“Women peacebuilders run to the problem when everyone else is running away,” said ICAN’s CEO and Founder, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini. This statement could not be truer of award-winning Cameroonian peacebuilder, Esther Omam. Esther’s career has seen her go from development worker to humanitarian responder to mediator and peacebuilder, in the South-West region of Cameroon. Esther has negotiated humanitarian access into some of the most remote and dangerous pockets of the Anglophone Crisis and in 2019, she successfully persuaded key non-state armed group leaders to lift a three-year school ban.
Recognizing the value and need to channel equitable resources to local women’s peacebuilding organizations (WPBOs) have been constant stipulations of the value of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda since its inception at the turn of the 21st century. From the United Nations to its 193 member states, the desire and intent to support such organizations has increased over the years. But the chasm between donors’ good intentions and their political, financial, and administrative constraints has hampered the flow of funds to the grassroots women who need them the most.
At a time of significant global foreign policy challenges, the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues is stepping up their game with a focused effort on the implementation of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the U.S Department of State Plan to Implement the U.S. Strategy on WPS. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kelley E. Currie joined a weekly Zoom meeting with the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) on August 27, 2020.
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 the dangers women peacebuilders face 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.
Drawing on two decades of desk and primary research and interviews, policy development, and experiences in advocacy and Track One mediation practices, “Recognizing Women Peacebuilders: Critical Actors in Effective Peacemaking”, delves into the motivations and factors that propel women to become peacebuilders in the face of violence and conflict and the activities they engage in that bridge the local and the global arenas.
The brief explores how the lexicon and labels in the policy arena hinder or help women’s greater inclusion in peace processes, and factors that capture the complexity and commonality of WPBs’ experiences in relation to and distinct from other forms of socio-political activism.