Can women forge the new peaceful world?
Women have been historically marginalised from the process of negotiation and peacemaking in post-conflict societies. They are falsely portrayed as powerless victims of conflict while men become decision-makers in conflict resolution and peacemaking. But, women as natural nurturers and caregivers are gifted with the qualities of a peacemaker. Increasing the opportunities for women to participate in peacemaking processes will only increase the chances of achieving a comprehensive and sustainable peace in societies damaged by conflict. Even the United Nations in the year 2000 accepted the need to provide women better participation in conflict resolution and peace initiatives through its Resolution 1325.
Women are socially believed to be more empathetic and compassionate than men. They understand how conflicts affect both men and women differently and that any peace process requires addressing these distinct needs and experiences. Men who have traditionally controlled the domain of peacemaking fail to understand these distinctions and try to promote peace without thinking about the problems faced by women. But, if women are also given equal participation in peacemaking processes, this will balance the process and needs of all sections of society will be catered to.
Women in countries like Liberia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Nepal, Colombia, and Rwanda have successfully participated in different peace-building processes. They integrate different points of view and encourage compromise. Here, both women outside the conflict-affected society, as well as the local women, organise themselves to stop violence, advocate for justice and rights of the affected people, rebuild relationships and represent the vulnerable sections of society like widows, orphans, and girls. In Liberia, women’s peacemaking role included activities like education and skills training, communal farming and micro-loans initiative which encouraged women to collaborate and improve each other’s quality of living. Women believe that all humans are entitled to peace and do not discriminate between them. This compassionate nature of women was witnessed in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. Rwandan women established orphanages for children irrespective of their identities as Tutsi or Hutu and overlooked the hatred between the communities which existed during the conflict.
Women are better capable to initiate dialogue between conflicting parties, unlike men who use the language of laws and leverages during peacebuilding. They call for mutual understanding, consensus building, and truth and reconciliation in order to prevent recurrence of violence and conflicts. In Afghanistan, women were empowered by the new government by allowing them to hold political power and also encouraged them to carry out programs focusing on community building and human security. Hence, women’s position must be strengthened in state institutions, NGOs, international organisations, community-building organisations and all other stakeholders who can influence peacemaking processes.
Women constitute 50 percent of the population in every society in the world and hence it is important to include them in the peace-building process. Considering the numerous complex conflicts witnessed in different parts of the world, it is time to reap benefits of the natural skills of peacemaking that women exhibit. Hence, only by joining their efforts in peacemaking can men and women ensure a balanced and peaceful world to live in.
-Anashwara R. Ashok