

Representatives of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and UN Women Indonesia presented the ASEAN’s RPA WPS, adopted in December 2022. Additionally, members of GNWP’s Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL) networks in Myanmar and the Philippines presented existing youth-led peacebuilding efforts in the region.

“The implementation of both Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security in Southeast Asia is crucial, as ongoing conflict and crises remain. ASEAN Member States have an opportunity, with the Regional Plan of Action on WPS and growing attention for the concerns of young people, to expand their approach, break down bureaucratic silos and ensure substantive collaboration with civil society.”

– Ms. Cynth Nietes, Young Women+ Leaders for Peace – Philippines

“Looking ahead, the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation looks forward to organizing regular WPS training, and utilizing our pool of experts, such as the ASEAN Women for Peace Registry. Future efforts include a mapping of actors, specifically women peacebuilders at the local level, and a mapping of the existing peace infrastructure at the national and local levels from a gender perspective.”

– Ms. Kartika Wijayanti, Project Management Officer, ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation

GNWP looks forward to moving recommendations of this policy brief from words to action as it continues to meaningfully engage with ASEAN on the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security agendas, and gender-sensitive humanitarian action.

GNWP thanks Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program for their continued support.

Read policy brief here.


 

* Bianca Pabotoy is the Senior Program Officer for Asia and the Pacific at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).

** Katrina Leclerc is the Program Director at GNWP.

GNWP Reports from the Young Women+ Leaders for Peace in Lebanon: Searching for hope, finding it in each other

7 February 2023 by Alonna Despain*

Edited by Shawna Crystal**

When reflecting on time spent with the Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL)[1] in Lebanon, there is one word that prevails in its lack and its growth: hope. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) has been working with youth peacebuilders in Lebanon since 2021. When we first began meeting with youth leaders, GNWP asked what gives them hope. At first, many of them struggled to find an answer. The recent years in Lebanon have not been easy. Since 2019, the country has been coping with a crippling economic crisis. The Lebanese lira has lost over 90 percent of its value; many essential goods and services remain out of reach for the general population; and, the World Bank has referred to the situation as one of the worst economic collapses in global history. Then, in August 2020, Lebanon was rocked by the explosion at the Port of Beirut—a catastrophe that killed more than 200 people. According to a 2022 UNICEF survey, the situation in Lebanon has led to one in four youth suffering from mental health challenges, three in ten youth expecting life to get worse and around 40 percent seeing life abroad as their only option for a better future. Yet, despite the deteriorating circumstances, in collaboration with GNWP, the Permanent Peace Movement (PPM), and support from Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP), members of the Young Women+ Leaders for Peace chapter in Lebanon are endeavoring to build sustainable peace at the local, national and regional levels.

The YWL network in Lebanon was first launched by GNWP and PPM, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) in 2021. In 2022, GNWP and PPM, and with support of PSOP, hosted several workshops with the YWL members to enhance their capacities as youth peacebuilders, increase their knowledge on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) policies, and strategize on pathways for advocacy on the implementation of the YPS resolutions locally. In December 2022, the YWL sessions convened diverse youth from across the country and the region—including Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian refugees and members of the LGBTQIA+ community—and provided a space for learning, collaborating and sharing experiences.

During the workshop, one young woman spoke about her efforts working with religious leaders and pharmacists in Baalbek to destigmatize menstruation and sexual health. After meeting with local religious leaders to gain their support, she met with local pharmacists to change the practice of putting period products in black plastic bags. She emphasized that menstruation is a natural part of life and should not be something that is ostracizing to women or has to be hidden. As a result of her advocacy, pharmacies in Baalbek have begun putting period products in the same bags as other items—a step towards challenging social stigmas and social norms.

Following their activism and involvement with the YWL, two members of the chapter were invited by the Lebanese Ministry of Youth and Sports to represent the country at an official consultation for the Arab League’s forthcoming Regional Strategy on Youth, Peace and Security. Christelle Aziz, one of the YWL members, shared that as drafting of the strategy continues, between now and the launch “we want to advocate and ensure that there is an open channel between the YWL in Lebanon and the Arab League and their partners to listen to our feedback in all the steps.”

