Jennifer Freeman and Dee Aker
October 2010 marked the 10th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women to be engaged in all phases of securing, building, and maintaining peace. Commemorative events have focused on the challenge of implementing resolutions that call for the protection of women and the transformative inclusion of women in conflict prevention, resolution, and recovery.
SUCCESS AND CONTROVERSY
Some successes have been achieved, including prioritizing women’s needs and concerns in the allocation of resources for peacebuilding and involving women in security sectors such as police and peacekeeping. Security and sustainable peace can’t be achieved in complex conflicts such as Afghanistan without greater participation of women. Yet these approaches remain controversial in mainstream security circles.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for women to be engaged in all phases of securing, building, and maintaining peace.
Nowhere is the meaningful participation of women in public and private spheres more contentious than in deeply conservative, patriarchal, and patrilineal societies. Long histories of exclusion, religious and/or inter-ethnic strife and feudalism or colonialism further complicate the aspirations of those who would like to move from conflict to nonviolent co-existence.
In Afghanistan, this complex intersection of cultural influences, plus the U.S. and NATO military intervention, have contributed to the volatile environment women are currently facing. The Afghan intervention was partially justified to a domestic U.S. audience as a liberation of Afghan women from the gross human rights abuses carried out under the Taliban.
Yet obstacles to women’s involvement are still myriad and significant. They include intimidation and violent attacks on women who run for leadership positions and on their supporters; exclusion of women’s voices in decision-making bodies; and the undermining of political, financial, and materiel support for organizations that promote gendered agendas. Conservatives in Kabul ridicule and label efforts to defend women’s rights as foreign, Western-imposed, anti-Islam.
Some criticize the inclusion of women in the peace process in Afghanistan as a liability that could jeopardize a precious “settlement” with the destructive insurgencies. However, it has been demonstrated in other conflict situations that negotiated settlements that exclude the concerns, perspectives, and presence of women are not sustainable and will result in, at best, a temporary absence of armed attacks.
The precarious gains made by and with Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban could be undone if the peace process does not include women.
While the bombs and guns may stop, violence — both structural and overt — will again become institutionalized for more than 50 percent of the population. The precarious gains made by and with Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban could be undone if the peace process does not include women.
Promoting gender-inclusive peacebuilding in Afghanistan will not come easily or quickly. Progress toward security and peace will depend on initiatives that originate with and are led by local women with the support of men.
Recommendations to the Afghan government, U.S. and NATO forces, and the international community for implementing Resolution 1325 in Afghanistan include the following:
- Provide security to women running for parliament and other political leadership positions.
- Prosecute crimes against women.
- Prioritize gender concerns through consultation, not assumption.
- Link development and military aid to women’s priorities and provide aid directly to women, especially in civil society organizations, not to men.
- Finance women’s participation in negotiations, recovery and aid financing to ensure that the needs and concerns of women are adequately addressed
- Provide continued financial support for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and rural offices of the Department of Women’s Affairs.
- Involve tribal leaders in discussions with women’s groups working for recovery from past violent encounters.
Through such measures, women can become genuine partners in helping bring peace to Afghanistan.
Jennifer Freeman is the Program Officer for the Women PeaceMakers Program at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego. Dee Aker is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Peace and Justice and director of the Women PeaceMakers Program.