Introduction: side by side: women, peace and security

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Women make up 50 per cent of the population, how can you possibly attempt to create and maintain international peace and security when you’re excluding 50% of the population?”

Sarah Taylor, Coordinator, NGO Working Group, Women, Peace and Security, quote in ‘Side by Side: Women Peace and Security
How to use this Toolkit
This Toolkit is designed for military, police and civilian audiences deploying to fragile and conflict-affected countries1. It complements the documentary ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’, and can be used in conjunction with the documentary, yet can also be used separate to the documentary. The Toolkit consists of this Booklet, which summarises the main areas of the Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda including Prevention, Protection, Empowerment and Participation, Relief and Recovery, and a CD designed as a tool for trainers and for self-study.
Why Women, Peace and Security?
Consider these statistics:

  • Up to 80 per cent of internally displaced persons are women and children;

  • An estimated 500,000 Rwandan women were raped during the 1994 genocide,2 and up to 50,000 in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s;3

  • Less than three per cent of UN peacekeeping personnel are female; and

  • Despite women’s huge contributions to peacebuilding and conflict prevention at many levels, only 2.5 per cent of signatories, 3.2 per cent of mediators, 5.5 per cent of witnesses and 7.6 per cent of negotiators are women.4

Women and girls experience conflict very differently from men and boys. These differences are wide-ranging and complex. They arise largely from the often distinct roles that women and men perform in their communities and homes in times of conflict and peace, and their respective status in society.5 Increasingly, targeted gender-based violence is being used as a weapon of war, 6 with women and children at heightened risk of such violence during and after conflict. It is important to recognise that women and girls are not a homogenous group. Just as women and men have differential experiences of conflict, conflict affects diverse groups of women and girls in very different ways. Women and girls may not only be victims in need of protection in the context of conflict. They are also frequently active agents in both perpetuating conflict and building peace. 7

Over the past two decades attention has been directed to resolving the long standing victimisation of women and girls during conflict, and developing strategies to ensure their effective participation in peacebuilding. National and international action on Women, Peace and Security is gaining strength. The WPS agenda encompasses the range of legal frameworks, mechanisms, organisations, and activities to address these issues. The WPS agenda focuses on the following areas:

  1. Protection – protecting the human rights of women and girls by working with international, national and local partners to ensure safety, physical and mental wellbeing, economic security and equality, with special consideration for protecting women and girls from sexual violence, responding to women’s stated needs and building on existing local capacity.

  1. Prevention – incorporating a gender perspective in conflict prevention activities and strategies, and recognising the role of women in preventing conflict, including addressing risks and vulnerabilities.

  1. Empowerment and Participation – recognising the important role women already play in all aspects of peace and security, and enhancing women’s meaningful participation, both domestically and overseas, through:

  • striving for more equal representation of women and men in peace and security institutions; and

  • working with international, national and local partners to empower women to be involved in formal peace and security processes in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings.

  1. Relief and Recovery – ensuring a gender perspective is incorporated in all relief and recovery efforts in order to support the specific needs and recognise and strengthen the capacity of women and girls.8

International and National Frameworks
On October 31 2000, the United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (SCR 1325). The adoption of SCR 1325 was historic and unprecedented. It marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, recognised the under-valued and under-utilised contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building, and stressed the importance of their equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.description: countries with national action plans on women peace and security

In response to persistent advocacy from civil society, the UN Security Council has so far adopted four additional resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. In addition to SCR1325 (2000), these resolutions are: Security Council Resolutions 1820 (2008); 1888 (2009); 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010). The five resolutions should be considered together as they comprise the Women, Peace and Security thematic agenda of the Security Council, and the international security policy framework. The obligations in the resolutions extend from the international to the local level, as well as from intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations, to national level governments. 9

A key mechanism for implementation of the WPS agenda is the development of National Action Plans (NAP). Currently 36 countries have a NAP. In 2012 Australia finalised a whole-of-government National Action Plan for 2012 – 2018. It sets out what Australia will do, at home and overseas, to integrate a gender perspective into its peace and security efforts, protect women and girls human rights, and promote their participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution. It also commits the Government to report every two years to the Australian Federal Parliament on the progress of this work.’10 See ‘Annex 1: Australia’s Response: The National Action Plan’ for further information.

