NGOs say women’s inclusion in peacebuilding is crucial

Oxfam and SaferWorld recently released a briefing paper on the role of Yemeni women in local, national and international peacebuilding efforts. The publication highlights the advances in representation that women in Yemen have fought for during the country’s ongoing civil war, the measures necessary to ensure greater and more meaningful participation by women in Yemen’s peace process, and the need to include women as active participants in peacebuilding in order to build a meaningful and lasting peace.

The paper stresses that despite the heavy impact of the ongoing violence on Yemeni women, and despite the many women who are engaging in and leading peacebuilding in the country, talks have thus far failed to significantly include women’s voices, or address women’s interests or concerns. Over half of those displaced by the ongoing conflicts are women or girls, families frequently send their daughters into marriages at very young ages in their efforts to survive the desperate conditions, and women have been subject to higher levels of gender-based violence since the conflict escalated in 2014. At the same time, research has shown that women’s involvement in peace negotiations has correlated positively with both reaching and implementing peace agreements. Considering these factors, Oxfam and SaferWorld urge the UN and donor governments to make supporting women’s involvement in the peace process a high priority in future peacebuilding efforts.

“Women’s local peacebuilding efforts should be supported, as required under UN Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015), which calls for member states to support women’s involvement in ‘mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict’. By understanding the peacebuilding experience of women at the grassroots, governments and aid organizations alike can learn not only about their immediate needs, but will be able to identify how they can be supported to act as agents of even greater change.”

The authors emphasize that women have already been playing significant leadership roles in the promotion of peace in their local communities. In capacities such as ensuring equal distribution of resources, representing women’s interests with community leaders, and promoting girls’ education, they are already hard at work and making their voices heard. However, beyond their immediate communities, these women lack the platform to widen the impact of their advocacy. Additionally, although efforts have been made to include women as peacemakers at the international level, initiatives such as inviting members of the Yemeni Women Pact for Peace and Security to side discussions and peace talks in Kuwait and Cyprus failed to meaningfully incorporate these women in the planning process or to actively consult them on their concerns. The paper emphasizes that this approach will more likely lead to the sole representation of elite interests, excluding those of the civilian population. To achieve solutions that represent a broader section of Yemeni society, community needs must be represented on a more inclusive basis. The incorporation and centering of women’s voices in dialogues on peace and reconstruction are a key component of this representation.

“A ceasefire and a peaceful political process are the only solutions for the current conflict. Until belligerent parties stop putting their political and economic interests ahead of their interest in respecting their international obligations and protecting the lives of Yemeni people, Yemen will continue to be in turmoil. In addition, an elite male-dominated process has failed to deliver peace to Yemen. With the peace process stalled and violence continuing unabated, a change of approach that increases support for the active role of women in peace efforts has never been more important.”

A key component of centering Yemeni women’s voices and increasing their opportunities to engage with and lead peacebuilding efforts is what Oxfam and SaferWorld term “bridging the gap.” This refers to increasing interconnectedness between women who are leading grassroots initiatives and those who are working on a national and international level. Bridging the gaps between the local, national and international efforts by women to build a more peaceful Yemen will be a vital part of women’s inclusion in future peacebuilding efforts.

The paper also recommends that peace process mediation teams consult with local women to identify the most pressing issues on the ground and proposals for how to address them. The grassroots level can play a vital role in providing accurate information to women working for peace on a national or international level. Financial resources and support structures for the local level is another recommendation by Oxfam and SaferWorld to realize this goal. Ultimately, ensuring that women are meaningfully included at all levels of peacebuilding is a vital aspect of ensuring that peace agreements can be reached, respected, and built upon in order to ensure a brighter outlook for Yemen’s future generations.

Read the full report here.

Laura Wert prepared this summary for the YPP.