On Tuesday 14th June 2022, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace, and Security (APPG-WPS) hosted an event in collaboration with the LEAP4Peace consortium titled “Pillars for Peace: Women Parliamentarians and their role in peace processes”. The event was chaired by Baroness Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG-WPS, focusing on the importance of women’s involvement in peace processes, and also on having capable and representative women political leaders in the long term. The event follows on from the Pillars for Peace paper that was written as part of the LEAP4Peace Project.
The event heard from: Deqa Salad, CEO and Founder of Hear Women Foundation; Jennifer Pedraza, congresswoman-elect in the Colombia Parliament; Frances Scott, Founder of 50:50 Parliament, and Mandana Hendessi, social development professional.
The event started with a video entitled Women, Peace and Security: Pillars of Peace in Colombia which reflected on the crucial role women have played in the peace process in Colombia.
Deqa Salad began our event by describing the current representation of women in parliament in Somalia and discussed the need for improvement. She outlined how women in Somalia have been leading the way in mobilising civil society engagement in peace work through accessing resources such as finances and arranging peace meetings. Deqa explained that activists in Somalia have linked the struggle for peace to women’s rights and are therefore lobbying and campaigning for more women in politics. Unfortunately, Deqa explained that the recent Somali elections in 2022 saw a decrease of women representatives in Parliament from 24% to 20%, despite a 30% quota, however activists are continuing to campaign for 30%. Deqa finished by touching on the fact that having quotas in place are not necessarily enough, and that women who are elected are champions of peace.
Jennifer Pedraza followed and talked about her position as a Congresswoman-elect in Colombia. Jennifer spoke about the important issues relating to women’s rights in Colombia, including access to sexual and reproductive health, and how the recent election has been an opportunity to further a feminist agenda in Colombia and influence women’s issues. Jennifer discussed how women’s political participation is intrinsically linked to demilitarisation and the burden of unpaid care, and that these need to be solved hand in hand.
Frances Scott followed on by discussing how 50:50 Parliament have worked in the UK to try to help women who are interested in getting into Parliament. Frances outlined historical representation in the UK Parliament which has never reached 50% women, and talked about how the Ask Her to Stand campaign that 50:50 runs provides support and advice, including a buddy system, to help women. Frances also mentioned that the campaign provides bespoke support to women from minority communities to get equal and diverse representation. Frances summed up the need for women in politics through the 4 Rs of representation, resources, responsibility, and respect.
Finally, Mandana Hendessi discussed her personal experiences working on women’s political participation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mandana described how the situations in both countries fluctuate, but women generally face many barriers to inclusion, including targeted bullying, harassment, and violence. Mandana spoke about the need to make participation meaningful for women and echoed other panellists in saying that quotas are not enough. Mandana outlined how the international community’s efforts to bring women into politics were highly fragmented and endorsed Frances’ approach of creating a formalised strategy that would support women in parliament, connect women parliamentarians to local women, and guide women on how to leverage influence on women’s issues.
The event wrapped up with questions from the audience on the inclusivity of marginalised women in the work being done to get women into parliament, the need to change attitudes around women who are survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and what that looks like, and a particular question on women’s contribution to peace in Somalia. The speakers provided particular examples from their specific contexts, including Iraq, Colombia, the UK and Somalia, and spoke about the importance of passing and implementing policy for women’s rights. Baroness Hodgson, the co-chair of the APPG-WPS, concluded the event and thanked the speakers. The event was an excellent opportunity to hear about women’s role in peace processes and in parliaments from different countries.