Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding: new International Alert report

International Alert  just released a new report, Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding by Henri Myrttinen, Jana Naujoks, Judy El-Bushra. This report calls for a more nuanced understanding of the role gender plays in peacebuilding.

This report is part of a three-year research project by International Alert, Gender in Peacebuilding, aimed at deepening and expanding understanding on gender and peacebuilding, from a ‘relational’ perspective, addressing the links between gender and social relations. Focusing on Burundi, Colombia, Nepal and Uganda, the research examines four thematic focus on four areas of peacebuilding, and how these issues interrelate to peacebuilding and gender:

  • access to justice (including formal, informal, traditional and transitional justice);
  • economic recovery (especially of ex-combatants and of returnee populations of refugees, abductees or internally displaced persons (IDPs));
  • inter-generational tensions and conflict; and
  • permutations and continuum of violence (e.g. self-inflicted, interpersonal, domestic, sexual and gender-based, criminal, communal and political violence).

The findings of the research on Uganda, Renegotiating the ‘ideal’ society, were published last month. Research on Burundi, Colombia and Nepal will follow in the coming months.

Gender has long been recognized as a key factor in both violent conflict and peacebuilding, and is a common subject in academic and policy discussions. The importance of tackling sexual and gender-based violence is now widely acknowledged, as is the fact that men, women and sexual and gender minorities have different roles, experiences and vulnerabilities in conflict.

So why is ‘gender’ still so often used as shorthand for just ‘women and girls’? And why are women and girls so commonly treated as one homogenous group, with identical experiences? This kind of over-simplification not only excludes women from decision-making processes, but disregards their role in peacebuilding and violence. It is also not possible to truly understand the role played by gender in conflict and peace without bringing men – as men – into the analysis, and in particular examining men’s relationships to different forms of violence, both as perpetrators and as victims. The same goes for sexual and gender minorities, for whom conflict and post-conflict periods can be highly precarious but may also offer new spaces and opportunities in society.

Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding highlights the need for a ‘gender-relational’ approach. This means not just moving away from equating gender with only women and girls, but also examining the complex relationships between gender and other aspects of people’s identities, such as age, social class, sexuality, disability, ethnic or religious background, marital status and where they live. The field research showed numerous possibilities of what a gender-relational approach can mean in practice and highlight the complexities of addressing gender identities and dynamics and peacebuilding – at the personal, local, national and international level.

Some broad lessons for peacebuilding practice emerge from this research and are detailed in the report:

  • Understanding the context;
  • Identifying who to work with and how;
  • Identifying best ways of working;
  • Applying a gender-relational approach to different sectors and themes; and
  • Implications for organisational structures, policies and practices.

Source: International Alert

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