UK National Action Plan: GAPS Six Month Check-In

In January 2018 GAPS welcomed the UK Government’s latest, fourth National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. Exactly six months on, GAPS is launching the GAPS NAP Six Month Check-In, our response to the 2018-2022 NAP. The response outlines GAPS’s reflections both on the NAP itself and its implementation, including the ongoing development of the UK Government’s Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) plan.

GAPS remains encouraged by the process in developing the NAP, particularly the consultative nature of it. GAPS welcomes the cross-government approach, senior support and dedication of the team developing the NAP. GAPS believes that the omission of an MEL framework during drafting of the NAP was a missed opportunity, but is encouraged by discussions on its development since the launch and is looking forward to a robust NAP MEL framework. GAPS will continue to encourage the UK Government to increase funding for Women, Peace and Security and to support Women’s Rights Organisations, Women Human Rights Defenders, peacebuilders and Civil Society Organisations in Fragile and Conflict Affected States. GAPS will also continue to support the UK Government in strengthening its focus on the prevention pillar of Women, Peace and Security to move towards a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention.

UK National Action Plan: GAPS Six Month Check-In

In January 2018 GAPS welcomed the UK Government’s latest, fourth National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. Exactly six months on, GAPS is launching the GAPS NAP Six Month Check-In, our response to the 2018-2022 NAP. The response outlines GAPS’s reflections both Read More

Prioritise Peace: challenging approaches to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism from a Women, Peace and Security perspective

There has been a shift in recent years where Women, Peace and Security is increasingly discussed in the context of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE). This new GAPS paper assesses the impacts of this,  and makes recommendations to avoid women and girls being used as tools in P/CVE as well as the need to prioritise peace.

The paper demonstrates that current approaches to P/CVE do not take seriously the protection of women and girls’ rights, and are inconsistent with peacebuilding processes that promote social empowerment and reform to address the root causes of all forms of violent conflict. It makes recommendations for ways to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls, and to address underlying causes of conflict in a way that promotes gender equality.

thumbnail of GAPS report_Prioritise Peace – Challenging Approaches to P & CVE from a WPS perspective

Prioritise Peace: challenging approaches to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism from a Women, Peace and Security perspective

There has been a shift in recent years where Women, Peace and Security is increasingly discussed in the context of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE). This new GAPS paper assesses the impacts of this,  and makes recommendations to avoid Read More

Displacement and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Voices of Displaced Women in the KRI

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Women for Women International UK, the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and GAPS have released a new report: Displacement and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Voices of Displaced Women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

This report examines, and makes concrete recommendations for, women’s economic wellbeing and empowerment in the context of conflict-related displacement, focusing on livelihood needs and opportunities. It provides insights into how displacement has affected the position of women in the economic life of the family and community, and captures specific and contextualised aspects of women’s opportunities and barriers to empowerment from their perspective. The key contribution of this report is that it reflects the voices of displaced women in the KRI. Hear directly from women in the KRI in these videos: Alia; Shireen; Raja.

Download the full report

Download the Executive Summary

Displacement and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Voices of Displaced Women in the KRI

Women for Women International UK, the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and GAPS have released a new report: Displacement and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Voices of Displaced Women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This report examines, and makes concrete Read More

International Women’s Day 2018: Women building peace

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Women are systematically excluded from peace processes. Women’s rights are perceived as secondary, to be attained once peace has been brokered. This undermines the importance of women’s rights and gender equality, and precludes the opportunity for sustainable peace.

We recognise that the demand that women explain why their voices should be heard and what value they can bring undermines women’s fundamental right to equal participation; we should in fact be demanding explanations from those seeking to exclude women. We see this bias in GAPS’ question to the peacebuilders we are profiling for International Women’s Day, and our decision to keep the question is based on feminist practices of self-reflection and learning, and because of the many wonderful answers we received that deserve to be heard.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

1. Amna Abdul:

“When I think about peace and security, I am always looking at it through an intersectional gendered lens with the aim to understand what women’s experiences and roles are within it.”

2. Quhramaana Kakar:

“Peace for me is not only the absence of war but the prevalence of harmony and tranquility, and the provision of justice, access and equal opportunity for individuals and societies in their struggle to shape their own narrative and negotiate their own terms.”

3. Camila Marín Restrepo:

“Women within diaspora communities have been subjected to a double invisibility. In their countries of origin, many were exposed to exclusion in relation to political participation. Their migration beyond national borders has meant they now face further barriers when attempting to contribute to peacebuilding conversations taking place in their home countries.”

4. Amparo Restrepo:

“We are now determined to break the silence in order to have our voices heard and to demand that we are included in the process of post-conflict restructuring.”

5. Marwa Baabbad:

“Women shouldn’t be asked why their voices are valuable unless everyone else is asked the same question.”

International Women’s Day 2018: Women building peace

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their Read More

APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosts the UK Government’s annual report to Parliament in 2017

On Tuesday 19 December, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) and GAPS co-hosted the Government’s 2017 annual report to Parliament for 2017.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development presented their progress in implementing the 2014-2017 UK National Action Plan (NAP), the final report for the this NAP.

Baroness Fiona Hodgson of Abinger CBE, co-Chair of the APPG-WPS, opened the event. She emphasised that women’s voices must be heard and acted upon, and cited the consultations run by GAPS and its members as a particular highlight of 2017. Women’s rights organisations and women human rights defenders are doing vital and brave peacebuilding work. The consultations were an opportunity to bring their findings and recommendations to the UK Government’s policy-making processes.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (FCO) acknowledged the importance of ensuring women’s equal participation in post-conflict peacebuilding and restated the UK Government’s commitment to work in collaboration with and across departments as well as with civil society. Lord Ahmad drew attention to priority issues covered in the UK Government’s report, for example working with the United Nations to address sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers.

General Sir Gordon Messenger (MOD) highlighted the progress on WPS that has been made within the MOD and the British armed forces. The MOD is increasing the number of gender advisers in the British military, and will work towards the delivery of gender training pre-deployment and incorporating gender into training on the laws of armed conflict. General Messenger echoed Lord Ahmad on the frontline role that the UK must play to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. Finally, he outlined targets for women’s increased participation in the armed forces, for improved collaboration and information sharing within UK Government and for WPS to be mainstreamed into UK defence plans.

