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The Power of Women Organizing for Peace

New York, 30 October 2012

The Power of Women Organizing for Peace

By Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Members of GPPAC’s regional gender focal points are working across political diversities within their countries as well as at the regional context from North Asia, South Asia or the Pacific region and across the African continent.

GPPAC – the Global Partnership for the Prevention for Armed Conflict is therefore well positioned to link women’s peace activism to broader preventive and peacebuilding action whether it is academic or research led or media and political activism based says Visaka Dharmadasa, “What would help is a broad South Asia (gender) strategy.”

Since 2010 when a gender policy was officially adopted by the GPPAC a cadre of dedicated gender focal points bring their expertise into the core work of the global network which works in the areas of Dialogue and Mediation, Human Security Peace Education and Preventive Action such as within the development of the early warning action toolkit with gender indicators.

The “1325”week of the gender focal points focuses on specific advocacy on UNSC Resolution 1325 with a specific approach to the prevention and participation pillars of “1325”. The prevention element of the resolution relates to women’s roles in conflict prevention, in the text, but too often implementation is focused to only prevention of SGBV during conflicts and not in enhancing women’s agency as peacebuilders and this is why the focus on this year’s annual debate focuses well on local and regional perspectives on our collective approaches – we need to enhance the articulation of conflict prevention element of the resolution.

Today, even though GPPAC’s team of gender focal points in New York for the network’s annual “1325” week were unable to attend the scheduled UN Security Council Open Debate due to closures caused by Hurricane Sandy, a strategy meeting, clearly linked to the theme for the 12th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 “The Role of Women’s Civil Society Organisations in Contributing to Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding”.

It is clear that women’s peace networks are working at so many levels contributing to building and sustaining peace but as the UN Secretary General’s report on Women, Peace and Security to the Security Council states there is a need for a sustained range of measures can help increase women’s representation in peace processes: “…such as investments in mediation capacity-building for women leaders and provision of special security and childcare arrangements for participants. Alongside formal negotiations, women’s rights groups and activists seek to voice women’s concerns and priorities. It is critical to support those efforts and provide specific resources for women civil society leaders and women’s organizations, such as capacity-building in leadership, conflict analysis, and negotiation and communication skills.”

“Without sustained resources, women’s efforts cannot elevate or enhance their work beyond building our own networks,” suggests Marie Regine Rosine Poaty of the Congo as she explained the development of women’s action plans which are guides to gender mainstreaming provided to government departments and one strategy shared in the discussions.

The North East Asia’s Women’s Peace Conference has been a strategy to advance what was
known as the Women’s Six Party Talks according to Gyung Lan Jung who was a Coordinator of Korean women's peace delegation which visited 5 countries to hold the Women's Six Party Talks in 2007 and is a Coordinator of the Organizing Committee of the Northeast Asian Women's Peace Conference since 2009. She is a Chairperson of Policy Committee, Women Making Peace in Seoul, South Korea. She is also the codirector of the South Korean Committee for Implementation of the June 15th Joint Declaration between North and South Korea and the co-director of its Women's Division. She visited North Korea over 10 times including Pyongyang, Mt. Kumkang and Kaesung city for negotiations with North Korean women's group. She is also co-chair of the steering committee of the Civil Peace Forum. She finished Ph.D course at the University of North Korean Studies. She was a visiting scholar of The George Washington University(Sept.2008-Dec.2009) in Washington D.C. and graduated Korea University (BA and MA) in Seoul. She has authored or coauthored several publications about the women's peace movement and the situation of women in South and North Korea.

Since 1991, a group of women has been organizing conferences on “Peace in Asia and the role of Women”. These conferences brought together women from South Korea and North Korea for the first time since the division of Korea. In 1997, the South Korean organizing committee of these conferences created Women Making Peace. WMP conducts research on the conditions necessary for reunification, and presents policies from a feminist perspective towards this goal. It tries to facilitate women’s participation in activities concerning reunification, international affairs, peace and security. The organization provides training for peacemakers and leadership training for women. WMP also supports conflict resolution activities by other peace groups in international conflict areas. The aim of WMP is to realize reunification and peace on the Korean peninsula and to promote peace in the wider Asian region and throughout the world.

But a challenge remains changing the mindset that “1325” is about transforming the peace and security systems, and not simply about another women’s plan of action.

In the Philippines Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan (Memen) the Gender Focal Point for GPPAC Southeast Asia anchored in 2007 the formation of a regional women's network called the Asian Circle 1325 which is composed of women from IID's focus areas and member organizations from the South East Asia Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC-SEA) that advocates for the implementation of UNSCR 1325. She currently serves as a Council member of the Mindanao People's Caucus, a grassroots-people's organization that IID organized after the government's "all-out-war policy" in 2000. She is a member of a national network in the Philippines called Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE Act 1325).

Memen says that there is indeed a need for greater visibility of the women's potential and power to change their situation: (Too often the media) misses the point that there are also women who quietly, in the background, very low key or low profile do not get media attention, but are significantly involved in community affairs and are effective in peace building work.”

Recently Memen reflected on the recent historical signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro: “As a peace advocate, I want to celebrate this genuine milestone. For me there are five reasons why the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is commendable that can very well provide a good lesson to share to the rest of the world. It is not only because it clearly defines what needs to be done to finally end the on-and-off armed conflict in Mindanao and explicitly address the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people, but also because there are very striking features that need to be highlighted.”
The agreement she says reflects women’s proposals regarding the need for consideration and the welfare of the civilians and the greater majority of the poor and marginalized Bangsamoro but also because there are very striking features that need to be highlighted including the provisions on women and gender which are articulated under the section on Basic Rights:

“Specifically, the right of women to meaningful political participation, and protection from all forms of violence; and the right to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in social and economic activity and the public service, regardless of class, creed, disability, gender and ethnicity. Under the section on Normalization, another reference to women was made. To quote, “The Parties recognize the need to attract multi-donor country support, assistance and pledges to the normalization process. For this purpose, a Trust Fund shall be established through which urgent support, recurrent and investment budget cost will be released with efficiency, transparency and accountability. The Parties agree to adopt criteria for eligible financing schemes, such as, priority areas of capacity building, institutional strengthening, impact programs to address imbalances in development and infrastructures, and economic facilitation for return to normal life affecting combatant and non-combatant elements of the MILF, indigenous peoples, women, children, and internally displaced persons.” We know that any development program without the active participation of women and which do not make any impact on women’s lives is never sustainable. “

Localizing “1325” is therefore key to truly operationalizing the security council resolution we are in New York to commemorate as the UN Secretary General’s report recommends. That is a collaborative a review of national implementation of commitments on women and peace and security in order to see how the UN and member states strategies are linked to sub-national and regional levels, as well as integrating commitments on women and peace and security into legislation and policymaking and planning processes.

And he adds: “I (also) encourage regional security institutions both to continue strengthening operational tools (guidance, checklists, tracking frameworks, the setting of clear targets and timelines, and the establishment of baselines) and to reinvigorate political commitment, determination and conviction at the very highest levels. I have asked United Nations entities to increase coordination in the development of adequate and flexible gender-responsive monitoring and tracking systems, so that those systems are relevant at the country level, but can be reported on at the global level, including budget gender marker systems. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring the collection and analysis of sex and age-disaggregated data, particularly in United Nations-supported initiatives in the areas of short-term emergency employment, economic recovery and infrastructure investments, social service provision, including education and health services, mediation, negotiation, national dialogue and electoral processes, security sector reform, access to justice, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.”

To find out more about the work of GPPAC’s Gender Focal Points visit:

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Director: FemLINKPacific


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