Since early April 2020, ICAN has been hosting a weekly virtual gathering of its partners in the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL). For 90 minutes women peacebuilders (and a few men), many of whom are first responders to the Corona pandemic, speak of the situation in their countries, emerging threats, positive developments and always their own extraordinary response. 

This is the news, and these are the views that are not on the news.

Carrying the Weight of Caring for Communities and Countries: Women Peacebuilders and COVID-19

 As some countries begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, for many others, respite is not on the horizon. During the eighth virtual meeting of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) on May 21, 2020, women peacebuilders highlighted some tough truths about worsening poverty, mismanaged Covid-19 funds, tragic events that have been largely ignored, and feelings of desertion by the international community.

As ever, the call was a firm reminder that WASL is a community; partners shared honestly about feelings of exhaustion, offered each other moral support and promised to keep each in their prayers as individuals overcome personal challenges. Adding a brighter note, a wave was exchanged between a small son in the United States and a young grandson in Cameroon, showing the universality of the joy and resilience of childhood even during difficult and unprecedented times.

Click here to download summary of the discussion

“Nothing is good about war, except stopping it” 

COVID-19 and its impact on women’s participation in peace processes: Challenges and opportunities  

For the sixth virtual meeting, we were joined by H.E. Ann Linde, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, as the discussions focused on how the pandemic is impacting current peace processes. In particular, we explored questions around ensuring inclusivity and transparency, the opportunities and challenges of virtual convenings, and the continued activism of women peacebuilders. Touching on several of the global conflicts in her remarks, Minister Linde reinforced Sweden’s commitment to ensuring women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, including access to digital tools.

Click here to read a summary of the discussion

 “By excluding women, we are not listening to the real signs of what could go wrong,” the women argue. Rather, “warring parties get incentives for taking up arms: they are listened to when they take up arms.”

How do Women Peacebuilders Cope with Rising Domestic Violence and the Humanitarian Impacts of COVID-19?

The fifth virtual meeting of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) focused on women peacebuilders’ humanitarian response with guests including H.E. Ambassador Kåre Aas, Norwegian Ambassador to the US; Luc Duckendorf, from  the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs; ; Amjad Saleem from the International Federation of the Red Cross. The conversation focused on how women peacebuilders are at the forefront of this pandemic, despite a deficient response from governments and the international community, and their role in raising awareness about domestic violence and COVID-19.

Click here to download summary of the discussion

 

 Civil society is there ready to take the lead, but by what means and by which roads.

Ground Realities: Women, Peacebuilding & the Pandemic

A UNDP & Civil Society Global Dialogue

 How can people stay home when they are dependent on daily wages to feed their families? How can they wash hands if there is no soap or water? From Cameroon to Yemen, women are making soap, and tackling the lack of water. As first responders, women peacebuilders are trying to fill the vacuums and urgent basic needs in terms food, sanitization and security such as mediating ceasefires and calling for prisoners’ release. 

For the fourth virtual meeting, Assistant Secretary General Asako Okai, UNDP’s Crisis Bureau Director, and her colleagues joined the ICAN-hosted call with some 45 women peacebuilders across Asia, Africa, the Arab World and Latin America to discuss health care, livelihood and crisis management in the time of Corona. 

Click here to download summary of the discussion 

People have no trust in the state because of their experiences of the levels of corruption, absenteeism in terms of provision of services, and oppressive behavior. So now they are skeptical about public health announcements.

How is the pandemic exacerbating or alleviating xenophobia, ethno-nationalism, religious or other extremisms and are there gendered dimensions to this?

 In the third virtual meeting, women peacebuilders reported an uptick in hate speech, xenophobia, and extremist messaging. The vacuum left where the state is failing to provide for people’s basic health and economic needs, the vulnerability created by fear of the virus and more time spent online, and the inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19 are all trends identified by WASL members from the beginning of this crisis. These same trends are now clearly being leveraged by extremist groups to foment xenophobia and other forms of extremism.

Click here to download summary of the discussion

 

Extremist groups are providing humanitarian assistance and filling the vacuum left by the state

– Pakistan

Part II: How women peacebuilders are responding to COVID-19

The second virtual meeting continued the discussion of what women peacebuilders around the world are doing to respond to COVID-19. The conversation also revealed emerging trends in the way the pandemic is impacting peace and security, from reinforcing authoritarian practices to providing fuel for extremist narratives.

Click here to download summary of the discussion

 

Extremists are recruiting people by brainwashing them into believing that the pandemic is the wrath of God

– The Maldives

Part I: How women Peacebuilders are Responding to COVID-19?

 In the first virtual meeting, various topics were raised however the similarities of the challenges was evident. Women spoke about food insecurity, faulty messaging about the pandemic, uncertainty, and domestic violence.

Click here to download summary of the discussion

 

Social Distancing is a luxury not everyone can afford

– Sudan

Preventing Violent Extremism, Protecting Rights and Community Policing

"There is no trade-off between policing and human rights. Policing at its best should be the guardian and amplifier of human rights in society."

Sir Stephen House QPM

From the Ground Up – The Nexus of Economic Policy, Gender and Violent Extremism

"Human Rights provide a very powerful normative lens to evaluate how economic policy works."

Dr. Radhika Balakrishnan

Education, Identity and Rising Extremism

"The most dangerous world views are the views of those who have never viewed the world."

Noufal Abboud

Uncomfortable Truths, Unconventional Wisdoms – WASL Security Brief

"Help us talk. Don't just arm us to kill."

Woman Peacebuilder

Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation and Reintegration from Violent Extremism

“10-13 percent of foreign citizens who joined ISIL between 2013 and 2018 are women.”

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