Matthew Wyatt (DFID) drew parallels between the UK’s work on WPS and the development process for DFID’s new Strategic Vision for Gender Equality, noting that gender-based violence is one of the most widespread human rights violations in conflict-affected contexts. DFID’s humanitarian work has pushed for awareness of the specific needs of women and girls and recognises that women’s participation in the design and implementation of humanitarian response is vital. Mr Wyatt also acknowledged the importance of tackling root causes of gender-based violence.

Helen Stawski (International Rescue Committee, Europe), presented findings from the report No Safe Place: A lifetime of violence for conflict-affected women and girls in South Sudan. This report was produced as part of the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) consortium. Ms Stawski highlighted that the international community’s focus is often on the perpetration of VAWG by armed actors yet the most common form of violence is intimate partner violence, and levels are shockingly high. The study found that levels of VAWG in South Sudan are as high as 65%, among the highest rates in the world. The report recommends that tackling VAWG should be central to all humanitarian response. There should be gender training for security personnel, and donors should ensure that funding is multiyear, accessible to in-country grassroots organisations and require collaboration with local women’s groups to support existing work and build local capacity. Furthermore, Ms Stawski recommended that programmes targeting VAWG should be integrated with those addressing long-term community-based peacebuilding.

Zarina Khan (GAPS) welcomed the presentation of the UK’s annual report as practice of an open and accountable government. Ms Khan presented the GAPS 2017 Shadow Report, which identifies areas of progress and concern. For instance, she highlighted the positive development of GAPS’ relationship with the cross-Whitehall WPS team and supported commitments made to changing internal cultures and attitudes on gender equality. On countering violent extremism, however, Ms Khan drew attention to the ways in which current practices are not in line with WPS principles, and noted that women and women’s rights advocates should have space to influence all UK Government decisions relating to peace and security. Finally, she challenged the UK Government on its support for Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, which is inconsistent with its commitments to peace. In Yemen the UK is falling short of its obligations to prevent the occurrence of violent conflict, undermining in the process its own humanitarian and WPS efforts.

Zarina Khan called for the UK Government to meet its ambitions not only by listening to the voices of women in conflict, but by acting on them too. The FCO-funded projects to consult with women’s rights organisations and women human rights defenders set an important and welcome precedent for the UK’s NAP development process. GAPS hopes to see this investment in women’s voices continue, and to see action on the recommendations from the consultations.

Jo Churchill MP, Chair of the APPG-WPS, closed the event by thanking all those who presented. She commended the UK Government for its collaboration with civil society actors, and called on the UK as a global leader on WPS to lead by example in providing the space and access necessary for women’s rights organisations to be involved in the design and evaluation of WPS policy and programming.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosts the UK Government’s annual report to Parliament in 2017

On Tuesday 19 December, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) and GAPS co-hosted the Government’s 2017 annual report to Parliament for 2017.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Read More

UK launches new National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Implementation of the new UK NAP must support the work of women building peace

Today the UK Government has released its fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (UK NAP) which sets the direction for the UK’s work on women’s rights, peacebuilding and conflict prevention from 2018 to 2022.

GAPS has been encouraged by the Government’s collaborative approach to informing this new UK NAP, and the increased commitment to hearing the voices of women’s rights organisations and human rights defenders in conflict-affected countries. With involvement of GAPS and its members, academia and Parliament, the Government has revised the UK NAP to ensure a more strategic and comprehensive approach to achieving the full realisation and protection of women’s rights and genuine, sustainable peace.

© Women for Women International

With this new UK NAP comes a recognition that, despite progress made on Women, Peace and Security globally, far more work is needed. “Creating a clear and evidenced strategy is an intensive task and we have been pleased to work closely with the Government to do so, but this is only the beginning,” says Zarina Khan, interim Director of GAPS. “The real test of this National Action Plan will be in its consistent implementation. This means not just listening to, but acting on women’s voices and taking seriously their concerns and ideas. It means dedicating meaningful resources to the work of women’s rights organisations and human rights defenders who are the on the frontlines of conflict, working to make their communities and countries safer and more peaceful in incredibly difficult circumstances.”

GAPS looks forward to continuing its work with Government and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security to ensure that the UK meets fully its commitments set out in the UK NAP, and that women and girls are truly at the heart of all efforts prevent and resolve conflict.

Read more about GAPS’ recommendations for the 2018-2022 UK NAP.

See what women’s rights activists in Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan think are the most pressing issues for the UK’s work on Women, Peace and Security.

You can access the 2018-2022 UK NAP here.

UK launches new National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Implementation of the new UK NAP must support the work of women building peace Today the UK Government has released its fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (UK NAP) which sets the direction for the UK’s work Read More

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2017

In this new report GAPS assesses the 2017 Annual Report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses progress in the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for building on this progress including for the new UK National Action Plan (NAP). In this report, GAPS looks at the UK’s work at the UN Security Council, its efforts to support women’s participation in international events, its role in the conflict in Yemen, and other key developments from this year. As the final shadow report for the 2014-2017 UK NAP on Women, Peace and Security, it also provides an overview of the UK Government’s reporting during the course of this NAP.

This report builds on and complements GAPS’ written submission Informing the new UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the summary report Women’s Voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and previous shadow reports for 2015 and 2016.

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2017

In this new report GAPS assesses the 2017 Annual Report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses progress in the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for building on this progress including for the new Read More

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: in conversation with Ambassador Melanne Verveer

On Tuesday 31 October, Ambassador Melanne Verveer joined the APPG on Women, Peace and Security and GAPS for a discussion on her work on Women, Peace and Security, and her hopes for creating meaningful change for women’s rights.

Baroness Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG, highlighted Ambassador Verveer’s extensive experience in Women, Peace and Security, spanning government, civil society and academia. Ambassador Verveer was the first ever US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, nominated by President Obama in 2009. In this role, she led the development of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Ambassador Verveer is now the Director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, working to enhance national and global security by championing the crucial role women play in peacebuilding and security.

