Beyond the "add women and stir" approach

Involvement of women in peace processes

Academic Paper, 2018

12 Pages


Table of Contents

0. Introduction

1. Why Include Women in Peace Process/Peacebuilding?

2. Social Transformation - Addressing gendered inequalities and power dynamics

3. Women in Peace Process in Burundi

4. Women in Peace Process Afghanistan



0. Introduction

Concerted efforts pushing for the inclusion of women in all levels of the formal peace processes initiatives have resulted in the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security in 2000. Though women remain underrepresented, the UNSCR 1325 has contributed in promoting gender-sensitive approach to peace processes and slightly increased the number of female participants in peace processes. However, many scholars have argued that in most cases, the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 hasjust been the trend to apply the ‘add women and stir’ approach, which assumes that solely the presence of women in peace processes is not only necessary but also sufficient to elicit favorable peace outcomes for both men and women (Chang et al, 2015:20).

This essay argues that the move for women’s inclusion in peace processes has been a worthwhile start. But it should be a means towards the end - the post-conflict social transformation which is achieved by addressing power imbalance that define gender relations. This is explained by the fact that the hardships that women and girls face during conflicts and their marginalization in peace processes are in some ways related to the underlying gendered inequalities and power dynamics that are rooted in a given society. Therefore, the aim of gendering peace processes should be addressing gender inequalities and power dynamics not only byjust adding women in formal peace processes, but also by considering other factors. First, female participants both in formal peace processes and post-conflict institutions should be women who can really advocate for women’s rights and should occupy some of the decision-making positions. Second, peace agreements and subsequent legal documents should contain provisions showing how gender inequalities will be addressed during post-agreement peace programs and post-conflict political institutions and social context. Third, there should be capacity building in gender issues for both female and male participants in peace processes especially with the aim to engage men in fighting against gender- based discriminations.

This essay is structured in three sections. The first section deals with the debate on the rationale for adding women in peace processes. The second section attempts to explain how peace processes can lead to social transformation. The last section illustrates the underpinnings of the arguments made in this essay by exploring the experiences of women both in formal peace talks and post­conflict contexts in Burundi and Afghanistan.

1. Why Include Women in Peace Process/Peacebuilding?

The adoption of the UNSCR 1325, which explicitly addressing the role of women in peace processes and particular challenges they face during conflict and post-conflict phases (Westendorf, 2013), has been an important step in advocating for women’s inclusion in all aspects of peace­making processes. While scholars and policymakers have invoked different justifications for including women in peace processes, the most commonjustifications include the utility of women in peace processes, and the need to ensure equal rights for both men and women.

In fact, it has been argued that women’s inclusion is central to enhancing the overall effectiveness of the peace process (Chang et al, 2015:26). Similarly, in 2009 the UN General Secretary Ban Ki- Moon emphasized that “bringing women to the peace table improves the quality of agreements reached and increases the chances of successful implementation.” This is mainly supported by the argument that the inherently peaceful, caring and motherly nature of women can get the men see reason, (Hendricks, 2015), constituting then a key factor for successful peace processes. But this argument is limited and tends to reinforce gender stereotypes since not all women are pacific or caring, just as not all men are aggressive or pugnacious; and women may not be more competent peace-makers than men, (O'Flynn & Russell, 2011; Anderlini, 2000). It is then difficult to determine the extent to which the presupposed female gentle nature can contribute to success of peace processes since “in reality, both men and women exert positive and negative influences on peace talks” (Anderlini, 2000). However, regardless of whether women’s nature has a positive or negative impact on peace processes (Chang et al, 2015:25), the “equality and rights” argument still justifies why they should not be ignored.

In terms of the equality and rights argument, gender inequalities have been observed in peace processes. Shekhawat (2015:186) argues that “at peace tables, where crucial decisions for post­conflict transition are made, the numerical strength of women is distressingly low”. Shekhawat (2015:186) gives the example of a study revealing that in 33 peace negotiations in 2008 only 11 out of 280 participants were women. If the aim of a peace process is to attain inclusive peace, women cannot be left out; they should be treated the same as men in peace processes since women are half the global population and a critical part of society, real and sustainable peace cannot be achieved without them, (Arostegui, 2013). Apart from the fact that females constitute a big part of the population, given hardships that they endure during wars, it is unfair to exclude them from peace-making. In fact, women can be involved in conflicts as active fighters using arms in rebellion or armed forces or may perform supportive roles as porters, cooks, nurses, spies, etc. (Shekhawat, 2015:194). In addition to that, women and girls who are not collaborating with armed forces are victims of a lot of human rights abuses - murder, rape and handicaps among others. Considering the experiences of female combatants or non- combatants during conflict, it is not a mistake to say that “women, especially those who participate in violent conflicts, should be included in peace processes as mater of right”, (Shekhawat, 2015:196). Therefore, including women in peace processes is to recognize their contributions and victimhood during conflicts. It is also to enable them to exercise the same political and civil rights as men in deciding laws and policies under which they are to live (O'Flynn & Russell:2011; Chang et al:2015).

In brief, when women are excluded, the peace process outcomes favor men, aggravating then gender inequalities existing already in many societies. But when women are added in peace processes and peace building, the likelihood of getting women and girls issues taken more seriously is high, (Chang et al:2015). However, while having female participants in peace formal processes constitutes a very important step, it is not enough. Beyond women’s presence, applying a gendered approach to peace process should lead towards post-conflict social transformation by addressing gender relations and power dynamics.

2. Social Transformation - Addressing gendered inequalities and power dynamics

As demonstrated in the previous section, there are many tangible reasons for adding women in peace processes. But is adding some females to male participants in the peace process sufficient? That is the fundamental question that should be answered for gendering peace processes to be successful. Strickland & Duvvury (2003) argues that “efforts to introduce gender-sensitive approaches to peacebuilding have met with limited results because they fail to address underlying norms that define gender relations and power dynamics”. Since the hardships and discriminations that women and girls endure during conflict and peace processes “have a direct relationship with the established patterns of pre-war gender relations”, (Shekhawat, 2015), the ultimate purpose of gendering peace processes should be to address discriminatory gender relations and power dynamics. Conditions under which peace processes can lead to social transformation include: (1) adding competent women and letting them occupy some of the decision-making positions both in the peace processes and post-conflict institutions; (2) ensuring that peace agreements and subsequent laws contain provisions showing how gender inequalities will be addressed during post-agreement peace programs and post-conflict political institutions and social context; (3) training both male and female participants on gender issues especially with the aim to engage men in fighting against gender-based discriminations.


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Beyond the "add women and stir" approach
Involvement of women in peace processes
Trinity College Dublin - The University of Dublin  (Irish School of Ecumenics)
Gender War and Peace (EM 7436)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
"From the outset it is clear that you ‘get’ the implications of the question. Throughout the essay you show depth of reflection and admirable clarity. Your introduction identifies the limits of an ‘add women and stir’ approach which assumes simply adding women’s presence will strengthen peace accords and building. You explain clearly why this cannot be the case due to the diversity of women and the necessity of addressing deeper norms and inequalities. The two contrasting case studies are very helpful to substantiate this analysis."
beyond, involvement
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Dismas Ndayikengurukiye (Author), 2018, Beyond the "add women and stir" approach, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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