“Our  involvement in this process has resulted in the YWL working together to pursue joint efforts to ensure continuous youth involvement in the regional strategy and concrete ways to promote YPS advocacy at the regional and local levels.” –Zulfiqar Naser Al Deen, YWL member in Lebanon and GNWP Associate for Lebanon Peacebuilding Programs

Among the joint efforts considered, the YWL identified the creation of a youth council at the Arab League to represent the genuine interests of local peacebuilders, forming strategic partnerships with local government actors and utilizing media for advocacy. One participant remarked: “Learning about these global and regional opportunities and the YWL involvement at the Arab League has made me want to be involved too and find a way to work on this in Lebanon.” The YWL, with support and guidance from GNWP and its local partner PPM, is now leading a clear advocacy and social media strategy for the sustained inclusion and leadership of youth in formulating the regional strategy and implementing the YPS resolutions across Lebanon.

GNWP thanks Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program for their continued support.


[1] The Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL) program is a network initiated by GNWP that focuses on building the capacities and leadership skills of young women and gender equality allies in conflict-affected communities. More details can be found here: https://gnwp.org/what-we-do/young-women-leaders-for-peace-program/


* Alonna Despain is a Program Officer for Middle East and North Africa at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).

** Shawna Crystal is the Resource Mobilization and Communications Specialist at GNWP.

The Importance of Women’s Rights in War and Peace: An Eastern Europe and South Caucasus case study

20 December 2022

By Beatriz Valdés Correa*

Prior to the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine,[1] Ukrainian women’s organizations were focused on assembling a gender equality agenda covering fundamental women’s rights issues, such as guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive rights, fighting against domestic and sexual violence, and increasing women’s representation as decision-makers at both the local and national level. When war struck in 2014, it quickly became apparent that there were no tools in place to protect women against atrocious war crimes on top of an already urgent women’s rights agenda.

In 2016, the Ukrainian government adopted its National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). When Russia invaded the country again in 2022, Ukraine had the economic resources and protocols in place to respond to the damages that conflict and war have on women and girls.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for other Eastern European and South Caucasus countries. For example, since 2008, after 14 years of war with Russia, Georgia still has more than 200,000 forcibly displaced persons, many of whom are women that need vital support. In Moldova, the government and civil society have been struggling to accommodate the influx of more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees since February 2022.

In countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova —– all countries that for the past 20 years have lived and suffered the consequences of war — – the implementation of UNSCR 1325 is moving forward at a much slower pace.

The Regional Conference on Women, Peace and Security in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus took place in Vienna from the 9-10 June 2022. It was convened by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Twenty women representatives from the above countries, accompanied by partners from Germany and Austria, discussed the following:

  • Accomplishments from the implementation of UNSCR 1325;
  • Challenges and recommendations for recognizing the differential effects of war on women in order to promote gender equality in peacebuilding;
  • Shared priorities to build solidarity and strengthen cooperation in response to the regional crisis; and
  • Intersections between the Women, Peace and Security and the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agendas, the Sustaining Peace resolutions, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Lack of financing and discrimination: the two sides of the same coin

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [2] and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been key to States recognizing and implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in the region. Despite UNSCR 1325 being widely recognized as essential, it has been far harder to realize its implementation. “Implementation needs money. Years have gone by, and nothing has changed. We have concluded that without state structures, organizations are not strong enough to implement the resolution. We do not have the legal capabilities of doing it,” stated Sajida Abdulbahabova, Director at the Women’s Problems Research Union in Azerbaijan.

The same is true in Armenia. Knarik Mkrtchyan, a young woman peacebuilder, and representative of the organization Women’s Agenda, shared that they do not have financing from the government to implement the NAP. Still, with the work of other institutions and NGOs, they have managed to comprehensively advance the resolution and training of women as mediators.

In these two cases, along with Moldova, the lack of financing has impeded the process of Localization – GNWP’s pioneering strategy to convene important local actors to discuss how to effectively implement, or “localize,” the NAP in their community. While leaders recognize the success of this strategy and its ability to involve both local authorities and women from rural areas, there are still many regions to reach.

Underfunding of the WPS agenda and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 has had notable consequences, including a failure to address issues of low political participation and violence against women. In Armenia, Lida Minasyan, representative of Women’s Agenda, says the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has had serious repercussions, especially for young women: “We are seen only as mothers,” Minasyan stated. For Minasyan, women being sidelined as caregivers makes leadership difficult. “Women must take part in negotiations,” she insisted. 

In Moldova, Nina Lozinschi, representative of Gender-Centru, warned that violence against women continues and is disregarded. “We no longer have to deal with COVID-19. We have war, sexual abuses, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and criminal groups,” she explained.

