To be effective as peacebuilders, we need to respond to the power dynamics and norms that influence peace and violent conflict at the household, community, national and international levels. This means that we need to be aware of the diversity of gender and other identities among men and women. To help us better understand this and therefore to act more effectively, International Alert is carrying out a three-year research project exploring the role of gender in peacebuilding. Our new report, Gender in peacebuilding: taking stock, reflects the findings of the preparatory stage of this project. The two main activities undertaken in this first phase were: a series of workshops in Burundi and Nepal, which explored how practitioners, government representatives and donors viewed the issues; and a review of current literature relevant to the roles of men and women, and of gender relations, in violent conflict and peacebuilding. In the report, we identify three approaches to gender in peacebuilding:
- Gender-blind, which is the assumption that what works for people in general, works for both men and women, and that there is no need to distinguish between them.
- UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the central tenet of which is that women are more vulnerable than men and more marginalised from decision-making. Thus, interventions are required which counteract this tendency, making women’s protection, promotion and participation explicit goals of all activities, as required by the resolution.
- Gender-relational, a hitherto unexplored approach which is based on a strategy of benefit-sharing and solidarity-building between men and women, and uses a context-specific gendered power analysis as its starting point. Underpinning this analysis is a critical review of socialisation mechanisms – as they relate to both men and women – within major societal institutions where gender relations are reproduced, such as the household, the school, the state and religious systems.
Based on this analysis, Gender in peacebuilding suggests possible activities based on a gender-relational approach. These include developing dialogue between men and women for addressing violence against women, or for dealing with vulnerabilities experienced by men that are often overlooked – for example as victims of sexual violence or as potential recruits into militias or gangs. The presumption here is that men and women will equally contribute to, and benefit from, this relational approach and that it will avoid the risks of backlash and male alienation, which are sometimes incurred by women-focused initiatives. In the remaining two years of the research, we will explore the validity of the gender-relational approach as an effective strategy for analysing conflict and for designing peacebuilding interventions. To find out more about our research, read the report here.