Reflections of Women Peacebuilders on the Journey of Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Burundi and DRC


Democratic Republic of Congo- Reflections by Jolly Kamuntu

We live in conflict. It is the context in which we have evolved. The peculiarity of Eastern DRC is the battlefield, the rape capital of the world and a cemetery for journalists. Over the years the situation has taken different forms. Sexual violence before occurred during wars and was done by armed groups. Serial rapes were committed, women were buried alive and women were used as weapons of war. In reality, it was a message to the communities that if you do not surrender, if you don’t give in, women will be burned and buried alive.

Conflicts have set back the rights of women in DRC by 100 years. Conflicts made it possible for rapists to start trivializing sexual violence as more and more cases were reported and it was normalised. There is also lethargy at the national and international levels allowing leaders to not consider rape as an emergency.

This trivialization has tarnished the dignity of Congolese women. We must not be made to accept this into our culture. That is the fight we are taking on right now. I know there is rape and violence against women in other places, but not at the same rate and magnitude as in our case.

Women in DRC were the main victims of the different conflicts, the resulting insecurity. and the harmful effects of war despite not being consulted in the planning of armed violence.

We called for women to enjoy their right to security, especially in times of armed conflict. In such times, the protection of women and children must be given priority.

Before UNSCR 1325 our work as women’s rights defenders’ was challenged. People thought our demands and our plight were a joke. We had no clout. We did this because we were determined, and we are activists.

Even leaders would bring us down whenever we asked for backing. It was as if we were shouting in the desert and people were asking us where we had seen women participating in politics. They would tell us to leave decision making alone and concentrate on raising children.

However, when the UNSCR 1325 came in to support what we had been stressing, it was more acknowledged that women’s rights must be defended and recognised in conflict and post-conflict. Now we see that kind of disparaging language disappearing. When you quote frameworks like the UNSCR 1325, you can feel that they are afraid

Burundi- Reflections by Marie Louise Baricako 

UNSCR 1325 emphasises prevention, protection, participation and reconstruction. Currently, the problem that women face in Burundi is mainly being excluded from all processes.

Women are not formally involved in prevention and neither are they systematically involved in protection. In Burundi, we see more women active in civil society and fewer in public institutions.

Violence intimidates women and prevents them from participating. Women are going to tell you that they don’t want to take part in politics because politics is dirty, politics is full of lies, corruption and violence. All this discourages women.

There is no serene or safe space for the participation of women, and I believe that this is the main reason as to why they do not participate.

Generally speaking, and I say this because I am convinced of it and I would like it to change, you will see that in Burundi there exist symbolic women’s appointments: what matters is the number. Whether they participate or not, whether they are capable or not, that’s not the problem. It’s that kind of thinking – we were asked to get 30% and we are going to get 30%. Even if in parliament they don’t discuss issues, either they don’t understand, or they’re not interested… what matters, we’re going to put them there so that no one will accuse us of not

Major Milestones Over the Past Twenty Years

There have been improvements in terms of legislation. Key legal provisions have been put in place, in particular, the law that reprimands rape and sexual violence, the family law and the law on parity or representation of women, which has improved both local governance and decentralisation. This law provides
for 30 percent representation of women in government institutions.

In the DRC, women are increasingly becoming aware of and demanding respect of their rights. More women have started to report abuses committed by men. For example, in eastern DRC, after a series of awareness-raising campaigns on rape and sexual violence, many women broke the silence and talked about the challenges they encounter, and they exposed their tormentors without fear
of being arrested. As a result, certain practices that discriminate against women are being scaled back.

Inheritance or land ownership rights in favour of women are increasingly discussed within families. This was not the case prior to the UNSCR 1325. This change explains to some extent the shift in mind-sets that is gradually permeating behavioural patterns in the Burundian and Congolese societies.

Various campaigns launched in favour of women’s education have enabled many girls to attend school in large numbers. In terms of economic empowerment, women are already taking on some responsibilities through local economic structures such as MUSOs (Mutual Solidarity Associations) and AVECs (Village Savings and Credit Associations), which enable women’s groups to gain access
to financial power through group and rotational loans.

These mechanisms have enabled poor women excluded from the conventional banking system to gain economic power and engage in income-generating activities.

In Burundi, progress on the status of women can also be seen in the decline of the negative attitude that society has always had about women. It is mainly the negative stereotypes and prejudices that stigmatise women. However, just like in the DRC, the involvement of women in civil society structures and political parties has had a great impact in changing attitudes and mindsets.

The UNSCR 1325 brought forward women not only as beneficiaries of the peace process in terms
of improving peace and security but also brought about a paradigm shift by presenting women
themselves as agents of peace.

Note: This article is an extract from our Women’s World Issue 51

Filling the Gap

By: Pauline Kahuubire

Election periods often confirm how deeply sexist countries are and also provide proof that discrimination against women and marginalised groups continue to exist.

In Uganda’s case, matters of concern to women were notably absent during the 2021 presidential campaigns. How is it that political issues were addressed but
the needs and demands of half of the country’s population were not taken into consideration?