The UN CEDAW Committee11 is moving forward with another international measure to fulfill the WPS agenda. It is developing a General Recommendation on women in conflict and post-conflict situations which will guide State parties on the legislative, policy and other measures to ensure compliance with their Convention obligations to protect, respect and fulfill women’s human rights before, during and after armed conflict.

Strategies and Actions to Implement the WPS Agenda
Examples of actions taken at different levels to implement the WPS agenda are outlined below.

  • The work of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, who is concerned with acts perpetrated by the State, by private persons or by armed groups or warring factions.

  • The UN CEDAW Committee is developing a General Recommendation on women in conflict and post-conflict situations (see above).

  • The UN coordinates the ‘Stop Rape Now’ campaign which galvanises international advocacy to end sexual violence in conflict.

  • Peacewomen is a project of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom which promotes the role of women to prevent conflict and participate in peace processes.

  • Regional organisations are also taking action, for example the Pacific Island Leaders Forum in 2009 recognised the prevalence and threat of sexual violence and pushed for action at the highest levels of policy, access to justice, and awareness-raising. The following year a regional joint government and non-government organisation (NGO) working group was established to focus on these issues.

Australia has implemented a number of initiatives including:

  • Delivering and implementing a National Action Plan on WPS (see above);

  • Appointing a Global Ambassador for Women and Girls for high-level advocacy, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region; and

  • Tasking the Australian Federal Police to work with other police forces in the Asia Pacific region to facilitate women’s participation in and protection of women’s and girls human rights.

Around the world, women work on protection, prevention, and participation at the local level. Some examples include:

  • Shreen Abdul Saroor, Sri Lankan founder of the Mannar Women's Development Federation and Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy, who leads an inter-ethnic community project that brings Tamil and Muslim women together to rebuild their communities;

  • Electronita Duan, a founder of Politeknik Perdamaian Halamahera, an institute of higher education in Indonesia for people whose studies were interrupted by conflict and who could not afford to resume their educations. Her ‘Halmahera Peace Politechnic’ works with students of all religions in Maluku, an area ravaged by Muslim-Christian conflict; and

  • Purna Shova Chitrakar created the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal to promote an international ban on the use, production, transfer and stockpile of landmines; and worked to teach families, students and teachers about the risks of landmines in their communities, especially in rural areas.12


I think we need equally a serious and intense focus and spotlight on men as perpetrators. When we travel we ask the question ‘Well what does it cost in this community to rape a girl?’ The question is not understood at first: ‘Well what do you mean, cost?’ And this is what we have to change.

Tonderai Chikuhwa, Senior Programme Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, interviewed in Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security

Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

Protection from sexual violence is one of the key goals of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The WPS agenda stresses:

  • Identifying sexual violence as a weapon of war and a war crime;

  • Protecting women’s and girls’ rights during conflict;

  • Building states, institutions, and cultures which protect universal rights;

  • Ending impunity for sexual violence;

  • Intervening to protect women and girls when needed; and

  • Training security personnel to prevent and act on sexual violence.

The international community now recognises that contemporary armed conflict is very different from the wars of a century ago. The majority of casualties are civilians, and the majority of those are women and children. Further, sexual violence13 is not a ‘by-product’ of conflict, but indeed a strategy and a tactic used by combatants. Elimination of sexual violence is fundamental to lasting peace. Examples of sexual violence as a weapon of war include: forced incest and public rape used to humiliate and shred the social fabric in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); rape used as a deliberate vector of HIV in Rwanda; forced impregnation camps used as a tool of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and the rape of women participating in public life in Guinea-Conakry as a deliberate tool of political repression.14

Women, men, girls and boys can all be victims of sexual violence, however, women and girls are much more commonly targeted.

Women are also disproportionately affected by state fragility, humanitarian emergencies, and by the long after-effects of conflict.15 It is important to understand protection as something that needs to be considered not only in conflict, post-conflict and emergency contexts but also in chronically fragile countries.

For women, fear of sexual violence often does not end at the cessation of hostilities. In fact, “women become convenient targets in a fractured, brutalised society, where law and order is held in abeyance” and research indicates a strong rise in domestic violence, sex trafficking, and forced prostitution in post-conflict areas.

However, conflict can sometimes provide opportunities for women and shift gender relations in society in positive ways. Of the 30 countries of the world that have the highest number of women in parliament, 10 of them are post-conflict, including Rwanda, Burundi, and Timor Leste, reflecting promising shifts in the power balance wrought by conflict and peace processes.16

Defining and Implementing Protection

Sexual violence must be stopped because it violates international law and the human rights of women and girls, men and boys, and damages communities and nations. It must also be stopped because sexual violence is an element of conflict. While significant levels of sexual violence still occur, peace has not been achieved. It is a cause, an effect and an indicator of ongoing tensions.

