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.
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.
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.
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.
• “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.