There are some bright spots. Imagine if women were included in every phase of the electoral cycle, including maintaining peace during the process by interrogating patriarchal norms and other structural inequalities that are usually at the heart of disputes and conflict.

Imagine a mechanism that allowed women to participate in the political sphere from a peacebuilding perspective, and not just as a mere boxticking exercise but one that promoted and valued the power of their agency in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings. A place where women’s participation in mediation and conflict resolution was not based on perceived gender roles but on their ability to be valuable agents of change and where they were at the helm of peacebuilding
efforts during electoral processes.

Enter the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) Uganda, whose aim is to promote the full and active participation of women and youth in ensuring peaceful elections in Uganda through a model of peace for and by everyone. The WSR was first established in Liberia in 2011 by the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) and has since then been replicated in Guinea-Bissau in 2014, Kenya and Mali in 2013, Nigeria 2015, Senegal and Sierra Leone in 2012, Ghana in 2020 and Uganda in 2016 and recently 2020/21.

This is a women-led early warning and rapid response mechanism to electoral violence in Africa that has been recognised by both the UN Security Council and at the African Union as a best practice for prevention of violence through constructive dialogue with stakeholders and peace advocacy.

This article describes the role of the WSR Uganda 2021 in promoting peace before, during and after the recently held general elections

It is not news that women are less likely than men to participate in politics in Uganda. Since colonial times, a gap has existed and is gradually thinning but not as fast as women would like it to. It is difficult for some women to attend community meetings, contact elected officials, join men in raising public issues, and express partisan preferences or even vote.

When they choose to participate actively on the political scene and contest for office, some of their campaigns are marked by harassment and violence directed towards them and in many cases, the majority opt out because of the fear of the impact of this violence, beyond physical harm.

A good example is the case of a woman who contested for the Bushenyi Woman Member of Parliament seat in the recent (2021) elections but later dropped out after being intimidated by her family members.

Even with the same level of education as men, work experience, age and level of interest in political affairs, women’s participation in electoral processes is still limited. There is no better example of this than the deliberate exclusion of women from public discussions on political and electoral issues in the mainstream media of the country.

This is considered exhaustive lists of women who can engage in such discussions have been supplied but are ignored repeatedly. When attempts are made to include women in the conversation, it is the same speakers or thought leaders who are recycled and while all this may seem trivial, this gap has severe consequences on the representation of diverse women’s priorities.

As such elected officials and voters are less likely to be well appraised of different women’s concerns, which should inform policies due to the absence of more representative and inclusive voices.

Landmark frameworks such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 affirm the important role that women play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa also known as the Maputo Protocol that was ratified by Uganda in 2010 underscores women’s contribution to peace and security processes.

The instruments recognise that women are gravely affected by conflict, and to address this, women should play a key role in achieving lasting peace after conflict by participating in decision-making processes. They acknowledge the relationships between women, fragility and the struggle for peace.

Similarly, WSR Uganda acknowledges that instability during elections has unique impacts on women and girls and that their contributions are central to building peace and security during the electoral processes.

Waging Peace

Even though elections were primarily conceived to allow a country’s citizens to make collective decisions about their leaders, too often, force is employed by different actors to influence the electoral process and its outcomes.

The outbreaks of physical violence that occur can undermine the legitimacy of the process and have lasting impacts on the population especially vulnerable groups such as women and children.

In Uganda, general elections have previously been marred by reports of voter intimidation, violence and gross violations of rights to assembly, association and expression.

In 2016 there were reports of threats and antagonistic rhetoric from  politicians and a tense environment in fear of the aftermath if voting results were
contested.  The 2021 elections were no different.

Some might argue that the situation was considerably worse when compared with past elections, as outbreaks of violence against candidates and voters were observed and reported.

Until the establishment of the Women’s Situation Room in 2016, concerted efforts to ensure that all stages of the election cycle were free of violence were minimal. Whereas some interventions existed, there was a void in terms of understanding the dynamics around electoral violence and consequently, the development of comprehensive strategies to ensure that peace is advanced during the process.

For instance, some focused on the period during and after but not the period of phase before the elections. Further, the existing mechanisms did not galvanise the wider role women play in electoral processes beyond just participating as voters and candidates.

The WSR goes beyond including women as the community’s less threatening nurturers who are more inclined to engage in dialogue compared to men who are often at the head of a conflict.

The WSR reinforces the role of women as key components of strong coalitions for peace. The WSR also affirms that women in Uganda are a peacebuilding force deserving of an equal space across all sectors of peacebuilding.

The WSR Uganda recognises that the causes of election violence are both systemic and structural and that election violence in Uganda usually manifests in the forms of physical, emotional or psychological and sexual violence, all of which impact individuals differently.

Sexual and gender based violence has been observed to  escalate during elections due to different political views among men and women which is compounded by unequal power at the household and community level.

The WSR, therefore, acknowledges that there are no quick fixes to averting violence during elections because the causes of such violence are deeply ingrained issues that need to be interrogated continuously, as well.

As such, prevention of electoral violence is a long-term initiative that requires a comprehensive approach to ensure that such violence is minimised and that citizens peacefully perform their civic duty.

