Women & Peacebuilding

Increasing gender participation and women’s empowerment are critical for a country’s development and sustainable peace. But have we done enough to implement these frameworks into peacebuilding programs?

The last two decades have seen heightened global advocacy, policy, and programming efforts to empower women. The UN Security Council in 2000 adopted its landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security (S/RES/1325).  The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-conflict reconstruction.  UNSCR 1325 also stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

In 2017, the U.S. Congress adopted the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act, which affirms women’s political participation as essential to peace and security.  USAID maintains that gender equality and women’s empowerment isn’t merely a part of development, but the core of development. For societies to thrive, women and girls must have unfettered access to education, healthcare, political processes, and technology. They must be able to thrive free of coercion and violence. And they must have equal rights and equal opportunities as breadwinners, peacebuilders, citizens, and leaders.

However, there is still a significant amount of work to do even in our own peacebuilding organizations to ensure diversity and women’s empowerment. It doesn’t matter if you are in the United States, the UK, Nigeria, or Nepal, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions in development organizations[1] and subject to violence even in the organizations that are supposed to represent these values.  The backlash of the breakdown of the patriarchy systems all over the world means more challenges to women’s efforts to assert their rights, from the arrest of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia to the public vilification of American women who come forward to report sexual abuse.

The good news is that women are becoming more empowered all over the world, and values-driven organizations are working to ensure that diversity and gender are a critical part of their internal structure and culture.  But we need to do more. Through the Women and Peacebuilding Working Group, AfP is working in the following two areas: 1) improving gender programming and policies, and 2) raising the bar to set more ambitious standards for ensuring diverse and inclusive peacebuilding organizations.

Gender programs must be resourced, and we need better evidence to ensure gender programs are creating meaningful impact.  To hold our programs accountable, we need better evidence to ensure these findings correlates to better programming and policies.

AfP is working in this sector to address this deficiency of research and data.  AfP is working with George Mason University, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution to conduct a sub-sector review on women and peacebuilding programs.  AfP is also working closely with its Senior Fellow, Jin In, from 4GGL http://4ggl.org/  and we are committed to this sector being a major theme throughout PeaceCon2019 and beyond.

To implement the forthcoming Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Strategy mandated in the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, civil society encourages Congress to consider new appropriations for WPS activities. We recommend no less than $21,000,000 be made available over three years to support the WPS strategy. This funding will expand and improve coordination of US Government efforts to empower women as equal partners in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, transitional processes, relief and reconstruction efforts in countries affected by violent conflict or in political transition and ensure the equitable provision of relief and recovery assistance to women and girls. This should consist of:

$3,000,000 a year for 3 years For 12 gender advisors to bolster WPS efforts full time in the six geographic combatant commands, Special Operations Command, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Cyber Command, Transportation Command, and Strategic Command.
$3,000,000 a year for 3 years To support building partner capacity (BPC) training on WPS at the six geographic combatant commands.
$500,000 over 3 years To conduct operational gender advisor training courses each year in at least three combatant commands.
$500,000 over 3 years To support research and education on the impact of WPS principles on the effectiveness of security-related policies and programs.
$500,000 a year for 3 years To conduct training courses on issues and strategies to ensure meaningful participation by women in conflict prevention and resolution, protecting civilians from violence, and awareness building on international human rights law for Department of State and USAID personnel responsible for or deploying to conflict-affected areas.
$500,000 over 3 years To support research and establish guidelines for consultation with stakeholders, including local women, youth, ethnic, and religious minorities, regarding US efforts to prevent, mitigate, or resolve violent conflict.
$21,000,000 to support the Women, Peace, and Security Strategy

Those working in the peacebuilding field have an obligation to the communities we serve, our staff, our supporters, and our donors not only to uphold and practice high peacebuilding ethics but to ensure a strong, healthy and diverse organizational climate within the peacebuilding field.  As a baseline minimum, organizations must eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse within their organizations and with respect to the communities they serve.   But beyond a bottom line to do no harm, the peacebuilding field should lead by example in the treatment of our staff members, by promoting greater employee diversity and inclusion, and greater empowerment of women in our own organizations. We need to commit to these principles, as well as striving to ensure that our gatherings are more representative of the diversity of our host nations and the countries and regions where our organizations implement programs.


Upcoming Events

  • TBD

  • Diversity and Gender Matters: Doing More to Empower Women in the Peacebuilding Field | March 21, 2019

  • Grassroots Diplomacy and Peacebuilding: A Conversation with Russian NGO Leaders April 10, 2018
  • Creating a New Future for Syria: A Conversation with Khawla Wakkaf February 07, 2018
  • Voice of Burundi: Discussion with Diane NininahazweJuly 11, 2017
  • Fereshteh Forough of Afghanistan. Jan 31st, 2017
  • Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda of Zimbabwe. She discussed relationships between peacebuilding, gender, human rights, reproductive rights, and conflict prevention. Dec 9th, 2016.
  • Sahana Dharmapuri, the Senior Advisor to the Women, Peace and Security Initiative at the One Earth Future Foundation. She discussed UN Security Council of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Sept 15th, 2016.
  • Almudena Bernabeu, International Prosecutor at San Francisco’s Center for Justice and Accountability. You can watch a short video of her discussing the prosecution of Guatemalan dictator Ríos Montt in Granito: How to Nail a Dictator hereAugust 26th, 2015
  • Abeer Mashni, Carnegie Centennial Research Fellow, School of Public Affairs, American University discussed “Women in Local Democracy in Palestine: the Reality and the Rhetoric.” May 15, 2015.
  • Mossarat Qadeem, a Pakistani peace activist working on the frontlines of challenging extremism. Mossarat Qadeem spoke about PAIMAN Alumni Trust and her work de-radicalizing Pakistani youth by reaching out to the mothers of at-risk young men. April 6, 2015, for a synopsis click here.
  • Singmila Shimra, a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow at George Mason University and Researcher of the Naga Peace Process. May 2014, for a synopsis of the event, see the Notes
  • Palwasha Lena Kakar, a Senior Program Officer at the Religion and Peacebuilding Center of the United States Institute of Peace. September 2014.

April 2017: Volunteering for Peace in Nigeria: Meeting with the Founder of the LikeMinds Project

March 2017: Highlights from the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations

Highlights from the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations

Over 30 attendees joined us for a discussion with Kim Weichel, Karen Mulhauser, and Mahnaz Afkhami about the 60th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the role of the UN in supporting women around the world.  Kim Weichel highlighted the inspiring energy of the CSW—which convened a global audience of women and men for several days of panel discussions, relationship building and camaraderie on a spectrum of themes, including: economic empowerment, governance, peace, implementation of UN resolutions, and beyond.

Mahnaz Afkhami, founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies and former Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran, spoke about how the UN provides a space for women across cultures to come together and talk about shared issues. She spoke on the importance for women in the Islamic world to connect around these issues and advocate for change within their societies.  She spoke about the WLP and its role in helping women in Islamic societies receive further education and providing support during their education.

Karen Mulhauser, the Chair of the United Nations Association of the USA and past President of the National Capitol Area chapter, talked about how the UN is the only option to globally improve the status of women.  She discussed how Americans
don’t understand the significance or role of the UN enough to support it. She encouraged concerned citizens in the US, like those in the room at this event, to be more vocal and advocate for US support of the UN—because without the US, the UN would lose its mandate.

Excellent questions were raised from the audience, sparking a lively discussion.


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AfP is also a member of the US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security:






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If you would like more information about AfP’s Women’s Working Group, or other AfP Working Groups, contact Liz Hume, Vice President, at lhume@allianceforpeacebuilding.org.