Bringing Women into Conflict
Conflict Isn't Bad
Conflict is inevitable; violence is not. But people and communities usually lack the skills to respond to conflict constructively. Conflict isn't bad - it's simply a reflection of our differences. And when conflict is addressed positively, it can be a powerful tool for understanding, creative problem solving, and sustainable solutions.
But when conflict escalates into violence, all levels of society are affected. Violence becomes normalized and it's tacitly accepted as a legitimate solution. Where it persists, security, stability, and trust are scarce. This is particularly devastating to the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. They face exclusion, intolerance, abuse, and lack of access to resources. They also lack a voice to address the conflict itself.
Violence is often the root - or fruit - of emergent situations that demand humanitarian response: migration, displacement, natural disaster, diminishing resources, dogmatic differences, human rights violations, and political oppression. Equipping communities with effective responses to conflict can create resilience, curtail violence, and amplify aid efforts.
A key barrier to addressing this problem is the exclusion of critical actors (or shall we say actresses). Women are often ignored or actively discounted in community matters. But their involvement has been shown to have significant impact on developing successful processes and creating nonviolent spaces to prevent, transform, and heal conflict.
Women Make Things Happen
The Geneva Center for Security and Peace (GCSP) stresses that complex, volatile, and enduring conflicts demand more inclusive processes and increased representation of women globally.
The United Nations (UN) highlights ample evidence that women’s participation makes peace and security processes more inclusive, effective, and durable; in violent conflict, their efforts are indispensable in responding to the communities’ complex needs; and in humanitarian contexts, they’re essential in designing and delivering sustainable solutions.
The UN Secretary-General is strongly committed to women's leadership and participation in long-term conflict prevention, because “it is women who are often the first to pick up the pieces of shattered societies and broken relations, to pave the way to social cohesion and reconciliation.”
OECD explains that “increased investments in women’s leadership will have catalytic and multiplier effects,” because when we invest in women, women reinvest in their homes and communities. UNICEF states that increasing the voice and participation of women is a vital way to bring community-wide issues to legal and legislative reform. The UN cites ample evidence that women’s participation makes peace and security processes more inclusive, effective, and durable.
But while women’s participation is proven to enhance peace making, gender equality remains elusive. Cultural and systemic factors prevent their participation, and the UN is calling all to create the space for women to lead the change.
This represents a profound opportunity to invest in women’s conflict and leadership skills.
The Best Return on Investment
Women are change agents that could impact every sector - including health, education, politics, and infrastructure - and drive sustainable social, political, and economic change.
Training women in conflict competency skills has real world impact. These women have the potential to transform societies; shape policies of inclusion; bridge generational divides; reintegrate former combatants; prevent assassinations; reduce electoral violence; negotiate land rights; facilitate community dialogues; educate young leaders; reconcile fragmented communities; and empower vulnerable populations.
When conflicts escalate to violence, there are tremendous costs to society. The Global Peace Index estimates the economic impact of violence tops $14.8 trillion. Involving women in peace processes increases the probability that violence will end by 24%, and could reduce the global economic impact of violence by $3.5 trillion per year. (That math might be a little off, but it we're pretty sure it would still be a lot!)
The impact would not only transform communities; it would transform generations. When we invest in women, women reinvest in their homes and communities. They empower the next generation with conflict literacy, and future leaders will have the ability to respond to conflict constructively; to see the power of collaboration; to demonstrate an ability to listen; and to craft solutions collaboratively.
When women are trained with conflict skills, their contributions continue to transform their communities into more vibrant and inclusive societies, and create stability in times of uncertainty and change. These women will also equipping the next generation of leaders with peaceful approaches to conflict, to inoculate future generations from violence in times of uncertainty or crisis.