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Women peacebuilders use dialogue and engage with different parties to bring actors to the peace table, negotiate humanitarian access, challenge extremist ideologies and violence, and facilitate reconciliation and social healing. However, this engagement with “the other” specifically puts them at risk. Ironically, women who are peacebuilders are threatened because of their peace work.
Women peacebuilders face a complex matrix of risk and targeted threats to their physical, emotional, political, economic, and spiritual health and safety. Threats to women peacebuilders are highly gendered in nature, using their identity, roles, and social norms, against them. They target family members and seek to tarnish women peacebuilders’ reputations often through sexualized attacks. These threats take place off and increasingly online, where the public venue and anonymity amplify their reach and impact.
Despite 20 years of policy, practice, and evidence of impact, there is still a persistent gap in recognition of, support to, and protection for women peacebuilders. This brief distills and builds on decades of women peacebuilders’ experiences navigating these dangers to provide an overview of the contextual factors and realities that create and exacerbate their insecurity. It then presents the range and sources of threats, analyzes the strengths of and gaps in existing protection mechanisms, and concludes with operational guidance for states and multilateral institutions to protect women peacebuilders.
“Amplifying Voices for Peace: Women at the Peace Table – The New Norm” concluded that meaningful inclusion and participation of women in peacebuilding processes is instrumental to ensuring sustainable outcomes. The virtual event was spearheaded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the International Civil Action Network (ICAN) and co-organized with the Foreign Ministries of Finland, France, Italy, Norway, UK, Spain and Sweden; the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks; and the European External Action Service.
The occasion, which brought together women peacebuilders and mediators with governments and multilateral mediation units, kickstarted the 20th anniversary celebrations of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).
While violent extremist groups take advantage of the vulnerable and national governments continue to fail their citizens, women peacebuilders embrace hope, foster interconnectedness, and uphold values of peace and justice. Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Rob Oliphant observed the hope that the WASL partners put forth during the weekly WASL community check-in on 3 September, recognizing that “hope and extremism are on a teeter-totter. You can’t fight extremism with military or violence; you can only fight extremism with hope.”
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In time for the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, we are delighted to launch two of our Better Peace Initiative (BPI) animations in Kiswahili. These are the first animations to be translated into Kiswahili and we hope they will be valuable for a variety of stakeholders engaged in mediation at various levels and committed to inclusive and gender responsive peace and security processes.
ICAN promotes inclusive and sustainable peace in countries affected by violent conflict, extremism, militarism, and closing political space. Recognizing the gendered impact of conflict and the critical role of women peacebuilders, we fulfill our mission through a dual strategy of:
- Shaping and influencing the peace and security policies of governments, multilateral organizations, and the wider international community by providing thought leadership, strategic advice, and gender-responsive analysis and operational guidance; and
- Sustaining and strengthening a global movement of innovative locally rooted women peacebuilders to have voice and influence wherever matters of peace, violent conflict, rights, and human security are determined.
We bring the word and spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the global women, peace and security agenda to life.
“I truly believe that a small group, like ICAN, of very committed women, can get the message across that there is not going to be a sustainable solution to extremism without including women”
– Senator Mobina Jaffer
“ICAN has one agenda, and it is Peace.”
– Sri Lankan woman peacebuilder
“ICAN provides a safe open space and a healthy environment for discussions that will bring about the needed change.”
– Palestinian woman peacebuilder
“Through ICAN, our work reached international platforms for the first time, including the UN.”
– Iraqi woman peacebuilder
“ICAN brings together women that have worked with extremist groups and within very violent conflicts. I share and learn new strategies from them.”
– Ugandan woman peacebuilder
The diversity I found in ICAN helps me and nurtures my experience and enables me to go forward”
– Tunisian women peacebuilder
“ICAN helps us learn new strategies through sharing experiences with other women from different countries”
– Somali woman peacebuilder