Peacemaking - Gender and peacemaking



Given the widespread and persistent popular association between women and peace, and the worldwide presence of women's peace movements, it is not surprising that we now have several large bodies of literature on women, war, and peace. These include histories and biographies of women's peace activism, collections of women's poetry, fiction, and other writings on war and peace, sociological and political studies on women's peace movements, the gender gap on peace issues, and women's roles in peace and war, grueling accounts of women's losses, sufferings, displacement, and subjection to torture, rape, and sexual slavery in situations of war and armed conflict. Also portrayed are inspiring accounts of women's creativity, intellectual brilliance, courage, daring, and solidarity in the use of nonviolent direct action or other techniques of resistance, and a wide variety of theories to explain and comprehend women's struggles to overcome violence and subjection and build peace.

It may seem surprising, however, to find that in all this wealth of theory and knowledge there is relatively little about women and the processes of peacemaking as such. Less surprising, but more troubling, is that there is even less on women and gender in the mainstream studies on peacemaking, suggesting that women's peace work remains nearly as invisible to scholars and experts in the academy as the male political and military establishments would like it to be in the arenas of "real world" conflict. Of course the reason for this invisibility is above all the practical exclusion of women from most of the official and even unofficial avenues of peacemaking. At peace talks for Burundi in Arusha, a delegation of women was not welcomed to participate—male delegates declared: "The women are not parties to this conflict. This is not their concern. We cannot see why they have come, why they bother us. We are here and we represent them." While these sentiments may not be so readily expressed aloud in other contexts, they are in fact all too common in practice. On a positive note, women have gained high-level positions in U.S. foreign relations, including Madeleine Albright as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. However, the number of women admitted to the sacrosanct premises of peace or cease-fire negotiations is minuscule, and the adage, "out of sight, out of mind," is all too accurate here. The women themselves, their proposals for peace, and their concerns with regard to peace settlements, are steadfastly relegated to the sidelines. Nonetheless, the multiple roles women play relative to settling conflicts and restoring peace are in fact highly important, sometimes decisive, and the gendered character of all wars and armed conflicts is central to a clear comprehension of the context and path to resolution.

There are a number of works that are especially valuable in this regard, including: Gita Sen and Caren Grown, Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions: Third World Women's Perspectives (1987), Betty A. Reardon, Women and Peace: Feminist Visions of Global Security (1993), and Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Women at the Peace Table: Making a Difference (2000). The latter, a publication of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), deals most directly with women's participation in peace movements during wars and conflicts and in the processes of negotiation and peacebuilding to end the conflicts and secure a sustainable peace with benefits not only for the "winners" but for women and people at the grassroots. Anderlini interviews women who have been engaged in the peace processes, including Hanan Ashrawi, and explores both the obstacles the women have faced and the importance of their contributions to the peace processes. Further research and analysis in this area are urgently needed.



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