Ambassador Verveer opened by describing her early involvement with Women, Peace and Security on the global stage. Ambassador Verveer pinpointed the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 as pivotal moments for the representation of women’s rights in international frameworks, especially relating to conflict affected and fragile settings.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Ambassador Melanne Verveer & Baroness Goudie

Ambassador Verveer paid tribute to the critical roles that women have played in peace processes, for example in Northern Ireland and Liberia. She expressed frustration at the underrepresentation and lack of documentation of women in peace processes, as this is needed to create a compelling evidence base that resonates with decision-makers. This is what the Georgetown Institute aims to achieve: bridging the silo between theory and practice to persuade decision-makers that Women, Peace and Security is the right framework to invest in and implement.

Ambassador Verveer feels the implementation of Women, Peace and Security is the most practical way to address conflict at the level of root causes. Effective implementation means not only strengthening the top-down approach at the levels of regional, national and local governance, but building capacity at the bottom as well. She articulated this as “heat at the bottom and heat at the top.” Women and women’s rights organisations are at the frontlines of change, and their perspectives and experiences are essential to developing approaches to end violent conflict and build peace. With this in mind, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has developed a Women, Peace and Security Index to offer a comprehensive measure of women’s inclusion, justice and security in 153 countries.

Questions from the floor discussed the importance of women’s movements and networks, and how resourcing and support for women’s rights organisations is essential to enabling change. Responding to a question on the need for a greater focus on preventing conflict and violence against women, Ambassador Verveer noted the relevance of international frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as complementary to the WPS agenda.

Finally, a question from Women for Peace and Participation asked about the major challenges that women still face in accessing the negotiating table, for example in Afghanistan. Ambassador Verveer’s response, drawn from her past experiences, stated that the peace and security architectures still resist the representation of women and women’s rights. Addressing these structural barriers means pushing back on the conventional wisdom that putting women’s rights on the agenda means you will not get a peace agreement.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: in conversation with Ambassador Melanne Verveer

On Tuesday 31 October, Ambassador Melanne Verveer joined the APPG on Women, Peace and Security and GAPS for a discussion on her work on Women, Peace and Security, and her hopes for creating meaningful change for women’s rights. Baroness Hodgson, Read More

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Families For Freedom event

On Wednesday 11 October, the APPG Friends of Syria and APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosted an event with Families For Freedom – a women-led campaign for the rights of all detainees in Syria. They call for the issue of detainees to be treated as a humanitarian priority, separate from political and military bargaining. Their three main demands are as follows:
1) The right to know the fate of detained and disappeared people;
2) Detainees’ right to decent living conditions and freedom from torture and abuse;
3) The abolition of exceptional courts, especially Military Field Courts.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, co-chair of the APPG on Women, Peace and Security, briefly outlined the use of arbitrary detention and abuse and torture of detainees in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian Network of Human Rights has recorded more than 117,000 detainees, but some estimates place the number as high as 215,000. Amnesty International has reported that as many as 13,000 people, mostly civilians, were hanged in secret at one prison over a period of five years. Human Rights Watch revealed that at least 6,786 people have died in detention because of torture and abuse. Detention and disappearances affect not only the detainees, but also families left for years with no certain knowledge of their fate. Survivors of detention, and their families, suffer lifelong consequences.

Baroness Hodgson introduced three speakers from Families For Freedom: Amina, Noura and Ghada. Amina experienced detention herself, and three of her brothers were forcibly disappeared in 2011. Amina spoke about the origins of Families For Freedom’s campaign in Geneva, and appealed to the UK media to raise awareness about detainees in Syria, including the circumstances of their arrest and detention. Amina highlighted that the women of Families For Freedom have to struggle against gendered community pressures in order to be able to do their work. She described Families For Freedom as a “revolution against tyranny and traditions.”

Noura, a human rights lawyer and activist for women’s rights, recently learned that her husband Bassel Khartabil, detained in 2012, was executed. She spoke of her personal experience of being denied visiting rights to, and then all communications from, her husband. Noura expressed frustration at the inaction from the international community on Syria’s detained and disappeared. “We appreciate solidarity,” she said, “but we need action.” Ghada sees Families For Freedom as a means to feel stronger together. Since her husband’s detention, Ghada has been determined to spread the message about unjustifiable detention: “I feel very strong, because I have a message, and I have learnt that I always have to talk about it.” Families For Freedom has helped her to do this.

Laila Alodaat, Programme Manager for Crisis Response at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), spoke on consultations that WILPF and Amnesty International UK ran in conjunction with GAPS. The consultations were held to inform the new UK National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security, but they have wide-ranging recommendations on support for women’s rights and women’s rights organisations that have application beyond a NAP. Women’s civil society organisations have the largest impact in their communities, but they are limited by a lack of financial and technical support. Women’s participation is also essential for the Syrian peace processes. The women from Families For Freedom, active community leaders working for peace, are excluded from the negotiating table. For this to change, the international community needs to start asking how the conflict in Syria is impacting women differently. This needs to be documented and implemented in policies to have accountability.

Baroness Hodgson thanked the speakers for bringing the situation of detention and forced disappearance to the attention of this audience, and for sharing such difficult personal stories. The event was also a powerful reminder of the specific barriers that women’s rights organising faces in the context of conflict, and that the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda still has far to go to be fully realised.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Families For Freedom event

On Wednesday 11 October, the APPG Friends of Syria and APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosted an event with Families For Freedom – a women-led campaign for the rights of all detainees in Syria. They call for the issue Read More

Somali Women’s Voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This video presents a summary of the findings from the consultation in Somalia which took place in March 2017. The consultations were led by GAPS member Saferworld, and two of Saferworld’s local partners and established women’s rights groups: the Somali Women Development Centre (Mogadishu) and the Somalia Women Solidarity Organisation (Kismayo). The overarching theme from these consultations is that women are politically absent from decision making.

Somali Women’s Voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This video presents a summary of the findings from Read More

Syrian Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. GAPS members Amnesty International UK and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom supplemented funds from the UK Government to run the Syria Response consultations in Turkey and Lebanon, alongside Women Now for Development. This report reflects analysis by women’s rights activists of the barriers and challenges around WPS, as well as recommendations that will inform the development process of the next UK National Action Plan on WPS.

