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

Toward a Gender-Inclusive National Security Strategy

Toward a Gender-Inclusive National Security Strategy

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

By: Anthony Navone

With the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Act of 2017, the United States is the only country in the world to codify into law women’s critical role in building peace and security. The law requires the Department of Defense, among several U.S. government agencies, to create strategies that prioritize the perspectives, safety and meaningful participation of women across all facets of national security — a critical factor in addressing the complex challenges facing the United States.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Tanzania Gets a Woman as President: That’s an Opportunity

Tanzania Gets a Woman as President: That’s an Opportunity

Thursday, March 25, 2021

By: USIP Staff

Samia Suluhu Hassan, who became Tanzania’s sixth president this month following the death of her predecessor, has an opportunity to promote stability for her nation of 58 million people, say analysts and women activists in East Africa. As Tanzania confronts COVID and political division, Hassan could expand a history of African women leaders who have advanced stability and peace in moments of crisis. Her elevation also could boost grassroots movements across East Africa—including a new network of women leaders in Tanzania—that are strengthening peace and security through greater inclusion of women in public life.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Democracy & Governance

Pakistan: A Rising Women’s Movement Confronts a New Backlash

Pakistan: A Rising Women’s Movement Confronts a New Backlash

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

By: Aleena Khan

Thousands of women rallied across Pakistan on International Women’s Day this year and demanded an end to violence against women and gender minorities. In the days since, Pakistan’s Taliban movement has escalated the threats facing the women who marched. Opponents of women’s rights doctored a video of the rally to suggest that the women had committed blasphemy—an accusation that has been frequently weaponized against minorities in Pakistan and has resulted in vigilantes killing those who are targeted.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

Thursday, March 11, 2021

By: Veronique Dudouet; Andreas Schädel

In the 20 years since governments declared it imperative to include women’s groups and their demands in peace processes, experience and research continue to show that this principle strengthens peace agreements and helps prevent wars from re-igniting. Yet our inclusion of women has been incomplete and, in some ways, poorly informed. Now a study of recent peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar offers new guidance on how to shape women’s roles. A critical lesson is that we must ensure this inclusion from the start.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

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