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Women Encouraged to be Peace Builders


A report released in Washington, D.C. earlier this month (April 10) examines the unique role women can play as peace builders in war-torn and post-conflict states. Sponsored by a quartet of powerful and prestigious peace advocacy institutions, the report proposes specific recommendations to promote the advancement of women across various stages of the peace building process. For producer George Dwyer, VOA's Jim Bertel has more on the report's recommendations.

The Washington D.C. based United States Institute for Peace recently hosted the release of a major new report titled: "The Role of Women in Stabilization and Reconstruction." Three analysts who presented the report repeatedly identified the issue of "inclusion" as requiring urgent attention.

Presenter Joyce Neu said, "One of the findings is that women (of course) continue to be excluded from peace processes, from peacekeeping and security operations."

Businesswoman Harriet Hentges added "There were some things we heard over and over again. Women are not part of the power structure."

Presenter Chantal De Jonge Oudraat commented, "By failing to make maximum use of women to promote peace and security throughout the world we are by definition only making a 50 percent effort."

The report presents a broad list of recommendations and initiatives that they believe could significantly enhance the participation of women during post-conflict reconstruction. Power-sharing schemes, such as Afghanistan's 25 percent reserve quota on public offices for women, are effective and should be instituted as needed says the Peace Institute's Beth Cole. "What we found was that these quotas, while they might be controversial, you must force the door open for women. It is that forcing mechanism that is critical for women in post conflict societies."

The report also recommends that reconstruction authorities support the participation of women as equal partners at all levels of civil institution building, and goes on to say that postwar transitions should promote socioeconomic parity through legal mandates requiring the participation of women in reconstruction projects.

Hentges said, "We also felt that we needed to highlight the window of opportunity that the post-conflict period provided for changing roles to advance the rights of women so that they could play different roles."

Businesswoman Harriet Hentges, who co-chaired the report study group, said her team found useful models were provided by Afghanistan's experience. "There were many instances where you had people who never got involved in post-conflict before who wanted to be involved. And these were businesswomen and just humanitarians. But the other thing that happened in Afghanistan was how much it really resonated with women in the West.

History shows women caught in conflict zones are often left vulnerable to exploitation, and frequently forced to find refuge with little material support. But now it appears, based on the Afghanistan model, that post-conflict transitional periods may offer hope for improving women's lives.