Women’s empowerment and gender equality as pivotal steps in maintaining international peace and security

7 April 2021
‘‘We recognize the role women play in atrocity prevention and the importance of putting gender equality upfront in prevention and peace efforts’’, said Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, GAAMAC Chair as she opened the virtual event "Front and Center: Women, Grassroots Atrocity Prevention and Justice Initiatives". 

The parallel event was organized by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) with the support of GAAMAC in conjunction with the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women on 25 March 2021.

This event brought together distinguished women professionals and experts working in various community-led transitional justice initiatives in Asia, and Latin America to discuss how peace processes can better address gendered components of conflict and prevent future atrocities. It also welcomed Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide who noted that some the challenges to the inclusion of women ‘‘may be well recognized, like the inclusion of women at the peace table, but we have to be talking about them over and over.’’

During the discussion, panellists highlighted several ongoing challenges that hinder the full inclusion of women as proclaimed in many international documents, including the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. These include the resurgence of patriarchal norms in post-conflict societies and issues surrounding the full enjoyment of social, economic, and political rights by women in transitional societies.

In this regard, the practice of ICSC’s Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation was remarked by their Senior Program Manager Pratima Narayan noting that ‘‘local voices and communities have to be re-centred and lead transitional justice processes for more systematic redress and sustainable peace’’.

While acknowledging these challenges, Ms. Nderitu reminded everyone present that not much can be done in ensuring women’s empowerment and gender quality without male allies. ‘‘We have led the revolution, but when it’s time for decision making they have kept us out’’, said Ms. Nderitu, quoting a Sudanese activist. She remarked on the current situation in Sudan where even though women were spearheading the revolution, they are now facing grave difficulties in securing their place at the table where decision making and state-building are taking place.

Colombian activist and community leader Bibiana Peñaranda from the non-profit organization ‘Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future’ noted that an important starting point of all discussions and actions geared toward women’s participation is overcoming the conventional outlook on women as victims, but as relevant and crucial changemakers.

Erika Maria Rivera Rúa working with Colombia’s Truth commission noted that “as a society, we have the challenge to recognize that the agendas of women and other groups are not exclusive, but they include all gender groups of our society”.

The panel moderator, ICSC’s Sara Bradshaw concluded the event underlining the role of state and international community mechanisms in ensuring that women’s rights, agency, and inclusion are put at the front of national and global agendas. ‘‘We’ve identified several opportunities for investing in women, including building their capacities as mediators and investing in them as individuals with epis stories and individuals who have other identities, including racial identities,’’ said Ms. Bradshaw.

Watch the full event here.

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