International Women’s Day in 2020 is a milestone in acknowledging the different impact that conflicts have on women, men, boys and girls. This year marks the 20th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which recognises the importance of women’s role in peacebuilding.
But there is still a lot to do to ensure women’s participation, and reduce the risks that women and girls face during conflict. To mark this day, we, Saferworld, spoke to partners and communities in South Sudan, Yemen and Tajikistan to see how women are breaking down barriers, and supporting women’s participation in peacebuilding
Yemen: women’s participation in the face of conflict
“My message to young women is that active participation in their communities is not only their right but also their duty, to take part in building their communities.”
Ashgan Shuraih is the president of Saferworld partner Alf Ba Civilization and Coexistence Foundation, a Yemeni-led organisation working to strengthen civil society and promote equality, respect and inclusion. Ashgan rehabilitates and educates women and young people about international laws and human rights, to build peace and renounce violence.
“There was an urgent need to work for the community and reintroduce a culture of that is accepting of others.”
“Because of Aden’s geographic location* and the diversity of its social fabric, my city is characterised by coexistence. But Aden was one of the conflict fronts between the parties, which has had a direct effect on my life and my role in society as I chose to focus on relief work. Even after the withdrawal of Ansar Allah from Aden, we witnessed chaos and the spread of armed groups. There was an urgent need to work for the community and reintroduce a culture of that is accepting of others.”
During the conflict in Yemen, women’s roles and experiences have changed. Increased insecurity and hardship has affected women’s social, political and economic opportunities.
“Generally, Yemeni society is described as a closed tribal society in most of its regions. This brings social standards that restrict the role of women and impose specific roles. Socially, women are often restricted to housework and raising children. There are also places where women are deprived of their inheritance such as Yafe’a in Lahj governorate. Outside the home, usually women are only allowed to work in education and nursing.”
Alf Ba and Saferworld work together to support community initiatives that tackle security and safety concerns. We work to make sure women play an active role in community action, from attending skills training, to advocating with local authorities and leading initiatives. Initiatives have included reviving public spaces like the Khor Makser walkway in Aden, setting up street lighting to reduce incidents of harassment particularly against women, and finding solutions for unequal electricity and water distribution that were causing local conflicts.
Alf Ba deliver a gender training.
“The role of women in bringing peace to Yemen is pivotal, not only because women have suffered the most from war and its effects, but because women constitute half of all of our communities.
Four years before the outbreak of the war (from 2011 until 2014), feminist activism in Yemen reached its peak. An important outcome during the National Dialogue Conference was the approval of a 30 per cent quota for women’s participation in all fields and at all levels. I was part of the dialogue advocating for the rights of all civil society, despite being the only representative of the Hirak (Southern Movement) which was dangerous for me. But after 2015, there was a decline in women’s participation. The important indicator of this has been the minimal participation of women in the peace negotiations currently under way.
“Now we can say that the effective feminist movements have started to recover to some extent…”
Now we can say that the effective feminist movements have started to recover to some extent, as feminist groups have been active at the local level and at international forums. However, the international community have the important and urgent role of supporting the participation of women for peace in Yemen. Despite the existence of frameworks that support women such as UNSCR 1325, women in Yemen find their implementation difficult due to the disappointing role of political and societal forces in Yemen – especially the negotiating parties – in supporting women.”
With international attention on peace efforts in Yemen focused on high-level negotiations, the voices of Yemenis and the efforts of women on are often neglected. Saferworld advocates for the international community and donors to directly support Yemeni civil society including women’s organisations, to build the bridge between local-level peacebuilding and formal political change.
“The international community should on one hand exert more pressure on all parties in Yemen towards women’s participation, and on the other they should provide direct support to women to enable them to effectively participate in achieving peace in Yemen.”
*Aden is a coastal city with a historically diverse populations as a result of trade and migration.
Reasons to be hopeful in South Sudan and In Tajikistan “Women’s participation is not just a matter of numbers”
In South Sudan, we hear from Mary and others about how women are fighting gender stereotypes despite multiple barriers, while in In Tajikistan, we talked to representatives from two of our civil society partners, Jahon and Munis, about their work in promoting women’s rights.Continue Reading