Women Peace and Security

Women play a crucial role not only in a family but also in society. Women, based on the so-called proverb, raise generations by raising and educating a child. Whether consciously or unconsciously women always had a stake in the peace process across tribal issues from the very beginning of civilization. As a Muslim, I can elaborate on the matter pointing to Prophet Mohammad’s wives who contributed each on social, political, economic, and peace stability to their proportion. Later new cultures and traditions came into being which partially or inappropriately transformed between generations. This resulted; discrimination, lack of accountability among different clusters, inequality, and civil wars. In between all this anarchy and chaos, women were most affected thoroughly.

Woman’s participation in the peace process consequences its feasible implementation. According to UN Women, between 1992 and 2011, just 2 percent of chief mediators and 9 percent of negotiators in peace processes were women.[1] Based on research lack of women participation in peace talks is linked to broader dilemmas in the peacemaking process. According to Marie O’Reilly, editor and research fellow at the International Peace Institute (IPI), “Research shows that both mediators and belligerents perceive a tradeoff between the short-term goal of ending the violence and the long-term goal of building peace. The short-term goal of ending violence is emphasized at the expense of the longer vision of how to build peace, and this rationale feeds into the exclusion of women.” “Women’s priorities for peace differ from men's. We see this when they do participate in peace processes, especially when they’re not a member of one of the belligerent parties, women very often bring up a more diverse range of issues,” Ms. O’Reilly said. Additionally, Thania Paffenholz stresses that; “Being at the table or being at a mediation set-up is not enough,” citing the examples of the constituent assembly in Nepal and Yemen, where there was 35% women participation across delegations, but this did not bring women’s issues, larger peace issues or citizen rights onto the agenda.[2] This scenario applies to Afghanistan since in 2019 women held 27% of the parliament seats while, lack of educational opportunities was rated as the biggest problem facing women (43.2%), followed by lack of rights (34.1%), lack of employment opportunities (24.1%), violence (18.1%), lack of services (13.7%), and economic concerns (9.6%).[3]

Contributing to women empowerment at a global level the UN Security Council adopted the resolution (S/RES/1325) on women, peace, and security in October 2000. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to the conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. The resolution provides several important operational mandates, with implications for the Member States and the entities of the United Nations system.[4]

Throughout history women’s stance has been controversial; activists, governments, and international agencies have been contributing to women's empowerment to their puissance. Nevertheless, there are challenges to consider throughout the process. Education and economic independence can have a considerable stake on the table for women to mediate and negotiate. Several projects have been laid to educate rural and urban women, but it remains unclear how effective they have been due to challenges in their design, implementation, and evaluation. Gender training has difficulty in standards in between theory and practice. They are not inclusive and the delivery methods and implementation are considered sensitive due to barriers and lack of access to resources specifically in rural areas. As per evaluation, due to the lack of data and information, it is difficult to observe the change in quality and quantity both in the short-term and long run.

Women’s participation in the peace process also means their contribution to military and police components that face numerous barriers. These range from practical challenges to taboos and stigmas. Mission leaders often look primarily at a woman’s gender at the expense of her identity as a professional. This can lead them to conflate women, peacekeepers, with local non-mission civilian women who need protection and thus keep them on-base instead of allowing them to patrol. Another systemic challenge is sexual harassment and assault of both men and women deployed to peace operations. These challenges are particularly pervasive in the practice and rhetoric around women, peace, security, and civilians' protection. Conversations around protection tend to use the term “women and children,” which lumps together two different demographic groups, reinforces the idea that women need protection, treats women as a unitary group, and excludes the protection needs of men. These conversations also tend to disproportionately focus on conflict-related sexual violence and can be based on unproven assumptions. To achieve their goals on women’s participation in peacekeeping, the UN and member states need to consider transformative possibilities that push back against these assumptions and norms. This requires grounding integration strategies in evidence, transforming missions to improve the experiences of women peacekeepers, and implementing a gendered approach to community engagement and protection.[5]

In conclusion, to achieve sustainable peace the mediators, advocates and activists, policymakers, and international agencies must support women’s meaningful engagement in the process; include women at the table, establish a fair and transparent selection process during the talks, create conditions for everyone to be heard equally, and keep public power and politics in mind.