Women’s rights: On pause because of war

As is the case in Ukraine, implementing UNSCR 1325 and financing women-led organizations and local authorities in times of peace might ease humanitarian action when conflict arrives.

It is also important that, despite conflict, countries do not ignore the rest of women’s rights. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GNWP explained, “When you have war, it is hard to safeguard non-conflict-related women’s rights because the infrastructure, including social institutions and government, is at its weakest point. Let’s say I am a Ukrainian woman and need sexual and reproductive health services, I need to access an abortion and the government’s response is: “Yes, I know, but our hospitals are hardly working. We have to care for wounded soldiers and feed our army because they are fighting for our country. You will have to wait.”

For Cabrera-Balleza, just like the other regional leaders, women’s rights, such as access to education and medical attention, cannot be ignored. On the contrary, the answer must come with alternative responses in the face of war. Some were proposed by the participants of the conference:

  • Strong commitment from governments to ensure dedicated funding for NAPs’ implementation and projects of local organizations;
  • Guarantee access to psychological and physical care, especially for gender-based violence survivors;
  • Invest in the Localization strategy to provide humanitarian aid to small and disadvantaged towns; and
  • Develop relationships with the media and establish other information channels that allow for useful and truthful information to reach people at risk, especially displaced women and girls, such as where to obtain humanitarian aid and other available services.

“Women’s rights must be respected, whether in war or peace, at all moments. That is why we refer to them as undivided rights, because they apply to all situations,” Cabrera-Balleza stated.

The conference ended with a conversation about Ukraine and a plea from women’s organizations: “Help us survive,” said Uliana Dorosh, Municipality Representative from Ukraine. Her message, and those of her partners, is directed toward women’s organizations around the world and the media, but above all, to the United Nations and the international community. “No one will be safe until the Russians are stopped: not Armenia, not Moldova, not Latvia, not anyone,” urged Maria Dmytrieva.


* Beatriz Valdés Correa is the first place winner of the first Global Media for WPS Award launched in March 2022. As part of her winning prize, she traveled to Vienna for the Regional Conference on WPS in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus hosted by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). This article is a reflection from Beatriz’s participation in the Regional Conference and will be published on the GNWP website as well as in a national newspaper in Colombia. This version has been translated from its original language, Spanish, for ease and distribution to global audiences.

[1] In February and March 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine to its territory.

[2] War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region after the Soviet Union dissolution. GNWP works fervently with Armenian and Azerbaijani peacebuilders and relevant stakeholders to support the WPS and YPS agendas. It seeks to strengthen peacebuilding and trust building efforts between the two parties to promote inclusive and sustainable peace in the region.


La importancia de los derechos de las mujeres en la guerra y en la paz: El caso de estudio de Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur

Por Beatriz Valdés Correa*

Antes de la invasión de Rusia a Ucrania en 2014[1], las organizaciones de mujeres ucranianas estaban enfocadas en armar una agenda de equidad de género que garantizara los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres, luchar contra la violencia en contexto doméstico y la violencia sexual y en trabajar con autoridades del nivel nacional y local para que las mujeres hicieran parte de la toma de decisiones. Cuando llegó la guerra en 2014, se hizo aparente la falta de herramientas para proteger a las mujeres de crímenes de guerra atroces, además de la agenda de derechos de las mujeres que ya era necesaria.

En 2016, el gobierno de Ucrania adoptó el Plan Nacional de Acción (PNA) en cumplimiento de la Resolución 1325 del Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas (RCSNU) sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS). Cuando Rusia nuevamente invadió el país en febrero de 2022, Ucrania tenía los recursos económicos y protocolos para atender las afectaciones que los conflictos armados generan en las mujeres y las niñas.

Sin embargo, esta no es la constante en los países de Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur. Por ejemplo, no es el caso de Georgia, que tras 14 años de la guerra con Rusia en 2008, todavía tiene más de 200,000 personas desplazadas, entre esas muchas mujeres a las que debe atender. En Moldavia, tanto el gobierno como la sociedad civil ha tenido que enfrentar diversos retos para albergar a más de 460,000 personas refugiadas ucranianas desde Febrero de 2022.

En Azerbaiyán, Moldavia, Armenia y Georgia – todos países vecinos que en los últimos 20 años han vivido y sufrido las consecuencias de las guerras – la implementación de la RCSNU 1325 avanza a un paso más lento y es frágil.