The Women’s Situation Room Uganda approach and activities are steered by a group of non-partisan, neutral and well respected women, referred to as the
Eminent Women, who advocate for peace, intervene and mediate to avert electoral conflict and violence.

The Eminent Women also engage with electoral stakeholders including the Electoral Commission, political parties, the police, the army the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the InterParty Organization for Dialogue to ensure that they each play their role in conducting peaceful elections.

During the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections, the Eminent Women hosted four ‘physical rooms’ in four different regions across the country, namely, Gulu, Soroti, Mbarara and Kampala, where they received and dealt with 2,038 calls reporting violent incidents through the WSR call centres.

In many cases their response, stopped violence and threats of violence, thus contributing to generally peaceful elections in the country.

The Eminent Women-led stakeholders through the process of pledging to pursue peace by encouraging them to sign the ‘WSR Peace Cloth’ as a sign of their commitment to work for peace irrespective of the outcome of the election.

Closely working with the Eminent Women, and guiding the activities of the WSR is a 15-member Steering Committee comprised of women’s rights organisations representing women from diverse backgrounds and working on a spectrum of issues such as good governance, women’s leadership, violence against women and peacebuilding, under the leadership of Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), with the Women’s International Peace Centre (The Peace Centre) serving as the WSR Secretariat.

The establishment of the Steering Committee guaranteed the broader engagement of diverse women represented in civil society in ensuring that elections were conducted peacefully by as many stakeholders as possible.

Before the elections, the organisations of the members of the Steering Committee conducted Assessment Missions in 30 districts to establish electoral processes, the status of preparation, and the potential for violence. The findings of the assessment guided the planning for the different activities of the WSR in the build-up to the general elections.

Secondly, WSR Uganda also provided an opportunity for women and youth, including persons with disabilities, to monitor peace and the polling process as peace advocates and election observers within their communities.

In the last quarter of 2020, about 1,500 women and 1,500 youth leaders were trained in conflict resolution and peace-building and equipped with skills to promote peace and de-escalate tensions that might have resulted in violence in their communities.

An additional 1,500 women were trained as election observers to observe the polling process and report any anomalies to the WSR toll-free lines, in each of the four physical rooms, for action by the Eminent Women.

In an election where young people played a remarkable role in political mobilisation, the involvement of youth by the WSR drew on their potential to positively contribute to their communities, not just for peace and security, but also for sustainable development if they are to be recognised as political actors.

To quash the use of hate speech and other actions that could have ultimately led to violence, peace messaging was adopted by the WSR through a multimedia campaign that encompassed both traditional and modern media. Messages aimed at encouraging citizens to prioritise peace and avoid any situations that may threaten that peace, the Eminent Women and influential leaders from religious institutions and the informal sector, to mention but a few, were broadcast on television, radio and social media platforms.

The WSR engaged and trained the journalists and media practitioners to leverage the power of the media to promote peace through responsible and gender sensitive reporting.
These are simply a few of the approaches that the WSR used to ensure that Ugandans went to and participated in non-violent polls in 2021.

The Women’s Situation Room mechanism has demonstrated that the mitigation of electoral violence plays a large role in generally maintaining the peace before, during and after the elections.

An Uphill Climb

It has not all been a bed of roses. Community peacebuilding during conflict-prone elections, with women at the centre of the process, remains a daunting task.

A key challenge faced during the period is that women are often not perceived to have the skills, knowledge or social status needed to bring about change in conflict environments. Women are still seen as victims of conflict as opposed to change agents.

Changing this requires a shift in how the role of women is viewed by all electoral stakeholders and the general public. Emphasis must be placed on the quality of women’s involvement and their ability to create transformation both in peace making and peacebuilding and their impact recognised.

Women must be engaged right at the very beginning of peace processes for lasting impact.

The Face of Conflict Transformation is Female

Some may be inclined to think that the peace work of women and youth of the WSR mechanism is not transformative but reports indicate that the peace advocacy work was empowering and also helped transform community dynamics for the better.

Throughout the process, new issues for reconciliation have been raised such as conflicts between the young and the old, those living in urban areas and those in
rural areas, and so many more. The efforts of community peace advocates were without doubt, essential to peacebuilding in the communities where they occurred and critical to the broader goal of contributing to peaceful elections in Uganda.

Step by step, they are building blocks to strengthening democracy and good governance in the country

The last election season demonstrated that elections can provide the best possible opportunity to ensure women’s voices are heard, their concerns are addressed, and their potential contributions to peace and democracy are

That said, for WSR Uganda, peacebuilding does not stop with the end of elections, the women of Uganda will continue to promote peace between elections.

