To mark International Women's Day 2016, for which the official theme is #PledgeForParity, we are profiling some of our female peacebuilders around the world and asking them: What can gender parity mean for peace?
Yadaira Orsini is Head of Economic development for peace at International Alert.
Please describe your work. What are the challenges and opportunities for gender equality in your work?
A big part of my current work at Alert includes supporting companies in their efforts to integrate conflict sensitivity in their operations. I work with numerous companies, many of which are from the extractive sector. It’s no surprise that this is a male-dominated sector, with men occupying the major leadership roles and women usually taking up positions in their social or community engagement teams.
In addition, we face challenges in trying to get companies to engage in a more gender-sensitive way within their local communities, while ensuring that women are able to actively participate in decision making processes such as consultations. So opportunities for gender equality are not only relevant for how companies engage with communities, but also how women are treated within each company.
What role does economic parity between men and women, especially equal access to natural resources, play in peace?
Economic parity is a prerequisite for peace. You can’t expect a society to prosper and be peaceful if it is constructed on unequal foundations. When it comes to natural resources, women need to be able to participate in making the decisions that will affect their lives, particularly around issues like compensation, resettlement, and access to land and water.
We also need gender-sensitive policy-makers. I’m always struck by how some countries are taking this on board. Take Ecuador: The law states that both men and women should be legally recognised as land owners (as opposed to the man only, which is what happens in most countries) and both of their names must appear in land deeds. So it’s not only about creating opportunities for women – and seizing them; it’s also about creating an environment (legal or cultural) that allows those opportunities to flourish.
Do you have any tips for women striving for leadership roles in the charity sector?
Speak out and speak up. Sometimes it’s not only about saying things, but how you say them. And in some cases, this means raising your voice so that it can be heard among all the noise. We should not be afraid to do it when the occasion demands it.
Which women inspire you and why?
I’m inspired by women who, against all odds, speak out and speak up when they have to, even if this creates risks for them. This selflessness combined with a genuine interest in a more equal, just and peaceful society is what makes women in our field the real heroes of the day.
Did you celebrate Women’s Day? How?
Of course! I called my mum, grandma and sisters – all women who speak out, to congratulate them and thank them for teaching me what it takes to be a truly accomplished woman (which isn’t exactly the Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice definition of accomplished woman!).