Violent conflict upends and polarizes societies, disrupting social structures and gender roles. Projects and policies intended to assist communities that are fragile or affected by violence are more successful if they consider conflict’s different effects on men, women, boys, and girls. Approaches to conflict resolution that account for gender issues and include a broader array of society reduce gender-based violence, enhance gender equality, defuse conflict, and lead to more sustainable peace. 

USIP's Work

The U.S. Institute of Peace’s research and on-the-ground programs strengthen the ability of people and organizations in conflict zones to create sustainable solutions for peace and equality. Through more than 50 projects worldwide, the Institute works with governments, international organizations, practitioners, and academics to expand the understanding of gender dynamics in conflict. USIP has played a significant role in helping the peacebuilding community expand the concept of gender to be inclusive of women, men, and other gender identities. The Institute’s research brings field experience into policymaking in the U.S. and around the world. Recent work includes:

Strengthening Women’s Roles in Conflict Prevention. USIP supports women in countries affected by conflict—for example, as mediators in Colombia, advocates for gender equality in Pakistan, and religious leaders across the Middle East advancing the rights of women and girls. 

Through the Women Preventing Extremist Violence project, USIP supports women community leaders in Nigeria and Kenya looking to prevent radicalization. The project features a training program and facilitated dialogues that convene representatives from civil society and the security sector to understand the causes of violent extremism and devise solutions.

USIP is also the Secretariat of the U.S. Civil Society Working Group, which harnesses the experience of 36 NGOs with expertise on the impact of violent conflict on women and girls. This knowledge feeds into implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. The plan stems from United Nations Security Resolution 1325, a formal legal agreement that requires parties to a conflict to protect women and girls and ensure women’s participation in peace negotiations and post-war reconstruction.

Engaging Men in Peace and Security. Men are usually seen as the primary perpetrators of violence in times of war. However, research shows that men are not inherently violent—and that they are also victims of violence. USIP has helped shift this narrative. The Institute works with local partners in conflict zones to develop more peaceful concepts of masculinity and to advance gender equality. 

As one of the efforts of this Men, Peace, and Security initiative, the Institute works with the U.S. Agency for International Development on a pilot project in Afghanistan that supports men developing a new understanding of their identity as their countries transition out of war, as well as advocating for women’s rights. In Ukraine, the Institute works with local NGOs to strengthen the ability of women and men to participate equally in reconciliation and peace processes. 

Pioneering Work in Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Since 2013, USIP has advanced research on the prevalence of sexual violence during conflict. By supporting on-the-ground initiatives that reduce this form of violence, USIP contributes to security and long-term stability.

One initiative is the Missing Peace Young Scholars Network, which comprises researchers from a range of academic backgrounds who analyze and help prevent sexual violence in war. Representing political science, public health, law, medicine, and other disciplines, the scholars research incidences of sexual violence in some of the world’s most turbulent places. Annually, USIP brings these scholars together to glean insights and identify gaps in knowledge and policies.

USIP experts apply this knowledge in training peacekeeping missions to reduce sexual exploitation and abuse in countries across Africa. Such trainings help troops better understand such abuses, including the complex patterns of power and limited notions of masculinity that contribute to a cycle of violence.

Defining Gender

Gender describes the roles and expectations that a society finds most appropriate and valuable for men, women, boys, and girls. During violent conflict, these gender norms can alter radically. Conditions—including access to resources, mobility, and personal safety—can particularly worsen for many women, girls, and sexual- and gender minorities. Because war often changes the norms of a society, it also provides an opportunity to improve the social status of women through education and legislation.

Related Publications

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?

Gender; Religion; Peace Processes

The Elusive Peace: Ending Sexual Violence during and after Conflict

The Elusive Peace: Ending Sexual Violence during and after Conflict

Friday, December 7, 2018

By: Pearl Karuhanga Atuhaire; Nicole Gerring; Laura Huber; Mirgul Kuhns; Grace Ndirangu

Awarding the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to advocates for survivors of wartime sexual violence, Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, indicates that the issue of sexual abuse has gained international recognition. This comes ten years after the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1820, which declared that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. This Special Report highlights the limited scope of the resolution, examines the connections between sexual violence and conflict, and urges key stakeholders to view sexual violence—both during conflict and after—as a threat to international peace and security.


For the Afghan Peace Process to Work, Women Must be Involved

For the Afghan Peace Process to Work, Women Must be Involved

Monday, October 29, 2018

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Marjan Nahavandi

The bottom line is Afghan women want peace and they want to have a say in how it is negotiated. Without women at the negotiation table, a long-term and inclusive peace is dramatically less likely. Indeed, studies show that the inclusion of women in peace negotiations, leads to peace agreements that are representative of the needs of the people they affect and, therefore, more sustainable.

Gender; Peace Processes

If we want to build peace, we can’t keep women out.

If we want to build peace, we can’t keep women out.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

By: Danielle Robertson; Tabatha Thompson

When nations affected by violent conflict try to make peace, the evidence is clear on what works. For a durable peace agreement, women must be included throughout the process. While the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed that goal in 2000, women still are excluded from peace processes. Among 504 peace accords signed by 2015, only 27 percent even mentioned women. A U.N. study of 14 peace processes from 2000 to 2010 found that women comprised only 8 percent of negotiators and 3 percent of signatories.

Gender; Peace Processes

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