The implementation of the Women’s Situation Room in Uganda in 2021 confirms that women in collaboration with the youth are determined to take into their own hands the task of ensuring that elections in Uganda are peaceful for the citizens, to benefit maximally from the democratic process for sustainable peace and development


This article is an extract from our Women’s World Magazine 52

Traversing the Intersectional Corridors

BY: Esther Wasagali

‘If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable are going to fall through the cracks

Kimberle Williams Crenshaw – Lawyer, Civil Rights Advocate and Intersectional Feminist

The above statement closely relates to my understanding of intersectional feminism, which is listening to and centering marginalized voices, acknowledging my privilege and being open to criticism, honoring the past, and being skeptical of what you want to know. It also means more equality, hope, humanity, acceptability, and inclusiveness of the most marginalized groups.

While intersectionality is understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination or privilege, it also identifies multiple factors of advantage or disadvantage such as gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, disability, religion and physical appearance. These intersecting and overlapping identities may be empowering or oppressing. For example, in Uganda in the conflict and post conflict areas where the Peace Centre works, some cultures and religious beliefs, and poverty allow early/child marriage thus limiting girls’ right to access and complete education. There have been incidences of them being exchanged for money as low as 50,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $13) this has been tributed to economic downturn due to COVID 19. In some communities, women cannot effectively participate in decision making processes due to cultures that relegate women to the private sphere. In addition, some women cannot speak in the presence of men or in public. If they are to speak, they must seek permission from their husbands, such practices limit their participation in decision-making and peace processes.

Feminist intersectional approaches broadened the scope of first–wave feminism which mainly focused on suffrage and overturning legal obstacles to gender equality (e.g. voting rights and property rights), and second-wave broadened the debate to include a wider range of issues: sexuality, family, domesticity, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities and largely focus on the different experiences of women who are poor, immigrant and other groups. Intersectionality acknowledges women’s different experiences and identities. Intersectionality critically analyzes how interlocking systems of power, ethnicity, gender identity, marital status, gender oppression, education, political affiliation, race, and culture affect those who are most marginalized in society.

Intersectional Feminist Peace requires that we apply an intersectional lens to peacebuilding by recognizing and addressing the ways in which systems, structures, and attitudes can lead to multiple and overlapping forms of structural discrimination and disadvantage. Marginalized women need to be part of the conflict resolution and peace agreement processes as well as sit at the peace tables to voice out pertinent issues affecting them.

Wars and conflict destroy lives, livelihoods, the economy, families, and much more but women are disproportionately affected by them. Existing inequalities and inequities get magnified and even decades after a conflict, women continue to bear the brunt. Wars make women more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation as social networks break down along with institutions that prevent gender-based violence. Often, the effect of conflict on women is forgotten or not given the attention it deserves. However, women in conflict and post-conflict areas have created support systems among themselves, especially victims of gender-based violence. Women have contributed to peacebuilding by mediating conflicts within their communities and spearheading peace initiatives.

According to UN Women, women constitute 10% of peace negotiators globally and only 3% of the signatories to peace agreements. For instance, in the 2018 South Sudan peace process, there was one female mediator, yet women constitute 25% of the official delegates. UN in Africa recognizes that women give in their time, careers, and lives in the search for peace and that women have meaningfully contributed to numerous peace processes. However, there is a need to consider intersectional feminism in our daily lives, and in peacebuilding. The Uganda National Action Plan III 2021- 2025 highlights actions for tackling conflict and other problems that undermine women’s participation in decision making processes; they include increasing women’s participation in promoting peace and security by encouraging women’s participation in dialogues on peace and security,  support more women to participate in peace dialogues, implement programs that mentor and coach women in leadership and management. Women’s participation in the labour sector creates new openings for women to influence social and political structures and as custodians of culture and nurturers of families, we need to allow women to be represented at the peace negotiating tables or in community reconstruction efforts.

As people that interact with the most vulnerable women that have been affected by war and conflicts, we need to practice intentional listening by attentively listening when women have something to say, this will enable a deeper understanding of their experiences and needs. Providing an enabling environment that allows different categories of women to express their views promotes their participation and contributes to peace and security.

Peacebuilding programs must consider the difference in women’s economic status, location, education, low-income women, and women in the formal and informal sectors.  It is vital to reorganize that woman in conflict and post-conflict areas have varying experiences due to the impact of war that destroys their confidence and ability to speak, cause trauma and inequalities amongst them and the communities they live in, deprives them of social and cultural sense of belong and hinders their ability to participate in the economy.  Intersectional peacebuilding will help us understand the kinds of violence women suffer and appreciate the varied interest, needs, agencies, and view toward what constitutes inclusive and sustainable feminist peace.

I strongly believe that all women despite their differences should be involved in decision-making and peace processes and that key actors should recognize the critical role that women play in promoting intersectional peacebuilding at various levels because ‘no country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of their contribution” Michelle Obama- Former First Lady USA.


NOTE: This article is an extract from the Feminist Pace Series, 3rd Edition. Download the full Magazine here: How to Build Feminist Peace Using an Intersectional Perspective



Why Intersectionality Must Be Central to Feminist Peacebuilding

By Pauline Kahuubire

Feminist peacebuilding acknowledges that women, men, girls, and boys in society experience conflict differently and recognizes the key roles that women and other marginalized groups play in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Intersectionality points to the ways systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination mutually reinforce one another to create unique dynamics and effects of conflict on vulnerable persons.

