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

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), in collaboration with the Nigeria INGO Forum and the Somalia NGO Consortium, organised the panel discussion Sexual violence in conflict: Reclaiming women’s agency through law, policy and practice to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict (19 June). Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Co-Chair of the APPG-WPS, chaired the discussion with representatives from civil society based in Somalia and Nigeria, the UK government, and a global legal expert. Using north-east Nigeria and Somalia as examples of protracted conflicts, the panellists explored and discussed best practices of programming and legislation that offer meaningful support to empower women to be their own agents of change. Baroness Hodgson called attention to the entrenched patriarchy and targeted violence against women and girls in both conflict settings. Welcoming the continuous efforts of the UK government to address sexual violence in conflict and in their role as penholder at the UN on the Women, Peace and Security agenda, the panellists focused their key asks to the UK government. The discussion was lively and informative with Rosy Cave from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office taking stock of the needs and gaps as highlighted by field colleagues and reiterating the UK government’s willingness to engage all actors and continue prioritising gender equality in protracted conflicts.

Somalia

Halima Adan from Save Somali Women and Children outlined the current weak legal and policy framework in Somalia, the deeply patriarchal culture and how customary law stigmatises gender-based violence survivors resulting in low levels of reporting and ability to seek services. Due to poor infrastructure and site planning, 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in congested camps with limited access to basic services. Woman are economically disempowered and, in general, there are not enough specialised facilities to deal with survivors. Somalia is perceived as a humanitarian crisis which hinders the delivery of long-term sustainable funding. Much of the gender-based violence programming does not span for more than a year, sometimes resulting in specialised facilities being shut down.

Adan focused on best practices of legislation and programming. The Somali Sexual Offences Bill – passed in Cabinet in May 2018 and awaiting Parliamentary enactment – is a critical step towards furthering the protection and promotion of women and girls. It is context specific, was drafted by Somali lawyers with international technical support, and was led by the Somali government and civil society. Adan asked that the UK government supports the enactment of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill and Somalia’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Adan noted the best practice of the comprehensive one-stop model where women survivors of sexual violence can receive multi-faceted support. This reduces the re-traumatisation of the survivor and creates conditions for continued support. The UK government’s Department for International Development is not currently funding this model despite its clear advantages. Five one-stop centres and three safe houses are funded by the United States government. Multi-year funding and specific programming on gender equality and social norms are also key to the prevention of sexual violence in conflict.

Nigeria

Joe Read from CARE USA introduced the importance of understanding Nigeria in its regional context: the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. The nine-year violent conflict between non-state armed actors commonly known as ‘Boko Haram’ and the Nigerian Armed Forces has exacerbated existing poverty and patriarchy. Women experience profound political, economic and social exclusion in the Sahel, and sexual violence in conflict is a key feature of the crisis. Women and girls are abused by all parties to the conflict. ‘Boko Haram’ use women and girls as person-borne improvised explosive devices (PBIEDs). Read emphasised the failure of the humanitarian community and the need to take collective responsibility. Local women’s rights organisations are delivering gender-responsive programming in their communities, but they need international support. However, the international response continues to view protection as an add-on rather than a key feature of humanitarian assistance. For example, Nigerian humanitarian response has scaled up since 2014 but the protection sector remains massively underfunded at 8%, with 1.7% for gender-based violence protection and almost 3% for child protection. Read also highlighted the need for high-level political action and the adoption of the Protection of Civilians Policy in Nigeria to ensure accountability.

International legal perspective

Antonia Mulvey, the founder and Executive Director of Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), outlined existing global legal frameworks to further the protection of women and girls and their promotion of their rights, including: the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Istanbul Protocol and the Maputo Protocol. Mulvey noted the slowness and ineffectiveness of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the lack of political will of the International Criminal Court. From Mulvey’s experience in collecting hundreds of testimonies across Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia and Myanmar, survivors want justice. Although the state has the primary obligation for the protection of human rights, in most cases sexual violence cannot be reported or investigated because there is no legal framework in place. Highlighting the importance of legislation, Mulvey gave the example of over 100 prosecutions since the enactment of the Sexual Offences Bill in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mulvey argued against the opinion that legislation cannot be passed in conflict contexts. However, badly drafted legislation can lead to worse outcomes for survivors, including their arrest. Implementation of contextually relevant, precise, concise and specific legislation is key, and requires buy-in from government and civil society. The Somali Sexual Offences Bill, for example, has specific clauses on abuse of power and a clear definition of rape and coercive circumstances.

UK government

Rosy Cave, Head of the Gender Equality Unit and of the Office of the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reiterated the UK government’s commitment to consciously delivering for women and girls’ rights. Cave outlined the establishment of the UK government’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) and highlighted the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict and the progress it has made. Cave noted that both Nigeria and Somalia are focus countries for the UK’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. The recent G7 led to the UK partnering with Nigeria under a mentorship programme on Women, Peace and Security. Cave agreed that conflict in Nigeria needs to be treated as a regional crisis with regional programming. The UK government has just opened an office in Chad to support this work.

In Somalia, the UK government supports the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, works with Somali female parliamentarians to change behaviours and attitudes, and has supported the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development in the development of their National Action Plan and in their work with security forces, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Key asks and concluding remarks

Key asks from the panel and the following discussion included strengthened collaboration between all actors, increased coordinated and targeted advocacy on gender and women’s rights, increased mechanisms for independent oversight, and the transfer of stigma from survivor to perpetrator.

All panellists were asked to give concluding remarks and key ways forward before Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE closed the discussion. Adan concluded with the need to prioritise livelihoods within service provision. Read highlighted the need for genuine empowerment. Cave called for civil society to bring evidence-based suggestions forward to influence the international agenda. Mulvey outlined the critical role of legal and policy frameworks and called for the endorsement and implementation of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill and the Protection of Civilians Policy in Nigeria.

With thanks to Roisin Mangan, Policy Advisor at the Nigeria INGO Forum, whose event report forms the basis of the above report.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Sexual violence in conflict in Nigeria and Somalia

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), in collaboration with the Nigeria INGO Forum and the Somalia NGO Consortium, organised the panel discussion Sexual violence in conflict: Reclaiming women’s agency through law, policy and practice to mark Read More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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