Women in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building

 By Dr. Jyoti M. Pathania

Women represent half of humanity, a vital half which creates a balance alongside men; groups of women have a stronger commitment to the ending of violence and the maintenance of long term peace, than the groups of men and thus often constitute a highly motivated and able group of stakeholders for peace building, who nonetheless are often ignored. The best strategy for conflict prevention and resolution in the course of this century would be to expand the role of women as peace makers, argues UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, who also believed that women had proved instrumental in “building bridges rather than walls”.  They had also been crucial in preserving social order when communities collapsed.  Conflict resolution and prevention called for creative and flexible approaches.  “In all these areas, we have seen examples of women playing an important role”, yet their potential contribution to peace and security was still under-valued and they were still under-represented at the decision-making level.[1]

The United Nations took the lead in expanding the role of women in conflict resolution and peace building by adopting UN Security Council Resolution (SCR 1325) at its 4213th meeting on 31st Oct 2000.[2] Almost two decades have passed since the passage of this declaration, but nothing much has been achieved.

History shows us that the World’s First Peace Treaty the Egyptian – Hettite Peace treat/Eternal Treaty signed in 1259 B.C., helped in establishing peace after almost two centuries of war and Queen Puduhepa, wife of Hittite King Hattusili, played a very important role in the diplomatic correspondence (Nerertari Letter) between the Egyptian and the Hittite states.

However, in present times, women role as peace makers has been almost zilch. This is substantiated by the study conducted under the UN Women and the Councilon Foreign Relations –“Major peace processes between1990-2019 had zero female signatories in the peace agreements; only 2% of mediators; 5% as witnesses and signatories, and 8% as negotiators.” The only two women in history who served as chief negotiators were Miriam Coronel Ferrer of the Philippines and Tzipi Livni of Israel.

Amongst the many reasons for including women in conflict resolution efforts, few key issues are listed; First, they are associated with culture of non-violence, procreation and protection which helps in bridging the clan divisionsin a clan divisive conflict. For instance in Liberian  Civil war (1989–2003), women actively participated ineducational, skill training courses, communal farming and group micro-loans.This lead not only in improving the standard of living in the country but also helped in reducing conflict. Second, emotional strength to transient pain and suffering makes womenpredisposed to peace and natural negotiators. In Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Somalia female negotiators had developed a reputation for building trust, engaging all sides, and fostering dialogue in otherwise acrimonious settings.

Third, chances of an agreement or resolution failing is less likely when women or their organizations are involved. As per Council on Foreign Relations, the participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes peace agreement 64% less likely to failFurtheron, when a woman participates in the peace process, the resulting agreement is 35% more likely to last at least for 15 years. Hence women’s role is useful in post conflict reconstruction which leads to sustainable peace according to the International Peace Institute. For example in Sierra Leone, women civil society groups helped in post conflict peace building effort.[3]

Fifth, Belfer Center and the World Bank studies reveal that the conflict both between and within the state’s is directly proportional to the gender equality levels. Higher level of gender equality are associated with low propensity for conflict.The countries are more prosperous and stable if the gender gap closes.Women’s political participation increases stability as seen in Congo.

Sixth, Women provide mission critical insights and help in creating a gender balance in peace keeping operations. Female security officials frequently have access to populations and venues that are closed to men, allowing them to gather intelligence about potential security risks. Seventh, terrorism risk rises when women are less empowered. Support for gender inequality is positively correlated with the likelihood of violence and sexual violence in conflict fuels further instability.

A major challenge is that women are not perceived to have skills, knowledge or the social status needed to bring about the change in the conflict ridden environment. This perception needs to be changed in the mind-set of the male dominated negotiators and mediators. Moreover, women are seen primarily as victims of conflict as opposed to agents of change or conflict resolvers. In words of Gen. John Allen, “No society has ever successfully transitioned from being a conflict-ridden society to developing society unless women were a part of the mainstream”.[4] Like in Congo, in almost all the peace process activities, women were involved and were seen as the agents of change in his conflict ridden country.

Our government must resolve to enlarge the role of women as peace makers by including them in action oriented strategies wherein they are the agents of change, this will help in achieving positive and sustainable results. Furthermore, such measures should become part of the national strategies as well. India does not have a concrete action plan for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (SCR1325) till date, and needs to truly implement the same. Conflict resolution and peace building activities involving women not only lays the foundation of a sustainable human security but also helps in equitable development in the countries emerging from the conflict. This Year’s International Women day theme of “Balance for Better,” aspires for a gender-balanced world, which is also very crucial and necessary for  peace building and conflict resolution efforts.



[1] Press release, SC/6937, stronger decision-making role for women in peace processes is called for in day-long security council debate, 24 October 2000, 4208th meeting (am & pm)
[2]  F, Nduwimana, United Nations  Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security Understanding the Implications, Fulfilling the Obligations.
Available at : https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/cdrom/.../Background_Paper_Africa.pdf (Accesed on 10-05-2019)
[3]Desirée Nilsson, Anchoring the Peace: Civil Society Actors in Peace Accords and Durable Peace, International Interactions, Volume 38, 2012 - Issue 2
[4] Blog Post by Jamille Bigio, Insights from a CFR Symposium on Women’s Contributions to Peace and Security Processes, March 2, 2017
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DR. JYOTI M. PATHANIA is working as a Senior Fellow and Chairperson Outreach committee at Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New-Delhi. A doctorate in Political Science, she graduated from Lady Shri Ram College in Political Science (Honors) and secured the Third rank in Delhi University. She obtained her M.A. and M.Phil. degree in “International Politics” from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She was selected to go on a scholarship to the European Peace University in Austria, Spain, and Ireland, where she pursued another Masters's in advanced studies in ‘Peace and Conflict Studies. She has over 20 years of teaching, training and research experience in various universities: to name a few; Symbiosis Law College Pune, Amity Law School Delhi, Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies, Jammu University, Jiwaji University Gwalior, St. Xavier’s College Ranchi and also worked as an analyst for South Asian Analysis Group and was also the Assistant Director of the Amity Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. She has also qualified for National Eligibility Test for lectureship under University Grant Commission. Recipient of various awards and scholarships, to name a few, Prof. Randhir Singh Award for securing distinction in Political Theory, Prof. N. N. Aggarwal Memorial Award, Austrian Govt. Development Scholarship, H.P. State Govt. Scholarship, National Talent Scheme Scholarship, Delhi University. She was also awarded by the Chief Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat for excellence in research and establishing collaboration with international research institutes. She has authored books and written articles for various newspapers and journals both national and international. She is also the founding editor of the Online Indian Journal of Peace & Conflict Resolution. Her book on India- Pakistan: Confidence Building Measures was one of the first few books on the subject. Her areas of specialization are International Politics, Conflict Resolution & Peace, Non-Traditional Security, and South Asia.