Women building feminist peace

—the Women, Peace and Security agenda in action

Kvinna till Kvinna and feminist peace

Supporting women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders is the very heart of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation. Today, we support 149 women’s rights organisations in 20 countries affected by violent conflict in their work to achieve lasting peace by strengthening women’s influence and power.

What is “Women, Peace and Security”?

In year 2000, the groundbreaking resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted by the UN Security Council. A landmark victory for the women’s movement. Previously, women were told by national and international actors that “peace is too difficult – it’s not a ‘woman’s issue’”. 1325 recognises women’s right to participate in processes and decisions related to building and sustaining peace. The Women, Peace and Security agenda helps women to see themselves as subjects and not objects of the peace process.

The implementation of the agenda has however been painfully slow, with the majority of peace agreements not referencing women at all, and women’s participation as mediators and negotiators still ranging between only 2% and 8% in major peace processes.

How do we build feminist peace?

A crucial part of building feminist peace is creating space for the excluded majority – using an intersectional perspective to include more groups and individuals. 10 important steps that the women peacebuilders highlighted were:

  1. One size does not fit all—all conflicts look different and require analysis and expertise of that particular situation.
  2. Language is power—language is important for creating inclusion.
  3. Timing matters—the time to bring different groups together or address topics in a process can be crucial.
  4. Widen the work to more places—in a country there may be “pockets of peace”, where groups fighting in other places live in peace. It is important to support such places and weave them together.
  5. Do not see women as a group—women have different opportunities to participate in peace work. For instance different types of disabilities, languages, or that activists and peace builders cannot travel in the country due to travel bans imposed by the government that sees them as a threat.
  6. Engage the diaspora in the peace process. There are often many people who have been affected by a conflict outside the country’s borders—they can be involved and support the peace work “from the outside”.
  7. Involve young people in peace work—invest in spaces, meeting places and activities where young people can develop their own visions of the future. It is crucial that they do not give up the hope for peace and are able to create a different future.
  8. Support inclusive leaders—in all possible contexts (political, religious, local).
  9. Invest in people gaining political knowledge—e.g. to learn about the processes of elections and voting. This is crucial for democratic systems that can arise after a conflict and for it to be rooted in the population.
  10. Invest in women’s opportunities to get involved politically and receive training in being political actors.

5 keys to make women's participation in peace processes meaningful

The question today is no longer Why should women participate? but rather How should women participate? These are 5 ideas from women peacebuilders on how to move beyond counting heads, and make women’s role in peace processes meaningful.

  1. Create separate and independent funds for women in peace processes. Recognise women’s political groups and make independent funds available for women’s political organisation. Women’s political involvement is not just a hobby, it deserves to be taken seriously.
  2. Create thematic “task forces” for women, for different sectors. Create spaces where women can discuss strategies around all types of issues, including the male-dominated ones.
  3. Encourage and use quotas for women’s ideas. Measure not only how many women have participated in a peace process, but also qualitative aspects of their participation. Has it made sense? Have their ideas come up?
  4. Document, collect and evaluate statistics concerning women. Document women’s stories.
  5. Support networking and women’s opportunities to build movements for a broad gender equality work. Support networking between different sectors (CSOs, women in business, politicians, trade unions) to broaden the work for women’s rights in society.