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 when they consider the different effects conflict has 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, policy-shaping, 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 together field experience and policymaking in the U.S. and around the world. Recent work includes:

Engaging Women and Men in Peace and Security

USIP supports women peacebuilders in countries affected by conflict—including mediators in Colombia, advocates for gender equality in Pakistan, religious leaders across the Middle East who are advancing the rights of women and girls, and leaders of nonviolent movements around the globe.

To prevent and counter violent extremism (P/CVE) in Horn of Africa, USIP is supporting women’s skills, knolwedge, and influence to effectively engage with policymakers on P/CVE efforts. USIP’s approach leverages women’s unique position in communities to identify ocal drivers of violent extremism, break down barriers to participation, and facilitate connections built on trust with local and national policy and security actors to affect change.

Men, women, boys, and girls can all be perpetrators, victims, and witnesses to violent conflict. Men are usually seen as the primary perpetrators of violence in times of war. However, research shows that men are not inherently violent. USIP has helped shift this narrative. As part of the Institute’s peaceful masculinities work, USIP collaborates with security actors to promote a more peaceful narrative of masculinity by challenging masculine identities that often associate problem-solving with violence.

Pioneering Research

USIP unpacks and examines some of the toughest research questions on gender and peacebuilding. By connecting research with practice, USIP amplifies scholarship on issues ranging from the prevention of sexual violence to women’s roles in violent extremism.

Since 2013, USIP has convened the Missing Peace Scholars Network, which comprises researchers from a range of academic backgrounds who analyze and help prevent sexual violence in some of the world’s most turbulent places. USIP brings these scholars together annually to glean insights and identify gaps in knowledge and policies.

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

As the impacts of violent conflict and extremism become more apparent, it is critical to understand women’s roles in the prevention, mediation, and resolution of violence. USIP conducts on-the-ground research to examine how women have utilized indigenous and traditional religious roles to negotiate and mediate for peace across the Middle East.

Strengthening Policy

USIP is the secretariat of the U.S. Civil Society Working Group, which harnesses the knowledge of over 40 NGOs with expertise on the impact of violent conflict on women and girls. This knowledge feeds into the implementation of the U.S. National Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security. The strategy stems from the U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, which was signed into law through bipartisan congressional efforts. The act recognizes the unique challenges and needs of women and girls in violent conflict and ensures women’s participation in peace negotiations and post-war reconstruction.

Defining Gender

Gender describes the roles and expectations that a society finds most appropriate and valuable for men, women, boys, girls, and sexual and gender minorities. Gender is more than an individual’s biological sex—gender is a learned pattern of behavior. During violent conflict, gender norms can be radically altered. Conditions—including access to resources, mobility, and personal safety—can particularly worsen for many women, girls, and sexual and gender minorities. Transitions out of violent conflict, however, also mark an opportunity to improve the social status of women through education and legislation.

Related Publications

Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19 in Fragile Settings: A Syndemic Model

Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19 in Fragile Settings: A Syndemic Model

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

By: Luissa Vahedi; Jessica Anania; Jocelyn Kelly

The long-standing pandemic of gender-based violence has been worsened by COVID-19 and related containment measures, particularly in fragile settings marked by conflict, poverty, and weak infrastructure. At the same time, the implementation of gender-insensitive COVID-19 control policies can exacerbate the community transmission of COVID-19. These interactions form a syndemic—two or more pandemics whose interactions compound the severity of each. This report identifies the key avenues through which these two pandemics have synergistic effects and offers recommendations for mitigating their impact.

Type: Special Report

Gender

Why Gender and Sexual Minority Inclusion in Peacebuilding Matters

Why Gender and Sexual Minority Inclusion in Peacebuilding Matters

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

By: Julia Schiwal; Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

A society cannot be considered peaceful when certain groups within it experience targeted and ongoing forms of violence and discrimination. Despite this recognized importance of inclusivity, gender and sexual minorities (GSM) remain largely invisible in peacebuilding. Even in the international Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, which has become a significant entry point for addressing gender dynamics in peacebuilding, GSM rights, protection and participation are also inadequately addressed. The absence of established norms for and approaches to GSM inclusion means that it is incumbent on peacebuilders to think more intentionally about why and how GSM can be included.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Hausa)

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Hausa)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.; Danielle Robertson

Daftarin da ke bada kulawa ga jinsi kundi ne da akayi nazari a tsanake wajen samar da shi da zai saukaka yadda za’a rika bada kulawa tare da amfani da al’amuran da suka shafi jinsi yayin tsara wani shiri ko aiki. Saboda aikin samar da zaman lafiya ya dogara da nazartan al’amarin da yake dubawa, daftarin da ke bada kulawa ga jinsi ya gabatar da hanyoyi uku na nazartan al’amuran da suka shafi jinsi-mata, zaman lafiya da tsaro; halaye da dabi’un maza na kwarai; da asali ko alamomi da suka hadu da juna-an samar da su da nufin fuskantar al’amuarn jinsi dan kyautata tsara shirye-shiryen jaddada zaman lafiya.

Type: Tools for Peacebuilding

Gender

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Dari)

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Dari)

Friday, May 21, 2021

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.; Danielle Robertson

(Dari) The Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (GIFT) guide is an approachable and thorough tool that facilitates the integration of gender analysis into project design. Because peacebuilding work is context dependent, the GIFT puts forth three approaches to gender analysis – the Women, Peace and Security Approach; the Peaceful Masculinities Approach; and the Intersecting Identities Approach – that each illuminate the gender dynamics in a given environment to better shape peacebuilding projects.

Type: Tools for Peacebuilding

Gender

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