La Conferencia Regional sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad en Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur, se llevó a cabo el 9 y 10 de Junio de 2022 en Viena. Fue convocada por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés), con el apoyo de la Agencia de Cooperación Austríaca para el Desarrollo (ADA). Veinte mujeres representantes de organizaciones de mujeres de los países mencionados anteriormente, así como acompañantes internacionales de Alemania y Austria, conversaron sobre:

  • Los avances de la implementación de la RCSNU 1325;
  • Retos y posibles soluciones para que los países de esta región reconozcan los impactos diferenciados de los conflictos en las mujeres, las protejan y las tengan en cuenta en la toma de decisiones para la construcción de la paz; y
  • Las sinergias entre las resoluciones de Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad, Juventud, Paz y Seguridad (JPS), y sobre las resoluciones sobre el Mantenimiento de Paz, así como de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible

Falta de financiación y discriminación: dos caras de la misma moneda

Los conflictos como el de Nagorno Karabaj[2] o la invasión rusa a Ucrania, han sido clave que los Estados reconozcan e implementen la RCSNU1325 sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad en la región. Aunque se ha reconocido como esencial la RCSNU 1325, su implementación ha sido más difícil de lograr. “La implementación necesita dinero. Han pasado los años y no ha pasado nada. Hemos llegado a la conclusión que, sin estructuras estatales, las organizaciones no son lo suficientemente fuertes para implementar la resolución. No tenemos la posibilidad legal de hacerlo”, afirmó Sajida Abdulbahabova, directora del Sindicato de Investigación sobre los Asuntos de las Mujeres, de Azerbaiyán.

Lo mismo ocurre en Armenia. Knarik Mkrtchyan, representante de la Agenda de las Mujeres de este país y joven constructora de paz, contó que no cuentan con la financiación del gobierno para implementar el PNA. Sin embargo, a través del trabajo con algunas instituciones y organizaciones no gubernamentales han logrado avanzar en la comprensión de la Resolución y en la formación de mujeres mediadoras.

En estos dos casos, así como en Moldavia, la falta de financiación no ha permitido aumentar el alcance del proceso de Localización – la estrategia pionera de GNWP para organizar a actores locales clave para discutir cómo se puede implementar efectivamente, o “localizar”, el PNA en su comunidad. A pesar que las líderesas reconocen que ha sido un éxito y han logrado involucrar tanto a las autoridades locales como a las mujeres de áreas rurales, identifican que todavía quedan muchos lugares a los que deben llegar.

La escasez de financiamiento de la agenda MPS y la implementación de la RCSNU 1325 tiene como consecuencia la inacción frente a puntos cruciales como la participación política, la prevención de violencias y la atención a las mismas. En Armenia, según Lida Minasyan, representante de la Agenda de las Mujeres de Armenia, el conflicto Nagorno Karabaj dejó una consecuencia grave, sobre todo para las jóvenes: “Nos ven como potenciales madres”, dijo Minasyan. Para ella volver al paradigma de las mujeres relegadas únicamente al campo del cuidado representa un atraso que dificulta sus liderazgos. “Es crucial que las mujeres participen en las negociaciones”, insistió.

Por el lado de Moldavia, Nina Lozinschi, representante de Gender-Centru, advirtió que la violencia contra las mujeres continúa y no se le presta la suficiente atención. “Ya no tenemos Covid-19. Tenemos la guerra, abusos sexuales, trata de personas, explotación sexual y grupos criminales”, explicó Lozinschi.

Los derechos de las mujeres: en pausa por las guerras

Como sucedió en Ucrania en los primeros días de la invasión de este año, implementar la RCSNU 1325 y financiar las organizaciones lideradas por mujeres y autoridades locales, podría hacer menos complicada la acción humanitaria cuando el conflicto se presente.

Es importante que, a pesar del conflicto, los países no ignoren los -otros- derechos de las mujeres. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, fundadora y CEO de lGNWP, lo explica así: “Cuando tienes guerra es difícil lograr otros derechos de las mujeres porque la base, que son las instituciones sociales, incluido el gobierno, está en su punto más débil. Digamos que soy ucraniana y necesito Servicios de Atención a la Salud Sexual y Reproductiva. Necesito abortar y el gobierno puede decir: “sí, lo sabemos, pero nuestros hospitales apenas funcionan. Tenemos que atender a los soldados heridos, tenemos que alimentar a nuestro ejército porque están defendiendo a nuestro país. Deberás esperar”.