This article argues that an approach to peacebuilding that does not include other dimensions such as socio-economic status, immigration status and other inequalities is likely to reinforce injustices among women and girls. It explores the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, highlights challenges to their participation in peacebuilding and offers recommendations for prioritizing the needs of women and other groups of people who face structural barriers in society.

By their nature, and because of the patriarchal societies that we live in, conflicts disproportionately affect women and girls. Last year, rape and other forms of violence against women in conflict settings increased by 20% globally. In Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo where the government is currently fighting M23 rebels, the face of displacement is female – a baby in one hand, a
mattress in the other. Moreover, conflicts are unpredictable, especially in the
absence of adequate early warning and response systems, where it is difficult to anticipate when conflicts will end. As a result, the immediate and short-term responses usually focus on dealing with the impact.
When the guns are blazing, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the response.

It is only when the guns go silent and grievous harm has been done that actors realize two crucial things. First, women and girls bear the brunt of the conflict, considering other structural violence suffered based on class, sexual orientation, or ethnic background. Secondly, women are essential to responding to conflict situations for recovery efforts to be effective and sustainable.

Conflict resolution and response interventions are beginning to involve women although at a much slower pace than desired. According to the 2021 United Nations Secretary General’s Report on Women, Peace and Security, only 8 out of 25 peace agreements in 2021 referenced women. Most recently, during the handshake that affirmed the Ethiopia-Tigray truce, only male hands were seen  although history shows that peace agreements that excluded women have failed, as observed with the first Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in 2015

For young women, traditional structures, customs, and values prevent their effective participation in formal peacebuilding. The lack of access to information, threats, violence, lack of access to economic resources and opportunities, as well as unpredictable and inadequate funding, especially for grassroots women and youth organizations prevent their participation in decision-making and peacebuilding.

Sometimes we are discriminated against because of the assumption that we do not know anything. As a young person, and especially a young woman, I am one of the most affected by war and conflict. Our presence in decision-making and peacebuilding is important because interventions will be influenced by our experiences. Elizabeth Yuol, a young woman South Sudanese refugee living in Uganda

Furthermore, when women are included in peacebuilding interventions, oftentimes they are engaged as a homogenous group, with similar experiences and concerns. That a younger woman faces the same challenges as an older woman, that a woman with a disability lives the same reality as an abled woman refugee, that a woman living in an urban refugee settlement has the same concerns as one in a rural internally displaced peoples’ camp and that the individual needs of all these women should not be independently examined when creating solutions to crises.

Intersectional feminist peacebuilding asserts that when taken as a whole, without considering the individual needs of all women and girls, there are bound to be unresolved issues and with unresolved issues, conflicts are likely to reoccur. The cycle ends in increased vulnerability of women to discrimination, sexual violence, and violent extremism in some instances.

Feminist peacebuilding also recognizes the intersections between patriarchy and other systems of oppressions such as capitalism, ageism, classism, authoritarianism, and colonialism and how they exacerbate inequalities against women and girls during conflicts and crises.  It suggests that there should not be a one-size fits all to humanitarian response.

For instance, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, global response measures involved the use of quarantines and lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus. This measure did not consider how confinement would affect women and girls in their varied diversities. Women working in markets in Uganda were forced to sleep in the markets to continue earning a living and yet their safety was not guaranteed.  If women had been consulted, they would have proposed alternatives that worked for them.

Therefore, for future crises, women must be engaged to ensure they have an opportunity to highlight solutions that will not leave them adversely affected. Deliberate action must be taken to ensure that all categories of women are included in terms of class, sexuality, ethnicity, and disability as recognized by the Women and Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, the Youth and Peace and Security (YPS) agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Secondly, in most communities, women are the glue that hold the social fabric together. This makes them critical actors in rebuilding societies that have experienced conflict. They participate in door-to-door peacebuilding campaigns and mediate conflict situations at family and communal level, which exposes them to the risk of being attacked. Across the globe, women human rights defenders have increasingly been targeted with attacks that silence their advocacy and prevent them from participating in public life.

In Uganda, Sarah, a middle-aged South Sudanese woman living in a refugee settlement in Adjumani district was trained by Women’s International Peace Centre as a peace mediator. She told me about an incident where she felt that her life was in danger. Using the skills acquired from the previously mentioned training, she would approach families that appeared to be experiencing domestic disputes and where violence was evident and attempt to intervene. On one occasion, the male perpetrator threatened to attack her too citing her interference in domestic matters.

Still in Uganda, an election peace advocate trained by the Women’s Situation Room in Mityana district was violently attacked because her message of peace was construed as support for the ruling government. An intersectional approach to feminist peace must consider such risks and ensure that women in peacebuilding are protected, not stigmatized or subject to other forms of violence such as political violence. It guarantees an enabling and safe environment for women working on peace and security and ensures that they do not face reprisals for their work.

Next, the need for relevant data to inform policies on women’s rights and participation cannot be stressed enough. In most of the evidence presented on conflict, women are invisible which translates in their erasure from policy interventions. Thus, using feminist lenses to document and capture the lived realities of all women will generate evidence for policy response. Data must detect and question existing gender inequalities and systems of oppression, and how they intertwine to affect women and girls in fragile settings.

