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APPG on Women, Peace and Security: How to engage men in advancing the women, peace and security agenda?

On Wednesday 20th March, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) hosted a report launch event with GAPS, Concordis International and Sasakawa Peace Foundation titled “How to engage men in advancing the women, peace and security agenda?”. The event, chaired by Baroness Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG -WPS, focused on the gender dynamics after conflict in Ache, Maluku and Bangsamoro Mindanao. This event was held to launch the joint report, Reconstructing Masculinities, which can be found here.

Mr Jonathan Cohen, the Executive Director at Conciliation Resources, opened the event by outlining how masculinities play out in societies and in violent conflict based on their research. For example, men are finding alternate ways to perpetuate patriarchal norms and power, such as confining women to private spaces. He explained that the joint report builds on intersectional approaches to research, which is important to determine the lived experiences and opportunities for both men and women in shaping peace. Through gender strategies, a wide range of drivers of conflict are uncovered, and these are important to design peacebuilding that is transformative for multiple diverse groups of people. Mr Cohen spoke about the radical transformation of the WPS agenda since its origins and closed his presentation by urging there to be a move away from gender normative understandings of masculinity.

Ms Yoko Takazawa, Project Officer from Sasakawa Peace Foundation, spoke on the need to improve women’s participation through approaches that avoid backlash from communities. Despite 25 years of implementing the WPS agenda, these efforts contine to be significantly undermined. Ms Takazawa stated that it is important for research to continue into alterative avenues as WPS can be too focused on women’s participation in formal settings, rather than understanding how power dynamics perpetrate into private settings, such as the family. Ms Takazawa also explained that there must be focus placed on men, rather than solely placing responsibility on women themselves, and closed her presentation by speaking to the structure of the report which has defined 10 concrete policy recommendations.

Dr Sophia Close, Associate at Conciliation Resources, began by outlining the relationship between masculinity and violence during conflict and how these gender associations are re-defined after conflict towards men as ‘the breadwinner’. There is a shifting of social and culture hierarchies, but what remains consistent throughout this is women considered to be the caregivers. Dr Close explained how gender inequalities and social norms are seen to be perpetuated through family, religious and customary institutions. As touched on by Ms Takazawa, Dr Close reasserts that households are often overlooked by the policymaker and, rather, efforts are focused on national institutions and individual women. There is a need to shift dominant masculinities, and this can begin by focusing on private spaces through a decolonial approach. Finally, Dr Close emphasises the importance of core, long-term and flexible funding for localised projects that engage men with the WPS agenda.

Baroness Hodgson chaired a Q&A with the speakers and audience before closing the event by thanking the speakers, the organisers and all who attended.

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