Syrian Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. GAPS members Amnesty International UK and Women’s International Read More

Afghan Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This report presents a summary of the findings from the consultation in Afghanistan which took place in February 2017. The consultations were led by Women for Women International UK and Medica Afghanistan. The recommendations in this report are direct outcomes from the consultation, proposed by participants, and cover the following: violence against women; access to justice & NGO services; access to funding for women’s rights; support for women human rights defenders; women’s participation; and recommendations for institutions, security, justice and legal frameworks.

Afghan Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This report presents a summary of the findings Read More

Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: Summary Report

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and activists on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. The aim is to bring these women’s voices directly to the decision-makers, to ensure that the next, fourth UK NAP on WPS (2018-2021) is firmly grounded in the realities that women face. The consultations were conducted in 2017, in four of the UK’s WPS focus countries/contexts: Myanmar, Somalia, Afghanistan, and in Turkey and Lebanon for the Syria Response. This summary report highlights the key findings from the consultations, setting out the many common priorities that women working for peace and security face in such challenging circumstances.

On Wednesday 5 July 2017, the APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosted the event “Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security” in the Houses of Parliament. This event presented the findings from the reports and the accompanying videos to an audience of civil society, parliamentarians, policy makers and academics. It was a chance to hear the stories of women human rights defenders, to learn about the life-saving and tireless work that they do to protect the rights of women and create peace for their societies, and to hear from them what action can truly help to make a difference to their lives. Speakers at the event included GAPS Director Zarina Khan, representatives from GAPS members Saferworld, Amnesty International UK, and Women for Women International UK, as well as Lord Ahmad, Minister of State at the FCO and Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The event was chaired by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, co-Chair of the APPG on WPS.

Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: Summary Report

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and activists on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. The aim is to bring these women’s voices directly to the Read More

GAPS Submission: Informing the new UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

This submission provides GAPS’ views on the current 2014-2017 NAP, and uses analysis and lessons learned to recommend strategic objectives for inclusion in the 2018-2021 NAP. It builds on previous GAPS documents which include analysis of and recommendations for the UK’s work on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). These findings are intended to complement the findings of our FCO-GAPS country consultations.

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GAPS Submission: Informing the new UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

This submission provides GAPS’ views on the current 2014-2017 NAP, and uses analysis and lessons learned to recommend strategic objectives for inclusion in the 2018-2021 NAP. It builds on previous GAPS documents which include analysis of and recommendations for the UK’s Read More

Experts’ Meeting: Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda – Chairs’ Summary

One year after the conclusions of the UN’s High Level Review on Women, Peace and Security, we, along with the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and Women for Women International (UK) held a series of roundtables on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work. This Chairs’ Summary outlines the Experts’ recommendations.

Experts’ Meeting: Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda – Chairs’ Summary

One year after the conclusions of the UN’s High Level Review on Women, Peace and Security, we, along with the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and Women for Women International (UK) held a series of roundtables on Sexual Violence Read More

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2016

In this new report GAPS welcomes the 2016 annual report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for the upcoming new UK National Action Plan (NAP).

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2016

In this new report GAPS welcomes the 2016 annual report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for the upcoming new UK National Action Plan (NAP).

Three years too many: the impact of conflict for women and girls in South Sudan

As the civil war in South Sudan enters into its fourth year, the levels of displacement, insecurity and violence are reaching unprecedented levels. The majority of the displaced are women and girls, who continue to bear the brunt of thed armed conflict. More is needed from the international community to achieve safety, protection, empowerment and long-lasting peace for women and girls in South Sudan. In line with its commitments to WPS, we urge the UK government to immediately undertake the recommendations outlined in this paper.

Three years too many: the impact of conflict for women and girls in South Sudan

As the civil war in South Sudan enters into its fourth year, the levels of displacement, insecurity and violence are reaching unprecedented levels. The majority of the displaced are women and girls, who continue to bear the brunt of thed Read More

Putting Women at the Heart of Bringing Peace to South Sudan

Shaheen Chughtai reports back from a recent conversation at the UN

Once in a while, the shroud of coded, diplomatic language that envelops discussions at the United Nations Security Council is ripped away by reality. On 25th October, it was the words of a women’s rights activist from conflict-ridden South Sudan, Rita Lopidia, which gripped the chamber.

“I meet many South Sudanese women, and the stories they share with me are heartbreaking,” Lopidia told the UN Secretary General and assembled diplomats. They had gathered to review progress and challenges in promoting women’s rights and roles in conflict contexts: a theme known as Women, Peace and Security.

“A woman in Bentiu, Unity State told me recently, ‘I have been raped several times, but I still have to go out, what option do I have? I still have to find food for my children.

On a lucky day, I go out and nothing happens. On a bad day, I go out and I am raped’.”

The civil war in South Sudan – where the UK is deploying 400 peacekeeping personnel – has had catastrophic impacts since it erupted in December 2013. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured. More than 2.6 million people are displaced, most of them women and girls. Those still inside South Sudan face increased threats of sexual assault, abduction and exploitation among other dangers.

But this isn’t a tale of victims and governments left powerless and static in the face of unstoppable atrocities. Starting from the ground up, local women and men in South Sudan are striving to bolster national and regional efforts to build peace. This is crucial because the key to ending violence and abuse is ending the war itself. To be successful, peace efforts should be based on a rigorous analysis of the causes of conflict that takes into account regional dynamics, and no-one understands those causes and dynamics better than local people and organizations.

Lopidia herself had just travelled from Nairobi where, along with South Sudanese and global partners, she convened a peace dialogue with representatives of the Transitional Government, local and global women’s groups, faith-based organizations and academia. They called on South Sudan’s leaders to rise above tribal feuding and help build a broader-based national identity and politics.

Such inclusive initiatives, in which women have an influential say, are crucial. From Liberia to Northern Ireland, growing evidence from around the world shows that when women take an active part in peace processes, agreements are more likely to be reached and last longer. Women’s participation in South Sudan talks has been very limited to date – but this missed opportunity is something the international community, including the UK, can help change.

The UK has already taken several important and positive actions. These include contributing humanitarian aid, and strengthening its role in UNMISS, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan – some of whose personnel have been implicated in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. The UK has also been pushing for a credible peace process. But with the humanitarian situation deteriorating and peace proving elusive, more is required from the UK and its international partners.

The UK should fulfil as quickly as possible recent proposals that at least six percent of its peacekeepers deployed to South Sudan, and 15 percent of other UK personnel such as police officers, would be female. Such deployments help make UNMISS more responsive and accessible to women and girls.

