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Guide to Gender and Peacebuilding

Catalina Rojas

March 8, 2015

Gender and Peacebuilding Resource Guide

By Dr. Catalina Rojas

Gender is widely accepted, theorized, modeled and applied in fields such as Development, Anthropology, and Sociology.  Increasingly, the field of peacebuilding is also integrating gender into its programs, policies and theories.  Arguably, gender has been increasing its name recognition in the security and peace arena over the past decade.  The unprecedented recognition of women’s participation in peace processes since the passage of UN Resolution 1325 in the year 2000, and its subsequent “sister” Resolution 1820 (gender-based violence); Resolution 1888 (sexual violence); Resolution 1889 (women in post conflict reconstruction); Resolution 1960 (sexual violence in conflict); and Resolution 2122 (rule of law and transitional justice) speak to the increasing acceptance of and importance to regard gender as an intrinsic tool of any peacebuilder.

However, as in any trend, lots of people talk about it, and unfortunately, not always with accuracy.  It’s not common to be in the presence of high policy officials and hear inaccurate accounts of what gender is (or isn’t).  Everyone, from your local policymaker, to your uncle in a family dinner, has opinions and remarks about women and often use gender and women’s issues as interchangeable concepts.   When confronted to how gender plays in conflict situations, many common misconceptions can arise.  For example, women are viewed always as victims in armed conflict; peace agreements are neutral and therefore no specific references to different communities are necessary.

This guide is for you if you don’t know much about gender but feel like you need a quick guide with the key definitions that you can easily understand and carry in your work.  This guide is also for you if you are so inspired by gender issues but don’t know how they relate to the field of peacebuilding.  Lastly, this guide is for you if you feel like you know the basics but want to understand the key players and organizations furthering the debate of why gender is critical in the understanding of how conflict develops and its role in peacebuilding.

The “Elevator Ride” Definition of Gender  

Gender encompasses the different roles, responsibilities and societal expectations assigned to what is commonly accepted as feminine and masculine.

In other words, gender differences correlate to cultural allocations of femininity and masculinity, which “organize” society, often, in a value scale that demotes or associates feminine with weakness, fragility, caring (for others), peacefulness, obedience. In contrast with the masculine, which is often coupled with strength, (being the) provider, decisiveness and other power-related attributes.  This “organization” of the social order permeates all aspects of life: religion, politics, marketing, education.

Key Concepts 

At times, violence is utilized to reflect and reinforce inequalities between men and women.  This is called Gender-based violence or (GBV).  GBV constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity.

Definition from the European Institute for Gender Equality.

In armed conflict and post-conflict situations, GBV is not only the by-product of the war dynamics.  Research in many countries has proven countless times that GBV is a used as a weapon and a war strategy to weaken, eliminate or destroy the other side.

Measures to compensate for economic, social, political and cultural disadvantages between men and women are termed Gender Equity policies. The ultimate goal is to achieve Gender Equality, where women and men enjoy the same rights, status, opportunities, and resources.  This is recognition that women’s rights are human rights, however, gender equality is only achieved when programs and policies account for differences of age, gender, regional, ethnic, class differences.

What happens when organizations want to add gender to their body of work? How do they go about it? The UN introduced the concept of Gender Mainstreaming over two decades ago and defines it as a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated (UN Economic and Social Council).  

Gender and Peacebuilding: Integration at Work

How have peacebuilding organizations been integrating into their programming design the concerns and specific needs of men and women?

International Alert (IA) one of the most established peacebuilding organizations has been exploring the question for many years.  To that end, they categorized peacebuilding policies as:

*Gender-blind approaches: not intentional considerations to account for any differences.

*Gender-aware approaches inspired by UN Resolution 1325 (2000): cognizant that women is at a disadvantage vis a vis men; and highly unrepresented in peacebuildng scenarios. These policies aim at correcting the status of women.

*Gender-relational approaches: produces a gender analysis that accounts for needs and vulnerabilities of both men and women. It is concerned with examining intersections between gender and social relations including 'race', ethnicity, sexuality, age and (dis)ability (Gender and Work Database).

IA found out that approaches reflecting the third category are mostly underrepresented in peacebuilding projects.  Even though there is much more awareness in both northern organizations and the global south of the importance of highlighting gender to enhance the efficacy of peace work, much more is needed to truly account for programing that aims at creating peace where traditional notions of femininity and masculinity are renegotiated. ( “Gender in Peacebuilding. Taking Stock”, 2012).

New Directions:

Without accurately understanding how men and women interact, suffer, negotiate, react, recover from war and prepare for peace, very little advancement in terms of gender work can be achieved.  Increasingly, attention has been paid to the deeper understanding of masculinities as an effective strategy for combating violence against women and to better understand the potential of new masculinity roles for peacebuilding.  Promundo, headquartered in Brazil, is a cutting-edge organization advancing masculinities both on the ground and theoretically.

Alongside with masculinities, more organizations are working to design and implement Gender-Synchronized Approaches: the intentional intersection of gender-transformative efforts reaching both men and boys and women and girls of all sexual orientations and gender identities. They engage people in challenging harmful and restrictive constructions of masculinity and femininity that drive gender-related vulnerabilities and inequalities and hinder health and well-being. (Engenderhealth.org)

Lets start a conversation of how gender can bring us closer to a more sustainable peace.

How can the work YOU do become gender-transformative? 

How can gender enhance the efficacy of your work?

Key Players and Organizations Working on the Intersection of Gender and Peace

*Institute for Inclusive Security http://www.inclusivesecurity.org/

*Unites States Institute for Peace (USIP) Center for Gender and Peacebuilding


*UN Women the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women http://www.unwomen.org

*Peace Women is a project of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United Nations Office www.peacewomen.org

*Georgetown University Institute for Women, Peace and Security


*International Alert


*Promundo (Transforming Masculinities)


*Insight on Conflict (Peacebuilding gender/women guide)


* http://women-peace-security.tumblr.com/

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