The importance of new approaches to gender in peacebuilding

A broader understanding of gender and the different needs of women, men and gender or sexual minorities is essential to peacebuilding, according to new findings by International Alert, presented in a series of reports entitled Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding.

Based on three years of research, the reports examine what this can mean for access to justice, addressing different forms of violence, economic recovery and inter-generational conflict. The research focused on the following countries:

Alert’s new animation here provides an overview of the findings:

While gender has long been recognised as a key factor in both violent conflict and peacebuilding, it is still often used as shorthand for just ‘women and girls’.

In contrast, Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding takes on a ‘gender-relational’ approach to peacebuilding. This means expanding ‘gender’ to incorporate men and gender or sexual minorities, and looking at how it relates to other factors, such as age, class, sexuality, disability, ethnic or religious background, marital status or where people live.

The four case studies illustrate how such an approach might be used in practice and make the following recommendations:

  • Understanding the context: Looking at how gender roles and relations work in each particular context, including how gender difference intersects with other identities (such as age and class).
  • Identifying who to work with and how: Adopting a sharper focus on groups of people (not necessarily women) who are particularly vulnerable, as well as on those whose attitudes and practices most require change and those most amenable to change.
  • Identifying the best ways of working: Understanding how gender relations and identities influence peace possibilities in a given situation, as well as bringing about positive change based on that understanding.
  • Applying a ‘gender-relational’ approach to different sectors and themes: The four themes on which our research focused can be used to enrich peacebuilding work overall.
  • Implications for organisational structures, policies and practices: The guidance articulated here is not new, but is only now beginning to be integrated into the policy and practice of international peacebuilding interventions. Organisations involved in peacebuilding should examine the extent to which their work enables or hinders a gender-relational approach.

A summary of our findings is available in our report, Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding. You can also read the individual country studies on Burundi, Colombia, Nepal and Uganda.

You can find out more about our work on gender in peacebuilding here.