More efforts are needed not just to prevent sexual violence from happening but to ensure justice and accountability when it does. This should include tougher measures to deter sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers, as well as ensuring that victims of such crimes are recognised and justice is served – including by the special hybrid criminal court proposed by the African Union to try war crimes in South Sudan.

And crucially, more support is needed for local women’s rights organisations and advocates: not only in their efforts to help women and girls recover from the trauma and deprivations caused by conflict, but also in making sure that – from discussions within communities to national peace talks– women have an influential voice.

Sixteen years ago this week, the first UN Security Council resolution to specifically address the rights and roles of women and girls in conflict was adopted. Since then, the UK has become a global champion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. At the Security Council last week, the UK’s envoy to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, urged the international community to live up to its pledges.

“Words in this Council aren’t enough,” said Rycroft. “Commitment means action every day throughout the year.”

For activists such as Rita Lopidia as well as women and girls from South Sudan to Syria, Afghanistan to Yemen, such international leadership and resolve to act remains as urgent and essential as ever.

Ends

Shaheen Chughtai co-chairs the policy working group at Gender Action on Peace and Security, based in London.  Rita Lopidia is the co-founder and executive director of Eve Organisation for Women Development, an NGO in South Sudan. Both Chughtai and Lopidia represented the New York-based NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security at the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security in New York on 25 October.

Putting Women at the Heart of Bringing Peace to South Sudan

Shaheen Chughtai reports back from a recent conversation at the UN Once in a while, the shroud of coded, diplomatic language that envelops discussions at the United Nations Security Council is ripped away by reality. On 25th October, it was Read More

GAPS has a New Home

GAPS is delighted to join our new host and long term member Women for Women International UK and their fantastic team.  Together we hope to build on our strong foundation to make strides on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Please follow GAPS and Women for Women International UK on twitter.

Brita Fernandez-Schmidt, Executive Director of Women for Women International UK and new Chair of the GAPS Management Committee said “It is an absolute pleasure for GAPS to join our team at Women for Women International UK. I have loved being a part of GAPS growth whilst on the Management Committee and am delighted we will be working even more closely to support the UK in achieving its Women, Peace and Security commitments and, most importantly, seeing real change for the lives of women and girls affected by conflict.”

GAPS has a New Home

GAPS is delighted to join our new host and long term member Women for Women International UK and their fantastic team.  Together we hope to build on our strong foundation to make strides on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Please Read More

Next Steps for the New, Forward Looking NAP 2018+

GAPS has developed feedback on the UK’s midline evaluation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP).  This will feed into the UK’s development of it’s upcoming NAP: NAP 2018+. For the full document please click here.

Next Steps for the New, Forward Looking NAP 2018+

GAPS has developed feedback on the UK’s midline evaluation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP).  This will feed into the UK’s development of it’s upcoming NAP: NAP 2018+. For the full document please click here.

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

Following the publication in December of the UK government’s annual Report to Parliament on its progress against the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (UK NAP), GAPS has today published its shadow report Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015. The shadow report draws on the expertise of GAPS member organisations, as well as the inputs of civil society in conflict-affected countries through a survey of women’s rights organisations in the six focus countries of the UK NAP: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Libya, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria.

The report commends the UK government for its work to promote Women, Peace and Security on the international decision-making stage, including through the commitments it made at the High-level Review of 1325 in October last year. Looking ahead to 2016, GAPS calls on the UK government to continue to demonstrate its role as a leader on the Women, Peace and Security agenda on the global stage at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

Further still, the UK must do more to go beyond undertaking a series of actions on this agenda, and commit unwavering support for women’s meaningful inclusion, backed up by much needed resources and institutional systems. As champion governments such as Sweden affirm their commitment to ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’, GAPS calls on the UK government to step up and commit to the following minimum standards of engagement on Women, Peace and Security through its own planning, activities, reporting and accountability processes:

  1. Affirm that comprehensive action across the Women, Peace and Security agenda is a UK government priority, with women’s human rights at its core.
  2. Ensure the meaningful participation of women from conflict-affected contexts in all related UK-hosted peace, security, and development talks, and call for women’s meaningful engagement in those hosted by other countries.
  3. Guarantee that the UK government’s Women, Peace and Security plans can be resourced and implemented – earmarking finances for this agenda, tracking spending through gender markers in wider development, humanitarian and stabilisation funding, and through a dedicated budget for the NAP.
  4. Guarantee consultation of women’s rights organisations and local civil society in the design and review of UK Women, Peace and Security objectives and ensure that the views of women and girls and their reflections on new and emerging issues are integrated in UK government planning.
  5. Commit to strengthen transparency with an open book on the UK’s progress against Women, Peace and Security commitments including clear monitoring and reporting processes.

 

You can download the report here.

thumbnail of GAPS-Shadow-Report-Assessing-UK-Government-Action-on-WPS-in-2015

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015 Following the publication in December of the UK government’s annual Report to Parliament on its progress against the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Read More

GAPS Newsletter: July 2018

Events

FiLiA Feminist Conference 2018

20-21 October 2018
Salford, Greater Manchester

The FiLiA 2018 conference brings together sisters taking down patriarchy, fighting injustices across the world, fighting violence towards women, pay disparity, discrimination against refugees, racism, classism.

What’s feminism got to do with it?

Thursday 6 September 2018, 09:30-15:00
School of Economic Science, 11 Mandeville Place, London, W1U 3AJ

Join The Women’s Resource Centre at this London-focused event to explore feminism’s role in civil society and tackling violence against women and girls.


Calls for participation and opportunities

Call for Evidence – “Beyond Consultations” Project

GAPS, Women for Women International, Saferworld, Amnesty UK and Womankind Worldwide are conducting a research study titled “Beyond Consultations” looking at what constitutes meaningful participation/engagement with women human rights defenders and organisations, and how ongoing dialogues and one-off consultations can be done in fragile and conflict-affected states. The project will produce toolkits for meaningful consultation and analysis. We are really interested in your help to support a call for evidence of good practice examples where meaningful participation and consultations with women in FCAS has been done well and resulted in positive outcomes for the community. Please share examples of toolkits, guidance, frameworks, approaches or any other resources that governments, donors and INGOs in FCAS have used to listen to or meaningful connect with women they seek to support through their policy and advocacy work by Friday 31 August. Please contact Frances (frances@paperboat.org.uk) if you would like to speak to anyone in more detail about the research or if you have more valuable insights to share and would like to be more involved in the project.

