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

Nancy Lindborg on the Women Building Peace Award Finalists

Nancy Lindborg on the Women Building Peace Award Finalists

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

By: Nancy Lindborg

Women are often overlooked and underappreciated in peace processes. But USIP President and CEO Nancy Lindborg says the inaugural Women Building Peace Award will shine a light on women who have “dedicated their lives to doing the kind of work that reduces conflict and resolves violence, often in some of the toughest countries around the world.”

Type: Podcast

Gender

COVID-19 and Conflict: Women, Peace and Security

COVID-19 and Conflict: Women, Peace and Security

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

By: Danielle Robertson

Persistent inequalities leave women and girls especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, which continues to devastate communities around the world. In addition to the virus’ first-order health impacts, the pandemic disproportionately threatens their economic participation and physical safety, and policymakers must meaningfully take these factors into consideration for any successful response. In this #COVIDandConflict video, our Danielle Robertson discusses the gender dynamics of the pandemic and how to better incorporate the voices and needs of women and girls into humanitarian efforts.

Type: Blog

Global Health; Gender

Coronavirus Complicates an Already Dire Situation for Afghan Women

Coronavirus Complicates an Already Dire Situation for Afghan Women

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Amid the coronavirus pandemic many countries around the world have reported an alarming increase in domestic violence. Indeed, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for measures to address the “horrifying surge in domestic violence” linked to COVID-related lockdowns. In Afghanistan—one of the worst countries in the world for women by almost any metric—the lockdown exacerbates the dire situation many Afghan women already face. As the Afghan peace process inches forward amid a global pandemic, Afghan women’s inclusion and input are critical to combatting COVID and building peace.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Global Health

How to Make Women Count in the Response to Coronavirus

How to Make Women Count in the Response to Coronavirus

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

By: Danielle Robertson

As health organizations and national governments seek to stem the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that they understand the gender dynamics in their societies. Efforts to combat the pandemic will only go so far if women and girls are left behind in the process. For example, how can a woman experiencing domestic violence quarantine at home safely? Thankfully, global efforts to integrate women as equal partners in peace and security can provide key lessons in responding to health epidemics more inclusively and effectively.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Global Health

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