Relatedly, relevant information should be made available for women to participate in peace processes. Profile refugee women and how they are disconnected from their home countries. Because there are weak linkages between them and women in their home countries, they find it difficult to keep up with peace processes and influence their outcomes. Information should be made readily accessible for women to keep track of relevant events and circumvent the evolving tactics of conflict. It is important that critical information such as peace agreements should be translated into local languages that are easily understood by most women.

If peace tables prioritize the needs of warlords over women, that should be an indication to do away with the tables. Because peace is not built overnight, strengthening collective power, and taking collective action in peacebuilding needs to be promoted to ensure sustainability. An intersectional and non-discriminatory approach to feminist peacebuilding has the power to bridge movements and identities and kickstart change by dismantling unequal power structures while centering the needs and experiences of marginalised groups.

At the end of the day, feminist peace building must recognise and respond to the systemic drivers of inequality and use emergencies as catalysts to advance women and girls’ rights. Even within itself, it must identify unjust formal and informal power relations by regularly critiquing the extent to which its structures and processes reinforce oppressive power relations through humanitarian action.

NOTE: This article is an extract from the Feminist Pace Series, 3rd Edition. Download the full Magazine here: How to Build Feminist Peace Using an Intersectional Perspective


Reflections From the United Nations Security Council 2022 Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: The Rhetoric Continues

By Helen Kezie-Nwoha

October 31st 2022, marks exactly 22 years since the adoption of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS). Every year during the month of October the UN Security Council convenes an open debate to receive the report of the UN Secretary-General on WPS and listen to member states, UN entities, and different actors on the status of implementing the women, peace and security agenda. This year was no different as the meeting took place on October 21st 2022.

In this article, I share some of the gains of the WPS movement and areas that need more work as reflected in the 2022 UN Security Council open debate.

Read More “Reflections From the United Nations Security Council 2022 Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: The Rhetoric Continues”

Young Women Building Peace at the Intersection of Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security

Photo/Campaign for Female Education

By Margaret LoWilla 

The notion of youthhood is highly contested and cannot be separated from political implications about the distance between young people and formal structures of power. The transition, often indicated by age, denotes a shift from childhood to adulthood.  Beyond apparent and overt biological and physical changes is also positioning in the social order informed by cultural norms, gender and the economic and political context.[1]

This blog first explores the concept of youth as is related to politics and power. It then reflects on Young Women and their place in Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Agendas.[2] It serves as the starting point of a series, following the peacebuilding activities of three groups of Young Women Leaders in South Sudan, trained by the Women’s International Peace Centre (The Peace Centre) in partnership with the Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice (CIGPJ). [3]

The Politics of Youthhood

At first glance, the term youth is used simply to define individuals who fall within a stipulated age category. For instance, the United Nations defines youth as individuals aged between 15 and 24, while the African Union and East African Community define youth as individuals between the age of 15 and 35. However, further exploration reveals that age categories are insufficient in determining youthhood. Definitions of youth vary in terms of age, space, time, location, gender, and socio-economic and political dynamics. As such, there are multiple categorizations of youth whose experiences differ considerably. [4]

Similarly, the meaning and definition of adulthood can shift easily from situation to situation. For example, in the context of conflict, age and gender roles are disrupted and disregarded as youth and women may commit acts of violence to ensure survival. Furthermore, in the case of the loss of parents, young people (of either gender) may be forced into the position of head of household, taking on the role of ‘protector’ and ‘provider’. In this way, categories of differentiation in age can vanish completely.[5]

The word ‘youth’ cannot be removed from politics and power. In African society, decision making and the public space is reserved for (male) adults and elites who seek to capture and maintain power. Politics is also an adult terrain where the subordination of the youth is justified in the name of culture and continuity.[6] Youth and age are socially constructed and easily manipulated. The capabilities of the youth are often exploited to sustain the power of those in authority while young people themselves feel increasingly disenfranchised, unable to access any tangible gains from the economy and society. Yet, their agency should not be underestimated, as their ability to organize their power to action can be an effective instrument for change as seen in the Arab Spring,  #EndSars Movement in Nigeria, #Zimbabweanlivesmatter, and other social movements around the continent. [7]

Additionally, the gendered construction of youth cannot be ignored. The use of overly masculine definitions, social norms, roles and rights favour male youth over female youth. This mirrors the patriarchal organization of society, which aims to ensure that male youth inherit power. The power dimension of youth is also visible in the internationalization of Western notions of childhood, youth and adulthood.