Para Cabrera-Balleza, igual que para otras líderesas de la región, no se pueden perder de vista derechos como el acceso a la educación o la atención médica. Por el contrario, la respuesta debería venir con alternativas posibles en la guerra. Algunas de estas fueron propuestas por las asistentes a la conferencia: 

  • Que los donantes conozcan y crean en la necesidad de financiar los PNA y los proyectos de las organizaciones;
  • Garantizar el acceso a una atención psicológica y física adecuada, especialmente para sobrevivientes de violencias de género;
  • Apostarle a aplicar la estrategia de localización para dar ayuda humanitaria a las comunidades pequeñas y desprotegidas; y
  • Tejer relaciones con medios de comunicación y establecer otros canales de información que permitan entregar información útil y veraz a las personas en riesgo, especialmente a las mujeres y niñas desplazadas, como dónde obtener ayuda humanitaria y otros servicios disponibles.

“Los derechos de las mujeres deben ser respetados, ya sea en la guerra o en la paz, en todo momento. Por eso nos referimos a ellos como indivisibles, porque se aplican en todas las situaciones”, dice Cabrera-Balleza.

El encuentro terminó con una conversación sobre Ucrania y un llamado claro de las mujeres: “Ayúdennos a sobrevivir”, dijo Uliana Dorosh, Representante Municipal de Ucrania. Su mensaje, como el de sus compañeras, estuvo dirigido a las organizaciones de mujeres de los demás países y a los medios de comunicación, pero también, y sobre todo, a las Naciones Unidas y a la comunidad internacional. “Hasta que los rusos no se detengan, ninguna nación estará a salvo: ni Armenia ni Moldavia ni Latvia ni nadie”, afirmó María Dmytrieva.


* Beatriz Valdés Correa es ganadora del primer lugar del Primer Premio Global sobre Medios y MPS llevado a cabo en Marzo de 2022. Como parte de su premio, viajó a Viena para la Conferencia Regional sobre MPS en Europa del Este y el Cáucaso Sur organizado por la Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Agencia de Cooperación Austríaca para el Desarrollo (ADA, por sus siglas en inglés).

[1] En febrero y marzo de 2014, Rusia invadió y posteriormente anexó la península ucraniana de Crimea a su territorio.

[2] La Guerra estalló entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán por la región en disputa después de la desintegración de la Unión Soviética. GNWP trabaja fervientemente con constructoras de paz y actores clave importantes de Armenia y Azerbaiyán para apoyar las Agendas MPS y JPS. Busca fortalecer los esfuerzos de construcción de paz y generación de confianza entre las partes para promover una paz sostenible e inclusiva en la región.

Testimony from Afghan woman peacebuilder Kochay Hassan*: Life under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Regime

17 August 2022

Disclaimer: This is my experience, and I cannot speak on behalf of the millions of women living in different regions of Afghanistan.

I remember the night – scrolling more than 18 hours a day on Twitter to witness the collapse of provinces one by one. It was scary; at the same time, adventurous. I even followed Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, on Twitter to get the latest and most reliable news on the fall of our provinces. But unfortunately, President Ghani’s comments on social media and local and international media coverage were false promises that could not be believed. What they wrote was a plain lie. 

A day before the collapse of the capital, I read that the Taliban fully controlled Mazar. The adrenalin rush, non-stop refreshing newsfeed, busy minds with frightening thoughts, escape plans and applying for any opportunity to leave Afghanistan was all I heard and witnessed on social media and in real life. It was surreal. Who would have thought that Kabul would collapse? I laughed whenever someone would mention it. 

I remember tearing up and listening to the national anthem several times, thinking this would be the last day to listen to it and watch the national flag waving in the presidential palace. It was depressing, I admit. 

The first three days of Kabul under the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) regime were quiet and dark. I heard there were barely any people walking around the city. The tragedy of the airport was embarrassing and horrific. Kabul was officially the land of zombies. I regularly asked my father about the situation outside the house, and every time he would answer that all was well. Did I believe him? No. 

I saw videos of people being punished and tortured by IEA soldiers for listening to music, wearing jeans, and their political background and relationship with governmental officials. Some were old footage from years ago, while others were misinterpreted. But unfortunately, some were real videos happening in the provinces. 

