Effective peace-building requires women’s active participation, according to the The State of World Population 2010, published this past Wednesday by the United Nations Population Fund. The report’s release coincides with the anniversary of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, a pivotal commitment to ending the abuse and marginalization of women in conflict and in peace-building initiatives.
In the ten years since resolution 1325’s implementation, there have been numerous case studies to draw from in examining how women’s roles in conflict and reconstruction have changed. In particular, conflict situations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Timor-Leste and Uganda demonstrate how girls and women are affected and the innovative ways in which they are working to move their lives, families, communities and nations towards peace and stability.
Conflict often exacerbates gender inequalities which are already present in society. For that reason, many efforts have been preventative and addressed at systematic reform. In Liberia, UNFPA supported the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s establishment of psychosocial and community support services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, counseling centres such as Vive Žene (“long live women”) provide counseling for victims of trauma. These initiatives not only provide essential services to girls and women in need, but also serve to alleviate the social and cultural taboos felt by many survivors of violence in conflict zones and in everyday life.
In response to conflict situations, UNFPA has worked to ensure protection and service provision for those in need. In Indonesia, UNFPA aided the Aceh provincial planning and development agency in developing a provisional action plan addressing issues of women, peace and security. In Botswana, UNFPA worked to provide sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV prevention, to a clinic serving refugees.
In the fragile periods of reconstruction, setting a precedent for stability and gender equality is critical. In Timor-Leste, employment for young people, particularly former combatants, is a priority. Studies have shown direct correlations between former child soldiers’ economic stability and their ability to transition to a life of non-violence. In Northern Uganda, the Gulu Forum promotes youth leadership. “Youth are the backbone of the postconflict recovery and peacebuilding process in northern Uganda, and they cannot be ignored in any post-conflict reconstruction programmes,” one Gulu Forum pamphlet states.
The projects and programs highlighted in this report demonstrate the impact of resolution 1325 through the years. Globally, people are joining together to support one another through conflict and beyond. From conflict comes opportunity to develop and maintain foundations for more equitable futures. As UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid has stated, “Recovery from conflict and disaster also presents a unique opportunity—an opportunity to rectify inequalities, ensure equal protection under the law, and create space for positive change.”
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