Gender with Age Marker Training

You are invited to a practical session to learn about and use the revised Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Gender with Age Marker which will be facilitated by a trainer from GenCap at Plan International UK offices.

Please email Keren Simons (keren.simons@plan-uk.org) to register for either of the following sessions on Monday 6 August 2018: Session 1, 09:30-12:30; Session 2, 14:00-17:00.

Global Network of Women Peacebuilders – Sustaining Peace

Join the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) survey on sustaining peace in 15 countries: Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Burundi; Canada; Colombia; Liberia; Libya; Mali; Mexico; the Philippines; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Sweden; Syria; Ukraine.

This is a unique opportunity to bring local women’s voices, perspectives and experiences to the global policy discussions and on-the-ground work to achieve Sustainable Peace.
Provide your responses by Friday 31 August 2018.

Gender & Development Journal

The Gender and Development journal is seeking contributions for its next edition examining the theme of humanitarian action and crisis response through the lens of gender equality and women’s empowerment. This edition will be co-edited by UN Women in collaboration with its Humanitarian Action and Crisis Response Office.

Please send a paragraph outlining your proposal for an article in an email (no attachments) to Caroline Sweetman (csweetman@oxfam.org.uk) by 30 September 2018.


Research and resources

Written submission to Foreign Affairs Committee on FCO’s human rights work

Read the written evidence from Amnesty International UK, including on behalf of GAPS, submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry.

Gender inclusion and peacebuilding

Conciliation Resources has launched two reports on the importance of gender inclusion to peacebuilding and how international and national actors can support it effectively. The report “Inclusion of gender and sexual minorities in peacebuilding” draws on case studies from Colombia and Nigeria and explores the barriers to, and benefits of, meaningful participation of gender and sexual minorities in peace processes. The report “Gendered political settlements” explores how gender inclusion is negotiated in elite-led peace processes and political settlements based on the analysis of three contexts: Bougainville, Nepal and Colombia.

Critical assessment of Afghanistan’s NAP

The Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organisation has published its assessment examining progress toward implementing Afghanistan’s NAP with a focus on the budgeting process for implementation.

Gender & Development Journal

The July 2018 issue of Gender and Development focuses on information and communications technologies (ICTs) from the perspective of women’s rights and gender justice.

WPS training resources

Inclusive Security have launched an expanded set of free online training resources on Women, Peace and Security available here.

Women as peacebuilders in Yemen

This research on women, conflict and peacebuilding in Yemen sought to build a detailed local picture of how women are affected by conflict and how they are engaging in conflict prevention, peace and stability activities to make recommendations for how external actors can provide support. The research was implemented by Social Development Direct with the Yemen Polling Centre and funded by the UK’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund.


Jobs

Womankind Worldwide:

Philanthropy Manager, apply by Tuesday 7 August

Policy & Programmes Officer, apply by Wednesday 8 August

Director of Policy & Communications, apply by Sunday 19 August

Women for Women International UK:

Fundraising & Marketing Assistant, apply by Sunday 5 August

Director – Women for Women International DE, based in Germany, apply by Sunday 19 August

Saferworld:

Yemen Programme Manager, apply by Sunday 5 August

Yemen Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Adviser, based in Yemen, apply by Sunday 12 August

Partnerships Development Manager, based in South Sudan, apply by Wednesday 22 August

International Rescue Committee:

Project Manager, apply by Monday 6 August

ActionAid UK:

Project Manager: Programme Quality & Assurance Procedures Development, apply by Thursday 2 August

Plan International UK:

Policy & Advocacy Advisor: Humanitarian, apply by Monday 20 August

Public Affairs Officer, apply by Monday 13 August

Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Specialist, apply by Monday 6 August

World Vision UK:

Senior Child Protection Programmes Adviser, apply by Friday 24 August

Oxfam:

Gender Team Leader, based in Bangladesh, apply by Monday 6 August


GAPS and the APPG-WPS

GAPS provides the Secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS). The APPG-WPS holds several events each year that explore the situation for Women, Peace and Security around the world through thematic or country focuses. If you would like to be notified of upcoming events through the APPG-WPS, please inform us at appg-wps@gaps-uk.org.

GAPS Newsletter: July 2018

Events FiLiA Feminist Conference 2018 20-21 October 2018 Salford, Greater Manchester The FiLiA 2018 conference brings together sisters taking down patriarchy, fighting injustices across the world, fighting violence towards women, pay disparity, discrimination against refugees, racism, classism. What’s feminism got Read More

Women building peace: Marwa Baabbad

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

Marwa Baabbad is a Yemeni researcher and Visiting Fellow at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, with a specific interest in the current conflict and the security sector. Marwa previously worked as a development professional with Saferworld in Yemen, where she led on gender, peace and security and youth projects in Yemen, Egypt, Libya and neighbouring countries to Syria. Marwa was also a member of the Youth Consultative Group for the UNDP’s 2016 Arab Human Development Report. Marwa attained a Masters degree in Post-war Recovery Studies from the University of York as a Chevening scholar.

  1. What do peace and security mean to you?

When I think of peace, the first thing that comes to mind is “inner peace” as I see it as the grounding base that can spread to all its surrounding and beyond.

Beyond the absence of conflict, to me peace is an opportunity of growth, and security is about the ability to take actions knowing that one is protected and that one’s safety and rights won’t be compromised by domestic and/or external actors.

  1. Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?

Everyone’s voice is important and of added value for peace to be reached, and security to be granted and sustained. Women shouldn’t be asked why their voices are valuable unless everyone else is asked the same question. However, women’s inclusion is important for the following reasons.

Firstly, diaspora women bring a distinct voice to the peace and security agenda, linking grassroots knowledge with diaspora expertise they often carry a holistic, long-term approach to the agenda. Secondly, it is good practice for male policy-makers to provide safe platforms for women to raise their agendas and the way they would like to see change happen for everyone without being told that their issues are not a priority. Thirdly, women do not only react to crises, but they are leading actors on security-related issues at the local levels. Finally, women’s participation doesn’t undermine men’s contributions in the policy-making process. Rather, it enriches the discussions with a wider range of perspectives and to ensure the inclusion of all voices in any due process.

