By Stacey Schamber and Ifra Shah

On January 26 2022, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex joined the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and members of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) for a discussion on the economic security of women peacebuilders and the role of the private sector in supporting their work. Represented on the call were women peacebuilders from: Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Ukraine, USA, Yemen.

The work of peacebuilding, as evidenced by the poor implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 which emphasizes on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, is often perceived as the purview of governments with little to no contribution from the private sector. But peace and security are essential for economic growth including infrastructure, development, and investment in human resources. The nexus of the private and peacebuilding sectors could be strengthened and benefit from a strong partnership.

War is good for the weapons industry – and there are not that many companies that benefit. But if you think about every other sector of the world – from telecoms to manufacturing – they benefit from peace and stability and yet they have not been engaging on peacebuilding or SDG 16. We should be reaching out and finding strategies to engage with them.

– Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Founder and CEO, ICAN

One challenge involves understanding who women peacebuilders are and the work they do. Traditionally, many may think of peacebuilding as only engaging in peace processes; however, as WASL demonstrates, ordinary people can become extraordinary peacebuilders and contribute to the peace and development of their communities including through social entrepreneurship and providing livelihood support.

People’s perception of a peacebuilder is limited to peace negotiations… For us, peacebuilders are providing food, livelihood, education, protection, security, they challenge taboos, culture, ideologies and transform institutions, mindsets and values.

– WASL member, Pakistan

For example, Young Leader Entrepreneurs in Tunisia provided income-supporting and livelihood generation opportunities for young people in the aftermath of the Arab spring. This economic empowerment also deterred youth from joining violent extremist movements with positive, peaceful alternatives. In Libya, as trade between Libya and Tunis was affected because of the conflict, women peacebuilders developed regional virtual connections and networks and started engaging women in business to market goods online. They also participated in other livelihood projects with an economic development organization. And in Yemen, Youth Leadership Development Foundation worked with the informal private sector to recognize women as active participants in the local economy and providers for their families.

In many conflict-affected countries such as the Philippines, Nigeria, and Yemen, families resort to child marriage for economic security. The private sector can play a role by providing access to education and livelihood opportunities to reduce child marriages.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration is an important mechanism to address challenges of famine and boost the economy and stability.

– WASL member, Yemen

The private sector could also play a role in peacebuilding by offering discounts and pro bono support to women peacebuilders to recognize and support their work. In some cases, like in the Philippines, they may benefit from tax incentives through corporate social responsibility. Corporations could also consult widely with women peacebuilders for contextualized conflict analysis to better understand their impact on local communities. There is much opportunity to find common ground between the private and peacebuilding sectors, and to adopt a practical approach to grow organic linkages and networks between those who share the same mission.

We need to market the idea that ordinary people can engage in peace. We take it for granted, but we can’t anymore.

– Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Founder and CEO, ICAN

Summaries of the rest of the calls can be accessed here

For more information please contact Melinda Holmes, WASL Program Director

+1 202-355-8220

1126 16th Street NW Suite 250, Washington, DC 20036

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