Women and Peace process in Afghanistan

The country is governed by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan sanctioned in January 2004 by Loya Jirga. The constitution provides the framework for the government which is defined into three branches; Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative. The Executive branch consists of a president, who is directly elected by the Afghan people for a term of five years. After the Taliban regime when Hamid Karzai was elected as the President, women had no executive seats. However, there were a subsequent number of female ministers. Later, in 2004 one female candidate stood for the election among her male counterparts. For election 2014 there was no female presidential candidate, but a couple of vice-presidential candidates. The Judiciary branch consists of Supreme Court (ستر محکمه), the High court, and Appeal court. The Supreme Court is composed of nine members appointed by the President and approval of the Lower House of Parliament (ولسی جرگه) for a period of ten-years. The High Council of the Supreme court has not had a women member since established which is considered a key issue that results in marginalizing women’s political participation. The Legislative branch is comprised of House of Elders (مشرانو جرگه) and House of the People (ولسی جرگه). Within each legislative body, women are seated by Afghanistan’s constitution and electoral law. In 2009 women held 21.6% of the House of Elders, while since 2019 they hold 27% of the Lower House. The Afghan legislature is composed of 28% women underlining it as one of the major female legislators’ structures across Asia[6]. The above number indicates a more quantity effect than the quality impact on women’s political and economic participation.

The current peace talks should gear the country toward supporting the culture of peace and inclusivity. The majority of Afghans have been secluded from the table including the full integration of women in the peace process. Those in power — ranging from the political elite to local leaders to civil servants — are likely to only be concerned about how a potential power-sharing agreement will affect their power and access to patronage networks, meaning that women will not be viewed as vital participants unless it is beneficial to them. All indications suggest that the United States is simply attempting to broker an agreement that will reduce violence and allow for a withdrawal of troops, not safeguarding or providing basic rights for women and more marginalized religious and ethnic communities. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent announcement that Washington will cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan if an inclusive government is not formed in Kabul makes clear that the United States is tired of the zero-sum attitudes of Afghan politicians and is using the aid as leverage to focus on getting out of the country. Moreover, Pompeo has made clear time and again that it is not the responsibility of the United States to ensure that women and other minorities are included in the negotiations. Based on recent surveys more women are inclined to work in offices and live independently, while this culture is not fully approved by the Taliban. In Afghanistan, the perception of whether women are viewed as victims or agents is based on distorted cultural elements. The perception of women is not fueled by cultural heritage, but rather a culture of war that has been accepted and pushed by oppressive actors, both domestic and foreign. In the mid-20th century, Afghanistan had a progressive outlook on women and movement toward equal rights was steady. Women were granted the right to vote in 1919, a year before the United States had equal suffrage. When a new constitution was ratified in the 1960s, women were key authors who brought gender equality to many aspects of their lives. The violence that followed, the growth of extremist ideologies, and the rule of the Taliban all contributed to limiting women’s agency by banning them from public life and service. For years, women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male chaperone and young girls were not able to study. Therefore, the current state of women has not been perpetual throughout time. Afghanistan is in a temporary period in history that is defined by a culture of war and extremism instead of peace and moderation.[7] But since 2001 there has been a transition toward a modernized Afghanistan with equal opportunity for all. The National Action Plan launched in 2015 paved the path for more women's involvement in position and power.

After all the progress still 21 members of the peace process, who were rejected by the Taliban, five of them were women. Women tend to have a stake and speak out for their rights. They want to reign their future by holding the power during the power-sharing arrangements. Subsequently, Afghan Women have launched different projects to withstand their opinion, negotiate firmly, and ensure the privileges and liberation they gained after decades of war and conflict.

A peace agreement must explicitly allow women’s rights groups and NGOs to continue operating without restriction; their staff must be further empowered and protected from persecution and unjust treatment in the name of Sharia or local traditions. If an end to the conflict is the genuine goal of the warring parties and their backers, they will respond to women’s demands and place women at the center, not the margins, of their efforts.[8]

[1] https://www.ipinst.org/2015/06/women-in-peace-processes#9

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woq-FikTk-M&feature=youtu.be

[3] Afghanistan in 2019 — A survey of the Afghan people, The Asia Foundation.

[4] https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/

[5] Uniformed Women in Peace Operations: Challenging Assumptions and Transforming Approaches, Taylor, Sarah & Baldwin, Gretchen. June 2020.

[6] Women in Afghanistan’s Government, Canadian Women for Women Afghan.

[7] https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/afghanistans-women-are-the-key-to-a-lasting-peace/

[8] https://www.usip.org/publications/2019/03/afghanistan-talks-no-women-no-peace


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