  1. What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?

Since I moved to the UK, I have been focused on research and advocacy related activities. I combine the field knowledge and networks I developed through working on Gender, Peace and Security and Youth and Peacebuilding with the access I currently have to policy-making circles. I try to amplify and reflect the voices of the Yemenis – mainly local civil society organisations – as many feel unheard and struggle between responding with programmes they see as necessary and the type of funding available from donors. Through participating in public events and joining policy meetings, I try to showcase the positive work of local civil society organisations and advocate for their voices to be heard and their perspectives to be taken into consideration when allocating funds for Yemen. I also work on talking to local NGOs and help them understand the way policy is driven internationally so they can improve their advocacy and outreach strategies.

Selected publications:

• “Women nowadays do anything.” Women’s role in conflict, peace and security in Yemen. Saferworld, Carpo and Yemen Polling Center. June 2017.

• Two years on: The Complexity of Yemen’s Conflict. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. 22 March 2017.

• “It’s dangerous to be the first”: Security barriers to women’s public participation in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Saferworld. October 2013.

Women building peace: Marwa Baabbad

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, Read More

Women building peace: Camila Marín Restrepo

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

Camila Marín is the daughter of political refugees from Colombia. She has conducted research on the phenomenon of Colombian migration to London for the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (TMRC) and throughout her Masters in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL.

  1. What do peace and security mean to you?

Although high-level peace processes are hugely important for reducing violence and garnering international support, their effects are limited if the root causes of social and political inequality are ignored. Peace cannot exist where grave social and economic injustices continue to mark the daily lives of a population. Peace cannot exist when people feel unable to contribute to political changes or live in fear for expressing their beliefs. Peace cannot exist where marginalised communities are being displaced to make way for large-scale economic projects or when their environments are being polluted. I see peace as a long and arduous path with no finish line; a process where dialogue becomes the primary tool to resolve problems as opposed to violence.

In my opinion, security is both a pre-requisite and a consequence of peace. Governments must provide adequate security provisions to all actors involved in the transition to a peaceful society to ensure that the cycle of violence is broken. Security must also be provided to those who dedicate their lives to the defence of human rights, even when their declarations are not in the government’s economic interests. Since the Colombian peace process was signed in late 2016, over 205 human rights leaders have been killed. Although massive steps have been made towards ending the conflict on Colombia, if this current trend is allowed to continue any longer, the future of the peace process will become even more opaque.

  1. Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?

Women’s testimonies are crucial in terms of providing a holistic understanding of what happened during a conflict. Not only have women’s bodies been used as sites of war, they have been used as tools of war through their active participation. In addition, women play hugely important roles in the aftermath of conflict, which is evident in their strong presence in civil society initiatives and their ability to exert influence over the identities of following generations.

However, women within diaspora communities have been subjected to a double invisibility. In their countries of origin, many were exposed to historic exclusion in relation to political participation for the sole fact that they are women. Additionally, their migration beyond national borders has meant that they now face further barriers when attempting to contribute to peacebuilding conversations taking place in their home countries.

Despite this political exclusion, women from diaspora communities continue to provide economic support through remittances which play an important role in economic development. They also possess an untold number of skills and lived experience that can guide effective policy-making. Testimonies from diaspora women can contribute non-judicial accounts of conflict that not only shine light on the pain and loss experienced, but more importantly, on their future hopes and methods of resilience.

  1. What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?

For the past year and a half, I have been part of the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (TMRC), an initiative backed by Conciliation Resources that began in London and has now spread to cities such as Barcelona, Brussels and Stockholm. The TMRC arose during the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC to empower Colombian women in the diaspora to actively participate in the peace process, whilst documenting the impacts of war and migration from a gendered perspective, and healing possible traumas relating to the armed conflict.

The TMRC has provided us with a sense of real community, an aspect that many have lost throughout the armed conflict and the subsequently isolating process of migration. Given that my family were forced to flee Colombia for political reasons, I was denied the possibility of growing up there; through the TMRC, I have been able to experience that Colombian essence that I was deprived of throughout the course of my life. Moreover, it has provided me with tangible skills that allow me to contribute positively to conversations on the post-conflict reconstruction of a country that I hold so dearly and to be part of that collective voice that is working towards ensuring that people are no longer expelled or assassinated for thinking differently.

Women building peace: Camila Marín Restrepo

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their Read More

Women building peace: Amparo Restrepo

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

Amparo Restrepo is a poet, mother of three children and co-founder of one of the first Colombian refugee associations in London. She has lived in exile for over three decades and participates in the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (TMRC).

  1. What do peace and security mean to you?

Peace and security have a great significance to me because where they are absent, war and chaos will be present. War and chaos are destruction, devastation, violence and blood. Peace is stability, tranquillity, trust, joy and much more. Security is complementary to peace; there is no peace without security and vice versa. Peace with social justice should be fought for, in Colombia and everywhere else.

  1. Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?

For decades, voices of women in the Colombian diaspora were shrouded in silence. Women like me, who fled from Colombia, were struggling with traumas of war, trying very hard to adapt to a new way of life in a different country, taking care of our children without speaking the language, not understanding the education system and lacking self-esteem. Nowadays – with the Commission of Truth, Memory and Reconciliation of Colombian Women in the Diaspora across London, Barcelona and Stockholm – we have become transnational messengers promoting peace and security, two hugely important pillars of any democratic society.

For us women in the Colombian diaspora, the construction of democracy and peace in Colombia has become an important task. We are now conscientious of the need to join the effort to ensure Colombia becomes a secure country, for our families and for ourselves if we choose to return; our voices are becoming stronger in order to enforce radical social changes in favour of stability, security, democracy and peace for all. We are now determined to break the silence in order to have our voices heard and to demand that we are included in the process of post-conflict restructuring.