The international policy and legal frameworks on childhood and perhaps youth, emphasize their innocence and victimhood. The implication is that they are considered only in terms of their vulnerability, negating their capacity as active agents during both peace and conflict.[8]

Situating Young Women in Peace and Security

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and  Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agendas call for inclusive planning, programme design, policy development and decision-making processes for conflict prevention, resolution and recovery.[9] United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 is the landmark global normative framework that recognized the unique experiences of women and girls during armed conflict. UNSCR 1325 is extensive, consisting of 18 articles that are representative of four main pillars: participation, prevention, protection, relief and recovery.[10] United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 adopted in 2015 has 5 key pillars: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships and disengagement and reintegration. It is the first of its kind which acknowledges the role of youth in the peace process. The resolution calls for the inclusion of youth in decision making and further urges the Member States to establish mechanisms that would facilitate the meaningful participation of youth in peace processes.[11]

In peace and security discourse, youth and gender are often mentioned separately and treated as individual blocs. Customarily, the term ‘youth’ is used in reference to young men. [12] In the eight women, peace and security related United Nations Security resolutions ‘women’ are referenced all through, six give specific mention to ‘girls’[13].  “Youth” is included in UNSCR 2242, while UNSCR 2282 on the review of the Peacebuilding Architecture, adopted after UNSCR 2250 (2015), mentions “young people”. Young women are consistently subsumed into these different categories as they are not explicitly mentioned, likely leading to their exclusion.[14]

Reference to young women in policies is limited to their protection or addressing discrimination. This emphasis on their vulnerability consequently denies their agency and potentially transformative role in peacebuilding. In many contexts, young women face double discrimination for being young and female.  As belonging to the youth category, they are marginalized from national and international public institutions that ignore and underestimate their critical contributions and potential. While in the women category they are left out due to assumptions about their abilities. At this intersection, gender and age biases combine to further limit the inclusion of young women in formal political and peace processes.[15]

In South Sudan, there are very few safe spaces where young women can meet to organize alliances and build friendships beyond the private/domestic sphere thus limiting their social networks and political awareness. In the case where women engage in public forums, they are often targets of intimidation. Real or perceived threats to their security contribute to their self-censorship and restrict them to the home.[16] Furthermore, discriminatory sociocultural norms and practices that hinder women and girls’ education, empowerment and economic freedom are the root causes of their limited participation.[17]

Women groups and youth groups have been known to work together to increase their power and influence on peace and political processes. However, this collaboration is not constant and certainly not guaranteed.

As senior women and young women often have diverging needs and priorities, established women’s groups may not automatically include young women or their perspectives to increase their participation in politics or peace processes. Furthermore, the reality of limited funding often results in support being directed to well-established women’s organizations.[18]

Young Women Building Peace in South Sudan

Though South Sudan is a signatory to both UNSCR 1325 and UNSCR 2250, young women’s participation in peace and political processes is limited. As the country is in the transitional phase of implementing the Revitalized Agreement on the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the participation of young women cannot be overemphasized.

One of the recommendations provided by the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) on bridging the gaps between the WPS and YPS agendas is to, ‘Empower and support young women and their participation in peace and security initiatives and consider specific actions to support young women in leadership spaces.’[19] Accordingly, the Women’s International Peace Centre in partnership with the Centre of Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice (CIGPJ) brought together and trained 20 young women aged 18 to 35 from political parties and civil society organisations to strengthen their capacity to participate in and influence peace processes and their outcomes from a gender perspective.[20] The young women were put in three groups, where they came up with action plans that they would implement. This series follows the implementation of the action plans to document and highlight the efforts of young women as active agents of peace.

[1] Fabiano, Chimwemwe et. al (2021) “Who Will Silence the Guns? (The Youth As African Solutions To African Problems),” Young African Leaders Journal, vol. 3, no. 19,

[2] UN Women (2018), ‘’Young Women in Peace and Security: At The Intersection of The YPS and WPS Agendas,”

[3] Women’s International Peace Centre (2021), ‘’Refresher Training of Young Women Peace Builders in South Sudan,’’

[4] Durham, Deborah (2000), ‘’Youth and the Social Imagination in Africa,’’ Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 3,

[5] Ibid

[6] Diouf, Mamadou (1996), ‘’ Urban Youth and Senegalese Politics: Dakar 1988-1994,’’

[7] Durham, Deborah (2000)

[8] Boyden Jo (1997), “Childhood and the policymakers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood,”

[9] UN Women, Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace: A Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, 2015.

[10] What is UNSCR 1325? An Explanation of the Landmark Resolution on Women, Peace and Security,’ electronic source, United States Institute of Peace,,the%20forging%20of%20lasting%20peace

[11] UNSCR 2250 | Introduction,

[12]  United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding, ‘Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding: A Practice Note’, with support from PeaceNexus Foundation, 2016. Available from: http:// Practice%20Note%20Youth%20&%20 Peacebuilding%20-%20January%202016. pdf

[13] UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122 and 2242

[14] UN Women Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security (2018), ‘Young Women in Peace and Security at the Intersection of WPS and YPS, New York

[15] Walker, D., Pereznieto, P., Bergh, G. and Smith, K. Partners for change: Young people and governance in a post-2015 world, ODI, Plan and Restless Development, 2014, p.11. Available from: partners-for-change-young-people-and governance-in-a-post-2015-world-pdf.

[16]  United Nations, World Youth Report: Youth Civic Engagement, 2016. Available from: civic_engagement.pdf.