Hearing and reading about it discouraged me from going outside and seeing more for myself. My mom and sister were the first women in our family to go outside and witness the situation. On the third day after the fall, my sister got sick. My mom had no choice but to go out with my sister to get her medical attention. After an hour and a half, they returned, and I asked, “How was it? Did they question why you were outside without Mahram[1]? Did they react badly because my sister wore jeans instead of a burqa[2] and hijab?” Mom laughed and said, “No. They were quite respectful. They would not even stare at us. I saw some girls eating ice cream, and the group of Taliban would look at them and smile shyly among themselves.” I was shocked. This was nothing that I expected. That encouraged me to go out to see the situation for myself. 

The first month was numb – lots of good and bad stories were spreading here and there. But for myself and thousands of other women and girls, it was just depressing. There was nothing in the news. Twitter and social media were the only source of information for us. My closest friends were evacuated from Afghanistan, one after another. WhatsApp groups were full of negativity and hopelessness. Groups of women and girls kept saying life was over for them in Afghanistan. They could not see a future in this country. 

Weeks later, my sister and I went out shopping. I did not want to take risks, so I wore the longest dress I could find in my closet because I did not own an abaya[3] or hijab. The streets were empty. Barely any women or girls could be seen. My heart sank. It was like they had vanished from the face of the earth. But let me clarify this: the reason that there were no women in the street was not that the Taliban would not allow them, but that, like myself, many were afraid to go outside and face a new reality. The checkpoints were full of Talibs, and their appearance intimidated me. It was bizarre – almost comical – that the people we had been afraid of for 20 years were just there. Among us. Not one or two, but hundreds of them in the streets. They were Afghans, too, who spoke our language and believed in the same God as we did. Then what separated us? 

Before the fall, I worked as an employee for one of the women-led organizations. The day Kabul collapsed, I was still in the office when one of our male colleagues entered the room, panicked, and asked everyone to leave immediately. It was strange that a night before, Balkh collapsed, and I cried my eyes out, and then the very next day, the other employees and I came back to the office like it was just another ordinary day. Our colleague said, “Taliban are at the gates of Kabul. Pack your stuff and leave immediately.” My supervisor was shaking and crying. She whispered, “My mom is in the hospital. What will she do? Oh my god. What is happening?!” I hugged her and told her to calm down. Then I went straight for my table and started packing. While packing, I thought that it was the end of my career. I will never see my colleagues again. I will never be able to work. The organization will no longer be able to function since it is women-led and works to educate women and girls. 

A month later, after the collapse of the government, I was connected with senior management of the organization through a WhatsApp group. I was informed that all our organization’s key employees had left the country, including our director. Things were not going well for the organization and many others like it that were women-led. The turnover in all organizations had significantly burdened the remaining employees. The bank accounts were frozen, which prevented many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from operating or paying their employees’ salaries on time. Some women-led organizations were on the blacklist due to their former senior management’s involvement in politics and the National Resistance Force (NRF) – work in opposition to the IEA. Most of the projects funded by the United States government were suspended due to sanctions. All development projects were stopped and shifted to humanitarian projects. It was hard for NGOs, including ours, to adapt to the sudden change in the scope of programs. Female employees of NGOs were working from home. The women-led organizations hired men as directors or deputies to negotiate with the de facto authorities, reopen their offices and continue their work. Some collapsed after a few months due to the lack of funds and difficulties adjusting to the huge turnover. 

Our organization was struggling too. We did not have access to our accounts. Other female employees and I were working from home. We barely had projects. The donor would not risk their fund and money by investing in a women-led organization. I do not blame them; there were many issues with women’s work and uncertainty in their movement. The Mahram issue was also there, which made it even harder for women to get jobs and for donors to cover the extra expenses. It was the darkest four months for our organization. Every day was a new struggle, and further complications for women made it difficult for the organization to operate. However, that did not stop us from assisting our male colleagues from home, pushing us to work even harder. 

It was the first weeks of December when we finally found the courage to talk to our district police department about allowing the female staff to return to the office. Surprisingly, they agreed but did not give us a written permission letter. It was all verbal, which left uncertainty, doubt and fear in many female employees’ hearts. The first day back to the office was so surreal. Nothing looked the same. Our female director was replaced with a male deputy director. As a women-led organization, we were left with only three female employees in the main office, which had been segregated into male and female sections. But this did not stop us from interacting daily. Every day was a struggle, financially and mentally, for our organization, yet our spirits were not broken, nor was our will to work. 

