UN Volunteers supporting gender-responsive peacebuilding on the ground
Date: Monday, October 31, 2016
Since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, there has been growing recognition of the ways in which conflict affects women and men differently. The sustainable recovery and development of a country emerging from conflict requires that peacebuilding programmes consider the full range of trauma and vulnerabilities of affected populations, as well as the capacities and potential of women, men, girls and boys. Gender-responsive peacebuilding takes these diverse and dynamic factors into account, sees women as multi-faceted actors in conflict and post-conflict situations, an d promotes women’s participation at all stages.
From 24 to 27 October 2016, on the sidelines of the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, UN Women, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) brought together 29 UN Volunteers working across the world on gender-responsive peacebuilding. The partnership between the three agencies was established to accelerate progress towards the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Seven Point Action Plan on Gender-responsive Peacebuilding . The workshop provided a dynamic space for practitioners from diverse backgrounds to engage in multi-country learning to strengthen capacities on gender-responsive peacebuilding and project management.
“Women’s engagement in the entire cycle of peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict prevention is one of the best guarantees of sustaining peace,” said UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the opening ceremony. “Sustainable livelihood, economic growth and human development depend on the women’s participation in peacemaking and peacebuilding.”
The workshop aimed to provide a platform where participants could build upon their current knowledge of gender-responsive peacebuilding and enhance their existing skills, expertise and experience in gender analysis, gender-responsive programme design, monitoring and evaluation.
Some recurring themes that emerged from the discussions included the need to invest in women’s capacity building at local levels, establishing empowering legal frameworks and facilitating access to justice. The value of collaboration and joint planning, implementation, and evaluation was recognized several times over the week-long training. The importance of engaging young women and men in peacebuilding efforts gained support from all the UN Volunteers, many of whom identified it as a significant challenge in the context of their assignments.
In post-conflict Nepal, one of the five countries where UNV has deployed volunteers under the partnership to support gender-responsive peacebuilding, the UN Volunteers have increased women’s participation in community meetings by planning the timing of meetings taking into consideration women’s schedules, providing transportation to and child care at the meetings, and by preparing women before the meetings so that they can confidently voice their issues.
Katja-Maaret Niemi, international UN Volunteer and UN Women Programme Support Officer in Nepal discussed the positive results of the programme in improving participatory and gender-responsive planning and budgeting processes at the local level for the implementation and monitoring of Nepal’s National Action Plan on women, peace and security: “The programme enhanced advocacy and negotiation skills of district-level women leaders and with these skills and increased confidence, they were able to raise and advocate for their concerns effectively.”
Francesca De Antoni, international UN Volunteer assigned with UN Women in Mali, where she is working to strengthen the participation of women in peacebuilding, advocating for their rights, particularly on the issue of gender-based violence, and improving women’s access to justice and services. “Gender-based violence has always been an issue…the problem is that no one wants to talk about it and it’s not considered a crime,” said De Antoni. “We have to change the way people think… After a conflict, there’s an opportunity to build back better.”
In 2015, a coalition of 42 civil society organizations advocating for the creation of a comprehensive law against gender-based violence was established. The joint peacebuilding initiative is now advocating with Malian parliamentarians to support the law.
Fatoumata Koumba Dieng, international UN Volunteer and Gender and Gender-based Violence Specialist at UNDP Guinea, works in a programme to support the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, support women in the army access decision-making positions and support the security sector in incorporating a gender strategy. “There are many gender-based violence cases but there is no coherent strategy to ensure women’s access to justice,” explained Dieng. “And many cases remain silent because women think ‘I cannot report my husband to the police.’”
Prashani Dias, UN Volunteer and Programme Assistant with UN Women in Sri Lanka, is part of a project to working to promote women’s political participation and build collaboration with the Government. “It is a patriarchal society. We see all this kinds of negative behaviours…harassment in schools, on the streets, in public transportation…many women and girls have come to accept it as a part of life. Employers prefer to employ men over women, but there are more women in the universities.”
The UN Country Team in Sri Lanka, together with the government and civil society, recently elaborated a comprehensive Priority Peacebuilding Plan, which makes the role of women in reconciliation processes, as well as transitional justice and inclusive governance, key to a just and peaceful society and lasting peace.
 The 7-Point Action Plan was launched in 2011, and guides the UN system and its partners towards women’s full engagement in peacebuilding efforts, and commits the United Nations to allocating 15 per cent of post-conflict funds to projects principally aimed at addressing women’s specific needs, advancing gender equality or empowering women. All UN entities working on peacebuilding began implementing the plan in 2011, supported by UN Women and the Peacebuilding Support Office.