skip to Main Content

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Women’s Leadership in Yemen’s Peace Process

On Tuesday July 11th 2023, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) organised a collaborative event with Oxfam GB titled “Women’s Leadership in Yemen’s Peace Process.”

The event was chaired by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, co-chair of the APPG-WPS, and featured contributions from Fatma Jaffar (Policy and Advocacy Lead for Oxfam GB in Yemen), Rasha Obaid (Director of the Economic Development and Post-War Recovery Programme at the Peace Track Initiative), and Anna Chernova (Senior Policy Adviser at Oxfam GB). Jaffar joined the discussion remotely from Yemen.

The event focused on examining the exclusion of women from the political aspects of Yemen’s peace process and exploring ways for the UK to ensure meaningful participation of women in peace negotiations. It was held following the release of Oxfam’s recent report, “Speaking Up: The role of women in building peace in Yemen”, which amplifies the voices of Yemeni women striving for greater inclusion in peace negotiations and highlights the major trends affecting their meaningful participation in this peace process.

The event took the form of a panel discussion moderated by Baroness Hodgson, who engaged in conversation with the three speakers. Speakers provided an overview of the current situation in Yemen, acknowledging some progress in the peace efforts such as the reopening of the airport, improved fuel and food supply, and increased humanitarian access. These positive developments are partly attributed to improved relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

However, significant challenges persist. Yemen has experienced its worst economic period in years, and women continue to face complex barriers to participation in the peace process. Several factors contribute to their political exclusion, including a lack of political will at national and regional levels to recognise women’s roles and initiatives, a shifting focus and support from the international community, insufficient funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan, and deliberate restrictions driven by social norms that impede women’s mobility.

It was emphasised that women should not merely be included at the negotiating table as a token gesture but because it is a strategic necessity. UN studies have shown that women’s participation in peace processes increases the likelihood of sustainable peace agreements. In Yemen, despite capacity gaps, women have been actively engaged in peace efforts on the ground and at negotiation tables. Women from diverse backgrounds have formed coalitions, such as Pact and the Women’s Solidarity Network, working across political lines to prevent conflicts over resources, rescue families trapped by the conflict, and secure the evacuation of schools held by armed groups.

Another speaker highlighted the collapse of women’s rights in Yemen, noting that women are still not adequately represented in national dialogues, and even when advisory committees for women exist in UN processes, they are often marginalised and excluded

from formal engagement in the peace process. They stressed the power of the UK Special Envoy to exert pressure on all warring parties to meaningfully include women in Yemen’s peace process and called for stronger action.

A speaker further stressed the crucial role the UK must play in promoting the inclusion of women in Yemen’s peace process. They told listeners that as the penholder on Yemen at the UN Security Council, the UK is responsible for addressing the overlooked crisis in Yemen and advocating for greater inclusion.

It was also noted that peace should not merely be the absence of violence, but the UK should strive for a positive, feminist approach to peace processes to avoid negative peace outcomes. They said that the UK must also be accountable for its own role in this conflict, as the UK continues to sell arms to warring parties and ensure that British arms are not used in violations of international humanitarian law.

Additionally, it was highlighted that the UK should leverage its diplomatic power to advance the women, peace, and security agenda and support Yemeni individuals in obtaining visas to the UK. One speaker added that a localised feminist perspective is necessary, and the UK holds the political leverage to include local actors and leaders in the peace processes.

A representative from GAPS UK, which provides the Secretariat for the APPG-WPS, emphasised the importance of flexible core funding that supports local women-led organisations and women’s rights groups. Without sustainable funding, these organisations risk running out of resources within 3-5 years. They also highlighted the often-overlooked issue of protection, stressing that increased women’s participation in peace processes brings heightened risks, necessitating measures such as ensuring safe passage. They underscored the interconnectedness of arms control, women’s rights, and participation, emphasising the need to consider these aspects holistically.

The event was well-attended, with parliamentary, civil society organisations, United Nations, and UK Government officials in the room. The event concluded with a question-and-answer session involving the audience.

Back To Top