INTERVIEW: Women Have a Big Role to Play in Peace-Building - Anthony Foreman of CARE International

Georgia Today
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 20:00
Western Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Initiative Type: 

This year marks the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution on Women, Peace and Security. The landmark resolution, known as Resolution 1325, was passed on October 31st, 2000, and for the first time recognized the role women have to play in peace-building.

The resolution sought to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women's equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.

One organization, working to promote the role women in the South Caucasus play in peace building is CARE International in the Caucasus. Their project, funded by the European Union (EU) and Austrian Development Cooperation and Cooperation for Eastern Europe(ADC), and entitled “Strengthening the Capacity of Women for Peacebuilding in the South Caucasus” seeks to do just that.

Georgia Today talked to the project's manager, Anthony Foreman about the resolution and women in the South Caucasus.

Q: On a global and regional scale, how successful has Resolution 1325 been over the past ten years?

A: Globally, I think it's fair to say that the Security Council resolution has made a big difference. In the case of Africa we can see that the Resolution has provided the impetus for activists to push forward a gender equality agenda, and in some places this has led to a sharp increase in political participation owing to quotas. Two very popular examples are Rwanda and Burundi, where they've introduced quotas for female members of parliament, and that's increased women's participation significantly. In Burundi that was in fact part of the peace agreement at the end of the war.

For countries like Georgia, Armenia and perhaps to a lesser extent Azerbaijan – CARE works in all three – gender and equality is maybe a little more subtle, it's a little less extreme than in some other countries. This makes it a little more difficult to grapple with as people don't see and acknowledge that there is a problem. While none of the countries in the region have adopted action plans for the resolution, they do have broader gender equality strategies, and again 1325 may have had an influence in these being developed.

I think that in most countries where action plans have been adopted it has made a difference, perhaps not quite what was promised ten years ago, but it has made a difference.

Q: The resolution recognises the role of women in peace-building. To what extent have women in the region – particularly in Georgia – played a part in this process over the past decade?

A: The first this I'll say is, what is it that can we can exactly refer to as the peace process? There are different things that are going on. At the official level, it's difficult to say that there's actually a peace process happening, what's happening at the Geneva talks many would actually refer to as a de-escalation process. There's a woman on the Georgian delegation within that, so you can welcome the fact that there is a woman there, but this is not at all proportionate to the number of men.

In terms of civil society initiatives, I think that women probably play the biggest role, in terms of finding things in common with people across borders. We can say that regionally there are a lot of women who are involved in such processes. It's a small region with a lot of closed borders, so I think that in this context any kind of person to person contact is to be welcomed and I feel that women have really taken the lead on this.

Q: The title of your project is “Strengthening Capacity of Women for Peacebuilding in the South Caucasus”. Can you tell us a bit more about what CARE is doing here?

A: The project's aim is to enable marginalized women in conflict affected areas to play an active role in the life of their communities and in community-initiated peace processes. Our partners, based in Baku, Sokhumi, Stepanakert, Tbilisi and Yerevan deliver trainings and consultations as a way of increasing beneficiaries' capacity and knowledge. Through collaboration, the experiences of the communities are shared widely throughout the region, fostering the feeling, that after all, women in conflicts face similar challenges.

We're also offering financial support to support women in addressing their communities' problems. The range of problems were dealing with is broad, for example, some people have said “if we were to get a children's playground here, then that would already be the kind of resource that frees up time for myself”. If we're talking about empowering women who are, as a rule, extremely busy, most haven't got time for political engagement. So sometimes it can be very small things that can free up a bit of time. Sometimes people can be quite ambitious, they may have broader social concerns such as environmental problems for example, and things they might go through the local administration to deal with.

So there's quite a range, we've been going for six months and people have been producing their ideas, getting to grips with things and it looks very promising.

Q: Are you getting a feel through the work that you're doing what the main issues for women in Georgia are?

A: I think across Georgia there is a strong feeling that women took up a lot of the slack when, economically, things began to fall apart after the Soviet era. They also carried a lot of the burden to pull households through after the conflict. So these are really great achievements women have made and they're not really been acknowledged. Women were able to see what they needed to do pull their families through. If it meant working on small plots or sitting at markets all day, they were prepared to do that. They found men were a lot more disorientated by the experience, the factory they used to work in has now been closed, the idea of entrepreneurship was a new thing. So really some kind of acknowledgement that women have done quite a lot, and that they have a big contribution to make is needed.