In recent years, peace processes — such as the track 2 intra-Afghan negotiations — have shown that on both a moral and practical level, women’s inclusion is essential. Women’s involvement in peace processes increases their likelihood of success and longevity and can increase legitimacy. While more literature on women contributing to mediation and negotiation efforts is slowly being produced, little attention is currently being paid to the already existing work of women who employ their faith and mobilize religious resources for peacebuilding.

Anecdotes from the field suggest that religious women have found some success negotiating with violent groups in conflict zones around the world. Through negotiation and mediation, these women seem to play a role in local agreements and fragile peace deals achieved through formal processes. Their moral calling and the trusted role that religious women play in their community may be part of what makes their work effective.

Women wearing scarves in honor of  Trujillo Massacre
Photo credit: PBI Colombia

These women’s successes can inform peace practices elsewhere. USIP’s religion and inclusive societies team is working with local researchers, in partnership with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, to document and analyze cases of religious women negotiating on the front lines. In this project we seek to:

  • Develop a curriculum and peer-to-peer training methodology informed by evidence-based research which will identify which arguments have been most effective in engaging with armed groups to build peace.
  • Support women who engage in peacebuilding with armed groups through piloting curriculum and training methodology,
  • Inform the international and donor communities on ways to develop inclusive peace processes and programming that are more contextually relevant and effective by understanding women’s successful techniques.

There are three phases to this project that will allow us to accomplish the goals of developing a curriculum, supporting women negotiators and informing the international community. We are seeking funding and partners for phases two and three, as we have completed phase one of our research as of July 2021.

Phase 1 – Documentation of Case Studies

We have documented case studies from around the world to identify effective tactics and strategies that religious women employ in negotiating with armed groups. These studies will be featured on USIP’s website and will also be collected into a larger book covering the topic of religious women negotiating. The cases we have examined cover Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Myanmar, Nigeria, Kenya, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, Yemen and Colombia.

Several initial findings from this research include:   

  • Religious institutions, language and symbols seem to open doors before actual negotiations begin.
  • The access and legitimacy these women have within their communities enable them to work in areas others cannot.
  • These women participate in mediation, facilitation and negotiation activities and do not clearly differentiate between techniques, using them interchangeably.

Phase 2 – Development of Curriculum

In this phase, we seek to develop a curriculum based on case studies, research and findings. This curriculum will be based on the lessons learned in the case studies, especially regarding religious women’s direct engagement, their specific strategies (including the type of language they use), the resources they draw on and perceptions of their credibility and moral authority.

Phase 3 - Capacity Building

We seek to train women who are involved in negotiations at local and national levels to apply the curriculum and peer-to-peer training methodology. With the support of partners, we will transform the curriculum into a pilot training-of-trainers so that it can be implemented as peer-to-peer learning. This phase aims to enhance mentorship and communication strategies through connecting women to local and national leaders, media outlets and each other so that they may more effectively contribute to inclusive and sustainable peacebuilding.

Latest Publications

In Nicaragua, Crackdown on Religious Actors Further Imperils Return Democracy

In Nicaragua, Crackdown on Religious Actors Further Imperils Return Democracy

Friday, October 7, 2022

By: Maria Antonia Montes ;  Savarni Sanka

In recent months, Nicaragua’s government has escalated its effort to silence dissent by waging a systematic campaign of repression against the Catholic Church. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo’s crackdown on clergy and church-affiliated organizations critical of their authoritarian regime not only threatens Nicaragua’s religious freedom but also erects significant roadblocks to the country’s return to peace and democracy.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceReligion

42 Months on, How Does Sudan’s Democracy Movement Endure?

42 Months on, How Does Sudan’s Democracy Movement Endure?

Thursday, October 6, 2022

By: Jawhara Kanu;  Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

Three and a half years after Sudan’s military deposed the authoritarian ruler, Omar Bashir, in response to massive protests, the current military leadership and divisions among political factions are stalling a return to elected civilian government. This year has brought a deepening economic crisis and violent communal clashes — but also a new wave of nonviolent, grassroots campaigns for a return to democracy. As Sudanese democracy advocates and their international allies seek ways to press the military for that transition, all sides should note, and work to sustain, Sudan’s nonviolent civic action.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceNonviolent Action

Behavioral Science and Social Contact Peacemaking

Behavioral Science and Social Contact Peacemaking

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

By: Josh Martin;  Meghann Perez;  Ruben Grangaard

Although social contract theory—the idea that encountering someone with a different group identity can lead to greater understanding, empathy, and trust—has become a bedrock of most peacebuilding initiatives in recent decades, doubts remain about whether such initiatives prevent violence. This report provides practical insights and recommendations for improving peacebuilding efforts by more effectively factoring an understanding of human behavior into the design, implementation, and evaluation of social contact interventions.

Type: Peaceworks

Nonviolent Action

Xi Kicks Off Campaign for a Chinese Vision of Global Security

Xi Kicks Off Campaign for a Chinese Vision of Global Security

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

By: Carla Freeman, Ph.D.;  Alex Stephenson

Earlier this month Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his first foreign trip since the coronavirus outbreak, joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The summit was Xi’s first in-person opportunity to win support outside of China’s borders for his new Global Security Initiative (GSI), which he launched in April. While the GSI remains notional and somewhat vague, Xi is on the offensive, seeking to position his vision of a new global security architecture as an alternative to the Western-led security order. In an era of heightened strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Xi’s GSI campaign could amount to yet another challenge to the U.S.-China relationship and the two countries’ ability to peacefully manage differences.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Is Russia Escalating to De-Escalate?

Is Russia Escalating to De-Escalate?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

By: Mary Glantz, Ph.D.;  Mona Yacoubian

Vladimir Putin is under increased pressure as Russia continues to lose ground inside Ukraine. Faced with the prospect of stark losses — potentially leaving Russia in a worse position than before its February 24 invasion — Moscow may be embarked on an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy. By raising the specter of a nuclear confrontation twice in recent weeks, Putin may in fact be seeking a way out of his dilemma marked by Russia’s strategic failure in Ukraine. The coming weeks will be critical as Putin pursues nuclear brinksmanship — possibly even repositioning tactical nuclear weapons — while actually seeking an exit.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

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