[17] Soule, S. and Nairne, J., Are Girls Checking Out? Gender and Political Socialization in Transitioning Democracies, Center for Civic Education, 2006. Available from: http://www. pdf.

[18] UN Women event, Building Sustainable Peace for all: Synergies between the WPS agenda and YPS agenda, 11 March 2017, United Nations Headquarters, New York.

[19] UNDPPA (2021), ‘Women Peace and Security (WPS) & Youth Peace and Security (YPS) Complementarities of the two agendas,’ Women Peace and Security (WPS) & Youth Peace and Security (YPS) Complementarities of the two agendas

[20] Women’s International Peace Centre, ‘Young Women Leading for Peace,’ Blog,

International Day of Elimination of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

By Evelyn Birungi

Conflicts and wars remain gendered in their impact, having women mostly targeted and sexually violated. Sexual violence is defined as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion. The United Nation General Assembly’s 2015 resolution proclaimed 19 June as a day to condemn and call for the end of conflict-related sexual violence, and honour victims, survivors and those fighting to end these most terrorizing and destructive of crimes. The date was deliberately chosen to commemorate UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) which first recognized the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, rather than an unintended consequence of war.

Violence especially sexual violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating, including death. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. It impacts their families, their community, and the vital role of women in preventing conflict and helping to forge peace.

“Children conceived through wartime rape often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the guns have fallen silent. Their mothers may be marginalized and shunned by their own families and communities. On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we amplify the voices of these forgotten victims of war, who suffer stigma, shame and exclusion in societies polarized by armed conflict.”— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

While there has been more international attention given to sexual violence in armed conflict, its still a problem that hasn’t gone away. This is because, it is used in war as power play. The male demand for female labor to perform female household chores persists during armed conflict. These patterns of social dominance and deeply engrained gender specific roles get violently expressed in wartime and women are sexually violated for the sins the perpetrators believe their communities have committed.

Secondly, outrage about rape in conflict have failed to translate into investigation and prosecution of perpetrators Over the past decade, estimates have been made that only 37% of reported rapes are prosecuted, and other research studies estimate that only 14-18% of reported sexual assaults of any kind lead to prosecution. Lastly, inadequate relief and recovery services for survivors of wartime sexual assault reflect official disregard for the harm women and girls suffer in the course of conflict and suggests a lack of commitment to facilitating rape survivors’ reintegration into society.

Collectively we can look and work towards a future free of conflict-related sexual violence by creating a world and culture where all are equal. Conflicts rarely happen abruptly, by monitoring and empowering women as peace builders, we can work towards a place where women are seen more than labor for household chores and keepers of the peace.

Governments and international systems of justice have the responsibility to put in place laws on prohibition and commit to investigations and punishment of these crimes. It definitely needs to go without saying that sexual violence, is a crime and cannot be justified. Sexual violence in armed conflicts must be subject to an absolute prohibition, the same status that the crime of torture currently enjoys.

 Governments committed to the recovery of sexual violence survivors must undertake efforts to improve women’s human rights in all aspects of their lives and eradicate discrimination against them. This includes incorporation and reaffirming its commitment to the continuing and full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) . This would especially refer to the pillar on relief and recovery which calls for advancement of relief and recovery measures to address international crises through a gendered lens, including by respecting the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps, and considering the needs of women and girls in the design of refugee camps and settlements.

Celebrating Women’s day in a COVID-19 World

By Evelyn Birungi

This Monday, we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day(IWD). Marked annually on March 8th, IWD is one of the most important days of the year to: celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality, lobby for accelerated gender parity, fundraise for female-focused charities. This year, IWD is being celebrated under the theme “Women in leadership achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” celebrates the remarkable efforts by women to shape a more equitable future after COVID-19. Read More “Celebrating Women’s day in a COVID-19 World”

Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls Refugees in the time of COVID-19

By Helen Kezie-Nwoha

2020 marks the sixth global annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. This year has been particularly challenging for the entire world with the COVID-19 pandemic but much more for women and girls’ refugees, who are already living in very difficult circumstances with limited access to social services and livelihood options. COVID-19 and the measures put in place by governments to curb its spread has led to increased human rights violations and particularly painfully, to sexual violence against refugee women and girls’. Despite the March 23, 2020, global call for ceasefire by the UN Secretary-General, conflicts have continued in many countries exposing women and girls to displacements and increased risk of sexual violence. This is not to say that it is absent in so-called peaceful countries; in fact, sexual violence has increased globally due to COVID-19. This blog discusses sexual violence against refugees women and girls in the time of COVID-19.

Read More “Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls Refugees in the time of COVID-19”

COVID19 Response Is Disrupting African Cultural and Social Norms

Helen Kezie-Nwoha[1] and Angeline Nkwenkam Nguedjeu[2]

Our culture in Africa shapes our identity. We proudly refer to ourselves as Africans. This sense of pride emanates from our very rich cultural and social norms. All over the world people have cultures that they cherish and inform their beliefs, norms and social practices.

Read More “COVID19 Response Is Disrupting African Cultural and Social Norms”


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