Q&A: COVID-19 has Pushed Women Peacebuilders from Key Leadership Roles

Scenes from a rehearsal session with Colombia’s Cantadora
Network, a network of singers using traditional Afro-Colombian
music to preserve their culture and promote peace. According to the
Global Network of Women Peacebuilder, funds are being diverted from
women-led peacebuilding organisations, and from peacebuilding
processes more broadly. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

By Samira Sadeque

Women need to be given roles as negotiators, not just offered
representation through advisory groups, Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos
from the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) told IPS.

Santos spoke with IPS after the Wednesday, Oct. 28�webinar
“Beyond the Pandemic: Opening the Doors to Women’s Meaningful
Participationâ€. At the conference,  policymakers and analysts
spoke about ways to ensure that women have more leadership roles in

Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos from the Global Network of Women
Peacebuilders (GNWP). Courtesy: GNWP

Santos was responding specifically to comments by Kavya Asoka,
executive director of  the NGO Working Group (NGOWG) on Women,
Peace and Security, who said that women should not be allotted to
“any participation†but “meaningful participation†in
peacemaking decisions. 

Yifat Susskind, executive director of Madre: Fighting for
Feminist Futures, told IPS that women have been holding leadership
positions in policymaking for a long time. Thus, while addressing
the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, women must be given
“the space to offer their expertise to shape policy responses,â€
she said.

During the webinar, Jeanine Antoinette Plasschaert, special
representative of the secretary-general for Iraq and head of the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, highlighted the
importance of taking into account the social, economic, political
and historical contexts when engaging women in leadership

The current coronavirus pandemic adds to the challenges.

“Our partners report that funds are being diverted from
women-led peacebuilding organisations, and from peacebuilding
processes more broadly,†Santos told IPS. “For example, in
Colombia, women peacebuilders report that COVID-19 has served as an
excuse to divert funds away from the transitional justice

She added that another  challenge is also the digital divide,
affects women disproportionately
. This is exacerbated by the
fact that not all peacebuilding work can be performed over the
Internet – such as reconciliation work, dialogues between
conflicting communities and support to trauma survivors – which
can’t be easily moved to the virtual space owing to their
“delicate and sensitive natureâ€.

“At the same time, the pandemic has also shown the incredible
resilience of women peacebuilders and women’s movements,†she
said. “Despite the digital barrier, women have continued to
organise, and find innovative ways to use the internet and other
communication means to continue their work.â€

Excerpts of the interviews with Susskind and Santos follow:

Yifat Susskind, executive director of Madre. Courtesy: Madre

IPS: What entails meaningful participation of women
in the peacebuilding processes?

Yifat Susskind (YS): Women must have more than a seat at the
table in formal peace negotiations. They must also have the power
and influence to set the agenda, ensuring that gender impacts are
addressed as a priority and bringing community demands to the
forefront. Crucially, this access must be available to grassroots
women peacebuilders rooted in frontline communities, who have a
deep well of knowledge about war’s impacts at home, who can help
build community trust in the peace process, and who can ensure that
any resulting peace agreement is implemented at the ground

Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos (AFS): The most common understanding
of “meaningful participation†is that it’s the kind of
participation that allows women to actually impact the outcomes of
peace negotiations and other processes.

It also means participation of diverse women, and participation
of women at all levels. Women need to be included in
decision-making bodies and peacebuilding processes at the local,
national, regional and international levels. Further, when we talk
about women’s participation we have to think of women from all
walks of life – refugee and internally displaced women,
indigenous and ethnic minority women, young women, women with
disabilities, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans women, etc.

IPS: MADRE focuses especially on climate change and
how rural women are most affected by this. How have they been
affected during the coronavirus pandemic?

YS: Rural women worldwide on the frontlines of climate change
are forced to confront daily its worst impacts, typically carrying
the heaviest burden as those responsible for providing families
with food, water, and household fuel. The coronavirus pandemic has
only deepened this burden of care work on women and girls.

Lockdowns have shut down markets, limiting the availability of
food and making it impossible for many rural women to sell
livestock, crops, and wares. The lack of income, combined with the
spike in food prices and the continued effects of the climate
crisis, has made food scarce for many families.

IPS: GNWP involves women from countries around the
world. How do you address the diverse set of challenges they face
from different parts of the world?

AFS: A key aspect of our work is to elevate the voices,
recommendations and practical solutions of women peacebuilders to
global policy spaces. We do this through research, as well as by
creating spaces and opportunities for women peacebuilders to share
their perspectives and recommendations directly with global policy

But equally, if not more, important is the other aspect of our
work – global to local. Localisation of Women, Peace and Security
is one of flagship programmes of GNWP. It brings together local
women, youth and representatives of other historically marginalised
groups, as well as religious and traditional leaders and local
authorities — mayors, governors, councillors, etc. Together, they
analyse their local context and the relevance of the global
resolutions and national policies on WPS to it. They identify
concrete measures to translate these global and national laws into
tangible actions and impacts on the ground.

Localisation also leads to institutionalisation of the
commitments to WPS, and to harmonisation of the existing laws and
policies on gender equality, women’s rights and peace and
security. We have seen it yield concrete impacts and results across
the world – for example, inclusion of women in traditional
conflict resolution councils in the Philippines, increased SGBV
reporting in Uganda, etc.

IPS: What are some ways to ensure women are given
leadership roles in addressing the pandemic?

YS: We must first recognise that at the community level, women
are already vital leaders in pandemic response: caring for people
who become sick, ensuring food for their families, organising their
communities and more. Many are trusted, longtime activists who
understand deeply and specifically the needs of their communities
and who are known locally as reliable sources of support and
information. We must ensure that these women — including those in
hard-hit places like refugee camps and climate disaster zones —
have the space to offer their expertise to shape policy

What’s more, since long before the pandemic, grassroots
feminists worldwide have grappled with the need to meet urgent
needs while simultaneously working towards long-term, systemic
solutions. Learning from these approaches, policymakers can
implement emergency relief efforts, whether distributing food or
providing health information, while setting the stage for long-term
recovery. This means continually reasserting the need for a shift
in the values driving our policies, amplifying feminist approaches
of collective work and community care.

AFS: Women are already leading the responses to COVID-19. From
mobilising and organising humanitarian responses in their
communities, to drafting Feminist Recovery Plans (for example in
Northern Ireland), to monitoring the ceasefires and the
implementation of peace agreements.

What is sorely lacking is their inclusion in decision-making
about the pandemic recovery. We spoke to women peacebuilders and
civil society across the world, and we have consistently seen that
women are being excluded from COVID-19 Task Forces and planning
committees. Globally women make up less than a quarter of such
committees (according to CARE). One way to ensure that women are
given leadership roles is to guarantee that all COVID-19 Task
Forces and Committees include at least 50 percent  of women. This
must include women from the civil society, who are at the forefront
of COVID-19 response; and women in all their diversity.


The post
Q&A: COVID-19 has Pushed Women Peacebuilders from Key
Leadership Roles
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Q&A: COVID-19 has Pushed Women Peacebuilders from
Key Leadership Roles