Women and Peace

International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world today, creates opportunities to advocate for gender equality and to demonstrate how gender equality and peacebuilding are related. Let’s resolve though, that this will be more than a month of on-topic messaging and calls for change, rather a chance to renew our effort to recognise and promote the role of women as peacemakers, peacekeepers, peacebuilders, and peaceleaders; all roles that are enshrined in United Nations Security Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325). UNSCR 1325 is the first legal framework from the United Nations Security Council focused specifically on women, peace, and security. The resolution addresses the specific effects of war on women and the many roles women should play in peacebuilding.

Women as peacemakers

Thanks to national and international advocacy efforts, Colombian and Syrian women have been included in their respective, ongoing peace talks and negotiations. Negotiations that have more equal gender balance better reflect the needs of society and lend legitimacy and sustainability to the outcomes of such talks. Women should not be an afterthought to such processes, but front and center.  Unfortunately, despite UNSCR 1325 this does not happen nearly enough: women currently make up only 7% of negotiators and 3% of mediators in peace processes. 

Women as peacekeepers

More women on peacekeeping and security missions increase the effectiveness of such missions. Men and women who serve on peacekeeping and security missions, and who contribute a thoughtful, gendered perspective, are able to help deescalate violence and keep the wellbeing of the population as a whole. Despite how much we know about the important contributions of women to peacekeeping and security, right now female soldiers and police offers are present in less than 4% of UN peacekeeping operations globally.

Women as peacebuilders

Liberian women were critical to ending the war in their country and speaking out for peace. Women at all levels of Kenyan civil society and government were instrumental in preventing election-related violence in the country’s most recent elections. Every day, around the world, women are taking small and big steps to end violence at home, in their local communities, and across their nations.  In 2011, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work.

Women as peaceleaders

Women leaders are more often collaborative and dialogue-minded.  Parliaments with strong female representation show a track record of passing more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. Inclusive political processes are not just good for women, but for society at large. Rwanda is the first country to date where women outnumber men in parliamentary representation (52% to 48%). In Senegal, Seychelles, and South Africa, women hold more than 40% of parliamentary seats.


Let’s be sure that in creating and maintaining space for women to make peace, keep peace, build peace, and lead for peace that we don’t leave men behind. Gender-focused initiatives that involve men are more successful than those that don’t. Change happens through collaboration and dialogue across all lines: gender, ethnic, religious, and national.

In the upcoming issue of Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century read how activists, Baronesses, filmmakers, and many more women are contributing to change every day, around the world. The Women, Men, and Peace will be released in the last week of March. 

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