Dr. Khine Khine Win
Women don’t start wars, but they do suffer heavily from the consequences. According to Amnesty International, conflict isn’t just about death it is a breeding ground for mass human rights violations, including torture, disappearances and imprisonment without charge. Both men and women suffer negatively from violet conflict. Here it is noteworthy that women and men experience conflict differently and therefore, understand peace differently.
No doubt, women and children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict. Actually, men are the majority of armed combatants and public decision makers, but women also play supportive roles in communities affected by conflict. While conflict weighs heavily on all, women and girls suffer disproportionate negative impacts economically and socially. This includes increases in women’s and girls’ work burdens with the loss or injury of male relatives, lost of productive assets (e.g. land) livelihoods and incomes and other basis needs. Women live in constant fear and insecurity given the lack of physical safety, the perpetration of sexual and other forms of abuse and need improved access to effective legal, medical and psychosocial services including better access to justice.
Why women should be involved in peace process? At the international level, we now have consensus that women should be included in all peace talks. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (adopted in October 2000) acknowledges the disproportionate impact of violent conflict on women and recognizes the critical role women should and can play in the processes of peace building and conflict prevention, including peace talks, conflict mediation, and all aspects of post-conflict reconstruction. Women can bring their unique experience to bear on all aspects of peace process, such as providing early warning and intelligence about impending conflict, defusing and mediation disputes, building trust, taking on village headship roles and protecting their communities as men often have to flee the avoid arrest or death, addressing sexual violence and gender-based violence and women’s long term development.
What I believe is that inclusion of women and their priorities in all aspect of peace process will enhance the effectiveness of the peace process and women’s concern will well address in long term development, ensuring sustainable peace. Including women and their priorities in peace process is a woman’s right, leads to more inclusive and sustainable peace and development and optimizes investment in the same. However, women’s formal participation in peace process is still limited and it remains one of the most unfulfilled aspect of the women, peace and security agenda.
The role of women in democratic processes is further emphasized in the 2011 General Assembly resolution on Women’s Political Participation (A/RES/66/130), which reaffirms “that the active participation of women, on equal terms with men, at all levels of decision-making is essential to the achievement of equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Women’s participation in peace efforts is a matter of gender equality and universal human rights – and crucial to achieving sustainable peace, economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy.
Women’s involvement in peace negotiations is not just an issue for women, but also for men. The point is to improve life for all people. Toward that end, men have to see the direct benefit of engaging women in peace talks, something male leaders are critical in helping to explain. Indeed, strengthening exchange of information between women’s groups and delegations has been a powerful strategy to encourage the negotiating parties to raise gender issue and increase the chance for the peace agreement to advance gender equality and protect women’s right.
While women make up half of the world’s population, they continue to be largely absent from peace negotiations. So it is the time to call the full participation of women who play a pivotal role in the security and peace building in this new century.