You have probably heard by now about Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, the winners of this year’s prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. They are being recognised for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. This exceptional news is highly welcomed, as it will help to raise awareness and put an end to the horrific situation that many women and girls in conflicts have to go through. For years, women’s bodies have constituted part of the terrain of conflict, and sexual violence has been used as a deliberate military strategy aiming at damaging the social cohesion of the enemy’s community. A well-known case was the rape of more than 20,000 Muslim women and girls in Bosnia since the start of the fighting in 1992.
The use of sexual violence as a sexual weapon has been banned by International Law, both in the Rome Statute of 1998 and in the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008). It is a cruel and unacceptable practice and much effort is needed to end with the impunity surrounding this issue. However, when talking about women in conflict scenarios, much attention is paid to their condition as victims, and less common are the articles about the active and vital role that women play in such settings. In fact, when we talk about peace negotiations and peacebuilding, the image of conferences full of men signing treaties is the one that usually comes to our heads. But women have played decisive roles in many conflict and peacebuilding settings, and their importance needs to be recognised.
Among the many examples, significant is the case of Liberia, where women created a strong grassroots movement to pressure the fighting forces to end the conflict and ended up being crucial for the signature of the peace agreements of 2003. Likewise, in Kashmir women from different ideological positions have joined forces in a platform rejecting violence to find peaceful solutions to the conflict their society faces. Afghanistan is also a significant case where women have been instrumental in providing health and education to children under the Taliban rule and in refugee camps.
This list could keep going on for a while, since the participation of women as active agents of conflict and peacebuilding is undeniable. However, women continue to be excluded from the negotiation tables and formal peacebuilding institutions, even though their participation in these processes has proven to be decisive for the construction of a lasting peace. Julia Bacha has stated that nonviolent campaigns are 100 percent more likely to succeed than violent ones – and women are heading these peaceful campaigns. In sight of this, we believe that a bigger effort should be taken by the international community to promote the role of women and their inclusion at the main peacebuilding organs, assuring their participation at all stages of the conflict resolution and state reconstruction processes.
At JAN Trust, we acknowledge the importance of promoting women’s roles and their inclusion in the public sphere, encouraging their active participation at the decision-making level. That is why we work to empower marginalised women, as we recognise that they have the same rights as men to be active citizens in their communities and fully participate in the public debates of the society. With that goal in mind, our organisation provides free English classes and other services to BAMER women to encourage their personal development and integration in society.
If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.