Breaking Barriers to Advance Gender-Just Peace: WLP Co-convenes Women Peacemakers at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice

 

This fall WLP served as a co-convener for the international conference of peacebuilders, “Breaking Barriers: What it will take to achieve Security, Justice, and Peace,” held at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Other conference co-conveners included UN Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, and World Pulse. The conference, which marked the 10th anniversary of the Kroc Institute’s Women PeaceMakers Program, brought together 150 delegates from 48 countries – including U.N. officials, peace mediators, police and security officers, female peacekeepers, government officials, directors of national and international organizations, judges and attorneys, technical advisors, scholars and policy experts. During the three day conference, discussions, working groups, and workshops served to enhance and advance the knowledge and recommendations of international gender experts from across disciplines on issues addressing women, peace and security.
 
 
WLP served as the lead convener for the final day of the conference devoted to peacebuilding, in addition to contributing to other sessions and skills building workshops focused on security, justice, and women’s political participation. The first day of the conference, WLP Brazil/CEPIA President Jacqueline Pitanguy facilitated a workshop on engaging first responders to confront violence against women, based on her organization’s successful and innovative work with police and other security sector personnel in Brazil to advance gender justice. That evening WLP’s film “From Fear to Freedom: Ending Violence Against Women” was screened, which contributed to a lively discussion by the delegates during the conference’s opening dinner. On day two, WLP Jordan/SIGI-J General Coordinator Asma Khader served as a panelist during the plenary session on Justice. During the conversation Khader discussed the compounded challenges of transitional justice for women, drawing on her experience as a U.N. Special Investigator for Human Rights Abuses in Libya, in addition to strategies for advancing gender-justice during times of “peace,” including those used by Khader in her role as Secretary General of the National Commission for Women in Jordan.  
 
On the final day of the conference, WLP held the plenary panel discussion on peacebuilding, with contributions from WLP Lebanon/CRTD-A Executive Director Lina Abou Habib, WLP President Mahnaz Afkhami, WLP Brazil/CEPIA President Jacqueline Pitanguy, and Alice Nderitu, Commissioner of Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission. Abou Habib discussed how working in partnership with other women’s organizations, both regionally and cross-regionally, has strengthened and magnified her organization’s work, in particular CRTD-A’s efforts to advance women’s full rights as citizens through the Nationality Campaign. Pitanguy stressed the important of building alliances with other groups and movements working for peace and social justice, such as labor unions and democracy activists, but highlighted the need to ensure that these alliances do not set aside women’s rights and needs for “the right time.” Reflecting on the Brazilian movement for democracy that ultimately ended military rule, Pitanguy spoke of the need to be relentless in ensuring that women are in decision-making positions, that advancing women’s rights is absorbed by the movement as a whole, and that other groups don’t opportunistically use women while abandoning their cause. Nderitu shared inspiring examples of Kenyan women building peace despite having endured significant loss through recent violence, reaffirming women’s vital role in reshaping societies post-conflict. Finally, in closing the panel, Afkhami emphasized, that to build peaceful, just societies, it is not enough for women to “have a seat at the table,” but rather we must have a significant contribution to the conversation once we are at the table. To do that we need to expand our vision and our commitment to include a wider set of issues, and to approach these issues in a holistic manner while pressing for full gender equality 
 
 
During the final afternoon, WLP held two workshops. Lina Abou Habib facilitated a session on using the WLP manual Leading to Action in grassroots trainings to enhance women’s political participation skills, while WLP International’s Catherine Harrington facilitated a session on using social media for advocacy and political participation
 
Through these intense discussions held over the course of three days, the conference co-conveners and delegates developed a series of recommendations for achieving gendered security, justice, and inclusive peacebuilding. One of the key issues raised during the conference was “what do we mean by security?” As security is often defined quite differently by various stakeholders, the conference urged governments and inter-governmental organizations to adopt a Human Security framework, rather than a definition that emphasizes military and “national” security, placing the security of the government ahead of that of its citizens. In this manner, governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens from violence in the street and in the home, and to ensure that, in addition to protection from physical violence, they are secure in their basic human needs. The conference also called for commitments to women’s inclusion in peace and security to be fully implemented and regularly assessed. In addition to including women, security mechanisms must be gender-aware and should include a wide-range of stakeholders. As such, they will have a far greater chance of success. To advance justice for all members of society and combat impunity, the conference recommends that there be an increase in education regarding justice mechanisms to ensure that people know their rights. Justice mechanisms themselves must be more accessible and transparent, and must ensure that they are not resulting in further victimization. In sum, the conference urged all stakeholders to re-think security, justice, and peace, with a focus on advancing the human security of the majority of women, men, and youth.
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