I would come home crying to my mom and sisters because of the work pressure. It pained my soul to see our organization collapse and unable to pay our staff salaries for months. It would give me a headache every day and caused me many sleepless nights to see the space for women-led civil society organizations (CSOs) shrinking. I still think of the days I wanted to write my resignation letter to our director, who assisted the organization from a distance and guided me daily in handling certain things. However, the midnight breakdowns would not stop me from waking up the next morning, dressing up and working all day to find a way to reopen other branches in the provinces. Just thinking of those days makes me realize how far I and all the other female employees and our organization have come. 

During these four months, assistance and small funding from other organizations helped us operate and remain open through difficult times. It was like a blessing and spark of hope on those black days. We could finally access bank accounts again a month later, though the salaries for only two months were processed. We could pay some of our debts, but we still had other problems. We were able to reopen our other branches one by one. It was not as desirable for the provincial staff, but we overcame it by coordination and trust-building with the de facto authorities. We gradually learned that the key to surviving is negotiation and coordination. We learned that we should speak their language and change some terminology to make them understand our work. It took a lot of time, energy and many meetings, but we needed to do that outreach. We were finally getting back on track. However, we still lacked funding and women to lead the organization. 

I took over as the Executive Director in April. It was new, and the future for the organization was not very promising. It is not for the majority of women-led CSOs in Afghanistan. I met groups of other CSO directors in different gatherings, and they all asked for opportunities and funding. Their years of experience and nationality would not change the fact that the organizational capacity had been significantly reduced, and the projects’ scopes had changed from development to humanitarian action. Afghan NGOs were trained for 20 years in the development sector, and the donor would instead go with international NGOs (INGOs) since they implement humanitarian projects with better quality and transparency. This is one of the reasons that local NGOs, specifically women-led organizations, have struggled to get projects and funding from donor agencies. 

Once, my uncle heard me saying that I’m exhausted and depressed. I remember that he replied, “Kochay, be patient. If you want to lead an organization, it requires a lot of sacrifice and patience. It is good that you are passionate about your job. Work with what you have available. Just because you are dealing with old cars doesn’t mean you have to buy new ones. Fix the old ones and invest in them. You don’t know this, but you are sitting on top of a gold mine. You must find your worth and prove that your organization can offer new things. Just do what you are confident about, and do it the best way possible.” My uncle taught me a lifelong lesson to adapt and adjust to new circumstances. 

It is not easy to live here, but it is not unbearable either. That keeps me sane and optimistic about the future for myself and millions of other women and girls in Afghanistan. Is it too limited? Does it require certain restrictions? Does it take us more steps than the men-led organization to complete a simple procedure while dealing with the de facto authorities? Yes, yes and yes. But does that stop me and the other 60+ women and girls in our organization from coming to the office regularly? No. Are we frustrated sometimes? Yes. Are we angry sometimes? Yes. But do we, as women, also have joyful moments when we cover 11 provinces and serve thousands of women and children through our interventions? Yes. And that is what matters the most. 

This month marks one year since the collapse of the republic government of Afghanistan. We, as Afghans, have faced it all. From middle school closure, economic crisis, poverty, sanctions and bank restrictions to brain drain, the current regime, natural disasters and humanitarian crisis, we have experienced everything imaginable. It has been a difficult and painful year for all Afghans. But it has not stopped us from surviving every day and fighting for that spark of light in the darkest days. Though international allies failed us, we fought our own battles and did not quit. We stayed. We fought. We fell but got up and fought harder—every day. History should not call any of the women who were left behind victims. Remember us as survivors, agents of change and peacebuilders. 

GNWP stands with the Afghan people, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, who continue to be negatively impacted by the oppression and violence brought upon them by the Taliban. GNWP thanks the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for its support that enables us to sustain our work with AWEC and other local women’s rights organizations and promote local peacebuilding and women- and youth-led  humanitarian response. 

For GNWP’s full solidarity statement, see: https://gnwp.org/take-urgent-action-to-protect-the-rights-of-afghan-women-and-girls-and-restore-peace/


* Kochay Hassan is the Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC). AWEC is a member of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) working locally in Afghanistan for the rights of women, young women and girls.

[1] A male escort to accompany a woman when she leaves the home.

[2] A long, loose garment covering the whole body from head to feet, worn in public by women in many Muslim countries.

[3] A full-length outer garment worn by some Muslim women.