Violent conflict and extremism have different impacts on men and women, and understanding those distinctive effects is critical for designing effective peacebuilding approaches and ensuring greater gender equality and protection for women and girls. Over the past two decades, international organizations and the U.S. government have increasingly recognized the importance of gender equality in creating enduring, peaceful societies. The U.S. Institute of Peace advances scholarship, carries out programs on the ground, and informs policy on issues of gender, peace and security. USIP works with academics, the military, peacekeepers, diplomats and practitioners to advance women’s participation in decision-making, promote peaceful concepts of masculinity and prevent sexual violence in conflict.
Afghanistan’s Taliban, determined to capture a major city in the country, have advanced on Kunduz, in the northeast. The Taliban oppose any public role for women in Afghan society and have targeted women’s organizations in Kunduz. But a local journalist and mother, Sediqa Sherzai, for years has run Radio Roshani, a station that broadcasts programs for women’s rights and democracy.
When Mahatma Gandhi was leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921, he advocated for women’s rights as key to modernizing Indian society. He understood that you cannot change a society peacefully without turning to women, half of the population, to make it happen. In an open letter in 1930, he wrote, “If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women.” It was a radical idea at the time to make women, who usually are invisible, visible. It’s still radical today.
Based on a study conducted in the Pakistani town of Haripur that investigated children’s attitudes toward identity, this Peace Brief finds that identity-based divides are in fact not the primary drivers of conflict at the community level, but notes the continuing salience of gender identity, which produces differing social expectations and differing understandings of conflict resolution roles.
Afghanistan’s next generation of leaders have an opportunity to break out of the cycles of violence that have caused civil wars, insurgencies, and widespread human rights abuses and domestic violence over the past decades. To do this, government officials and community leaders need to have practical skills to identify sources of conflict and know how to de-escalate tensions and negotiate peaceful solutions.
Throughout the month of March, USIP will host a series of events and discussions that will look at the historical and contemporary roles of women in war and women in peace as well as current initiatives that support men as agents for positive change and peaceful masculinities.
The U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. CSWG) is a non-partisan network of civil society organizations with expertise on the impacts of women in war and their participation in peacebuilding. Established in 2010, the working group is an engaged coalition to promote the effective implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.