The participants of the “Feminist Peace Dialogue: Tackling Root Causes for Women’s Meaningful Participation” Workshop on 22 October 2018 (Photo: Nathaniel Hamlin)
On 22 October 2018, on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (2000), WILPF facilitated an internal workshop entitled, “Feminist Peace Dialogue: Tackling Root Causes for Women’s Meaningful Participation” with formidable peace leaders and women human rights defenders from Cameroon, Colombia, Lebanon, and Spain. The purpose of the workshop was to provide space for sharing experiences on how activists are tackling pernicious obstacles and mobilising for systemic change.
Participants affirmed the feminist movement’s power to challenge existing international systems and truly create sustainable feminist peace. They shared how activists in different country contexts are addressing key obstacles to women’s meaningful participation, including militarisation and the lack of access to rights and resources, and working to ensure women’s meaningful participation in order to create a long-lasting and sustainable peace. Participants emphasised the importance of addressing the drivers of conflict to push for sustainable peace through a local gender analysis.
In Cameroon, women are mobilising around this year’s elections to address electoral violence by building partnerships between women civil society leaders and local authorities through the Cameroon Women for Peaceful Elections. This platform is enabling women were able to build partnerships to prevent and address violence including around anglophone and francophone tensions. Activists are building networks and raising awareness to let women and youth know the importance of their own votes.
In Colombia, the women’s movement was critical to the creation of the historic peace agreement. However, there has been surge in killings of human rights defenders since its signing. Despite these risks, Colombian women leaders continue to push for agreement implementation, especially of the gender provisions of the agreement, and call for “more life and less arms.” Continued international pressure to implement the peace agreement, especially the gender provisions, remains essential.
In Yemen and Syria, the participants raised concerns that the UN still fails to approach each country independently and recognise their own unique challenges. In response, WILPF is addressing the situation in both countries from all angles. In Yemen, WILPF is working to develop a multi-stakeholder approach that strengthens coordination among key stakeholders including the Special Envoy’s office, UN agencies, and Yemeni women. In Syria, WILPF will be pushing for the new Syrian Special Envoy Syria to continue and strengthen the provisions supporting women’s inclusion in the peace process from the previous mandate holder, and strengthen action consistent with existing good practice recommendations including the recent report by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Syria.
In Lebanon, feminist activists are engaging men to prevent violence against women and promote women’s rights, and are using legal reform of personal status laws to ensure social protection from rape and domestic violence. This includes working with religious leaders of the 18 officially recognised religious sects in the country to leverage their political, social and cultural influence to amplify women’s voices and support social, legal, and political action for change.
Participants discussed how different international opportunities could be leveraged to support local priorities for action. These included: regularisation of women civil society briefers to the Security Council on geographic agenda items, the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, the Women, Peace and Security Focal Point Network, and fact-finding groups and commissions of inquiry are all opportunities to advance concrete action.
This year’s Expert Group Meeting on Women’s Meaningful Participation facilitated by UN Women is a good example of how WILPF and other civil society advocates have conducted successful advocacy around key priority issues by working together to amplify local priorities for peace in international policy spaces. In this case, WILPF was able to raise the profile of the importance of addressing root causes of violence for women’s meaningful participation, including patriarchy and militarism. This was also taken up in the 2018 Report of the Secretary-General on Women, Peace and Security.
Overall, the workshop gave us the opportunity to resolidify our common purposes for feminist peace, and build the connections together that we need to mobilise, strategise, and change the world. Despite different challenges faced by the feminist movement, it is crucial to recognise that without feminist peace movement mobilisation, we would not have the strong normative support that exists today on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Things are only impossible, until they are not: and eventually, with persistent, there is change.
Connecting and strategising together in spaces like this workshop, exchanging good practices and opportunities in addressing ongoing obstacles, as well as standing in solidarity with sisters in their work for feminist peace is critical to moving the agenda forward ahead of 2020. The next two years will be years of milestones and it is important that we utilise every possibility to address root causes and advance women’s participation. The feminist peace movement will continue to persist in demanding accountability and commitment to the WPS Agenda. Together we will keep questioning women’s absence, bringing attention to the root causes of inequality and violence, and working for systemic change for women’s meaningful participation and feminist peace.