Women making a difference in peacebuilding

Improving women’s participation in peacebuilding processes helps strengthen women’s rights at community and national level, and make peacebuilding efforts more representative.

WHY: Organisation at the grass-roots, empowerment and capacity development must form the foundation for women’s involvement in peacebuilding. This needs to be accompanied by a strategy to facilitate women’s influence over existing peacebuilding structures and to increase the space for their participation within these.

HOW: Drawing on the programme components mentioned above, NCA has created space for women to meaningfully contribute to conflict resolution in their communities, supported them to gain skills and capacities in peacebuilding, facilitated their access to higher-level peacebuilding structures, and empowered them to participate in peacebuilding in a meaningful and influential way.

RESULTS: Women trained in peacebuilding skills participate in a meaningful and influential manner in peacebuilding structures at community, national and regional levels. After year one of the Peacebuilding programme, women are increasingly taking an active and influential part in peacebuilding structures following interventions that teach peacebuilding skills and facilitate space for active participation. These interventions empower the women to advocate for their rights, and to claim space for real influence and participation in peacebuilding processes.

Women in a REFLECT group trained in peacebuilding, Kidal. Photo: Itous Bacrene / Norwegian Church Aid, Mali.
Women in a REFLECT group trained in peacebuilding, Kidal. Photo: Itous Bacrene / Norwegian Church Aid, Mali.

In Mali, 436 women were trained in peacebuilding, and encounters were facilitated between women’s associations, religious leaders and peacebuilding structures. The local peace groups organised by NCA and partners, called EPRs, are one of the arenas for these women to participate in peacebuilding, as they make up an average of 22% of the groups’ members. Additionally, the groups help facilitate women’s broader participation in NCA’S PROGRESS REPORT TO NORAD 2016 - 17 peacebuilding in Mali. For example, the EPRs in the villages of Kidal and Anefif mediated in an upsurge in the traditional conflict between two community groups (Imrad and Ifoghas) which has spilled over into a conflict between two armed groups (GATIA and HCUA). This in turn contributed to worsened relations between the pro-unity Platform and the pro-independence Coalition at the national level. The conflict ignited the regions of Kidal, followed by Ménaka and Gao, and led to dozens of deaths and destruction of property. In collaboration with local women’s organisations, the EPRs mediated in the conflict by co-hosting a forum for 200 women from belligerent communities together with NCA staff and partners. Following the forum, the women made resolutions that together with other mediation efforts contributed to end the longlasting violent hostilities. The process culminated in the signature of a ceasefire agreement between the armed groups. NCA’s monitoring shows that this agreement has since been respected, and the population have resumed normal activities and mobility.

Supporting women’s mobility from grass root to regional and national level conflict mediation and peacebuilding is central to NCA’s programme in Afghanistan. Here, NCA and partners facilitate the participation of women in community and district Peacebuilding Shuras. These are traditional and partly formalised collaborative community conflict resolution structures where they develop their capacities on peacebuilding and have a platform to interact with ongoing peacebuilding efforts. The district level Peacebuilding Shuras are either allmale or all-female, while Peacebuilding Shuras at the community level are both single and mixed gender. In 2016, the women Peacebuilding Shuras resolved 40 community level conflicts concerning honor killings, child marriage, forced marriage, or other harmful customary practices. At the local political level, a woman from a Peacebuilding Shura facilitated parts of a peace process in Ashtarlai District, Daikundi Province, with the participation of an additional 20 women from Peacebuilding Shuras. Their recommendation that a commission be established to follow up the process of negotiations between government authorities and an armed opposition group was endorsed by consensus. At national level, women make up 23% of a religious actors for peace network with more than 460 members, with four women in leadership panels. Religious leaders’ support for women’s engagement in peacebuilding at this level is unprecedented.

Under the auspices of the NCA-RPP programme, the capacity of 26 women from 10 countries in the region was developed through participation in a regional training on peacebuilding and conflict transformation. This was part of a broader initiative ‘From Theory to Practice,’ which also supported the participants in developing contextually specific initiatives¨. In 2016, participants from Burundi, DRC, Kenya and South Sudan initiated trainings on peacebuilding, trauma healing, and gendered impact of violence, as well as GBV awareness raising initiatives for church services. This approach ensured that the impact of the initial training went beyond the initial 26 women, to include a further 1,102 women, 117 men and 34 youth.