  1. What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?

I am an active member of the Commission for Truth, Memory and Reconciliation of Colombian Women in the Diaspora based in London. Having already shared my testimony of the human rights abuses I suffered in Colombia, I have been involved in empowering other women to share their stories so that we can begin to search for truth whilst constructing the collective memory of the civil war, starting the process of reconciliation in our community and thus prevent the repetition of future abuses. I have also worked to educate women who migrated for economic reasons to ensure that they understand the negative impact of violence in our society and work towards changing our collective approach by recognising the factors that produce cycles of violence through effective communication and propagating messages of peace and reconciliation.

One way I communicate these messages is through poetry; I write about the atrocities of the Colombian war, the nostalgia I have experienced in exile and the fear of returning to Colombia. Poetry also provides me with opportunities to heal my wounds and transform my pain into lessons for others.

Women building peace: Amparo Restrepo

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their Read More

Women building peace: Quhramaana Kakar

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

Quhramaana Kakar is a peace activist and development practitioner. She is a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, and Founding Director of Women for Peace and Participation. She has worked in key positions for a number of international organisations and the Afghan government, including the High Peace Council of Afghanistan. In recognition of her work and achievements for peace, she was awarded N-Peace Network‘s “Role Model for Peace” prize in 2012.

  1. What do peace and security mean to you?

Born and raised in war, witnessing killings, bombs and shelling at a very early age, the first time I experienced peace was at the age of 7 after I fled the war and sought refuge in a neighbouring country. There was something definitely better than war, the absence of war and physical violence. This new life – and my 17 years of engagement and efforts for peacebuilding through provision of opportunities for access to economic, social and political equality – enhanced my exposure and experience to understand what social pacification actually means in both letter and spirit. Today, peace for me is not only the absence of war but the prevalence of harmony and tranquillity, and the provision of justice, access and equal opportunity for individuals and societies in their struggle to shape their own narrative and negotiate their own terms.

  1. Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?

The Women, Peace and Security agenda has greatly ignored the effect of wars on women on the move, and the potential that addressing the needs of these women could have for key issues around peace and security. Experiences show that diaspora women are the best connection between grassroots communicates and global solutions to war and insecurity. It is essential to recognise and take into account their diverse knowledge, skills and experiences; coming from a transition, they are best placed to connect the outside world with the inside world. Diaspora women offer a strong bridge between their native communities and women and supporters at the regional and international levels. In the frequently-changing political environment, diaspora women are key resource for women in their own countries and other countries of conflict as advocates for keeping the focus on women’s inclusion at the top of the agenda. Women in diaspora communities have the advantage of positioning themselves, enabling them to create global solidarity and global action for raising and providing solutions for a variety of issues such as economic development, human rights, political rights, and peace and security.

  1. What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?

In 2012, I initiated Women for Peace and Participation. Coming from the experience of working with Afghan communities inside and outside Afghanistan, I identified the dire need for connecting the local to the global. To achieve this, I adopted various strategies and built a network of diaspora women peacebuilders under the theme “United Women for Peace” (UWP). The aim is to develop a platform where women peacebuilders can advocate collectively at regional and international levels and to inform policies that potentially affect the role and position of women in conflict-affected societies and beyond. UWP works with women in diaspora from conflict and post-conflict countries and regions who are equipped with unique skills, expertise and first-hand experience of the local and global contexts and have trusted networks with women from countries in conflict. This initiative is unique in many ways, such as creating global solidarity among women peacebuilders at the international level and bridging the gap with the local context. This helps to ensure that the Women, Peace and Security agenda is no longer the business of the elite, but rather that it is discussed and led by women on the ground and from the real contexts.

Women building peace: Quhramaana Kakar

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their Read More

Women building peace: Amna Abdul

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.

Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.

Amna Abdul is a co-founder of Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy, a group of women’s rights campaigners, journalists, writers, aid workers and policy makers focused on ensuring foreign policy does not create harm to women and looking to develop solutions to the urgent global issues that impact women around the world.

  1. What do peace and security mean to you?

When I think about peace and security, I am always looking at it through an intersectional gendered lens with the aim to understand what women’s experiences and roles are within it.

The impact of conflict on women and girls’ experiences vary from those experienced by men and boys, and perhaps this is more clearly laid out when we consider the endemic issue of violence perpetrated against women and girls – examples include Bosnia as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the experiences of refugee women fleeing conflict from Syria. The violence perpetrated against women and girls should be seen as part of the conflict itself, and in terms of long-term impact in communities and societies.

But violence against women and girls also happens during processes and times of peace which women are often excluded from, or they are included as a tokenistic gesture and hold very limited power to influence or create change. I believe in the four pillars of the Women, Peace and Security agenda – participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery – and in working within these pillars in a way that truly reflects women’s experiences and the values they hold close, such as faith.

  1. Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?

The diaspora communities which exist do not sit in a vacuum away from their home countries. Many have often been forced to flee their home countries and make a new life elsewhere, not necessarily out of choice. We often also make the assumption that second or third generation communities don’t necessarily have the same links with their respective countries of origin. However, they are engaged immensely in what happens in those countries and are often directly impacted by what happens there.

Diaspora women also have a very different outlook on what is happening in their countries of origin, because they sit in an interesting position. They get a lot of information and keep themselves informed about issues in their home countries, as well as being able to relate to women’s experiences there because they understand the cultural and religious background they are situated in. However, they are at enough of a distance to be able to be an observer, seeing things in a different light to those living it every day. This position is what gives strength to the role that diaspora women can play in policy-making on peace and security.

  1. What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?

Through the work of Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy, myself and co-founder Shaista Aziz have focused on a range of closed roundtable discussions with diaspora women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, and have plans for more. These have included discussions on identity, challenges they face as diaspora women, barriers to participation, and understanding of issues in each community. Although themes overlapped, the way they impacted women in those communities differed greatly.

The work of Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy also brings together women from all over the world, as well as those living in diaspora communities through an online network sharing information, news, observations and experiences. These are a combination of women who are activists, aid workers, journalists, students and more, who are seeking safe spaces to belong and share ideas based on intersectional understanding of women’s varied and intersecting experiences.

I’m also involved in a Manchester specific programme tackling the issues around radicalisation called RadEqual, as well as a European-wide network to share good practice, build new knowledge and understandings, and connecting with others. Within these networks the strength in the voices of diaspora women is vital.

Follow the work of Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy on Twitter: @IFFPUK

Women building peace: Amna Abdul

For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their Read More

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