The humanitarian community defines protection as ‘a concept that encompasses all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law. Protection can involve either removing individuals or groups from a risk, threat, or situation of violence, which may adversely affect their fundamental human rights and freedoms, or intervening at the source of the violence to reduce or stop it. This can be accomplished through fostering and contributing to the creation of an environment — political, social, cultural, institutional, and legal — conducive to the sustainable exercise and respect of fundamental freedoms and human rights.’17

Resolution 1820 calls specifically for:

  • Strengthening the protection of women from sexual violence

  • Strengthening advocacy aimed at ending conflict-related sexual violence

  • Supporting victims of sexual violence

  • Countering impunity and strengthening accountability

  • Strengthening women's participation locally

  • Increasing women’s representation and integrating gender perspectives in peace operations

Protection is inseparable from the other pillars of the WPS agenda: prevention, participation and empowerment, and relief and recovery. In other words, protection is less needed when strong prevention measures are in place and enhanced by the participation of women in their communities, in civil society organisations, in peace talks, and in government. Security-focused institutions, such as UN Peacekeeping missions carrying out protection measures, now recognise that women and local organisations must be a leading part of successful protection activities.

Documentation and advocacy on sexual violence: the Women’s League of Burma


Women of Burma are increasingly vulnerable to violence, including rape and various forms of sexual violence, due to the increased militarisation and anti-insurgency measures in ethnic states. This has driven many women to become refugees and migrants in neighbouring countries, where they continue to be vulnerable to many forms of violence. In June 2002, two civil society organisations produced a report, ‘License to Rape’ documenting 173 rape incidents involving 625 women and girls in Central Shan State from 1996-2001. The report attracted considerable international media attention, and networks around the world have supported the resulting campaign ‘Stop License to Rape in Burma’ locally and internationally, led by the Women’s League of Burma18. See Protection Module in CD for full case study.

Strategies and Actions

A range of strategies and actions are being undertaken at the international, national and local level for protection of women and girls in conflict affected areas. Watch Chapter Two of the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary to learn more.


As outlined in the Introduction to this Booklet, since 2000 a range of international mechanisms have been developed to guide and implement the WPS agenda, including SCR 1325 and SCR 1820.19

Meanwhile at both domestic and international levels, women’s civil society organisations, male and female leaders, political parties, and women in their local communities have been working for decades to advocate for – and implement – protection of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings. International NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Raise Hope for Congo and War Child advocate for protection on the international stage.


Many of the most effective strategies for protection of women during and after conflict have been bottom-up initiatives. Some examples include:

  • Bosnia - In the late 1990s, a group of Bosnian women who had survived systematic rape as a tool of ethnic cleansing, broke the international silence with a campaign against sexual violence in conflict;20 and

  • Rwanda - Avega, a key Rwandan Community-based Organisation, was started by widows from the 1994 genocide with the dual goals of protecting the rights of women and children, supporting their case for justice as well as relief and recovery. The multi-ethnic, community-based organisation now cares for over 70,000 orphans.21


"One of the things that the U.N. did, which really helped a lot to encourage women to join the police or their security agencies was a deployment of an all female-formed police unit from India to Liberia.  It really helped a lot to encourage the women of Liberia to join the police force because they saw that there are other women from other countries that are in the same kind of profession."

Chief Superintendent Vance Gariba, Director of Planning, Police Headquarters, Ghana, interviewed in ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’.

Chapter Three of the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary demonstrates the range of actors and issues that need to be considered when preventing conflict and protecting women from the effects of conflict. Increasing numbers of female police officers, a focus upon community policing and using female engagement teams and female interpreters in activities are all strategies that have proven to augment conflict prevention activities.

ensurin agendaurgency of:vention nWhat Does Conflict Prevention Involve?
Conflict Prevention broadly speaking includes actions or policies undertaken by a broad range of stakeholders to:

  • prevent the emergence of violent conflict and identify non-violent means of resolving the tensions;

  • stop ongoing conflicts from spreading; and

  • deter the re-emergence of violence.22

Conflict Prevention is intertwined with the other pillars of the WPS agenda: Protection, Participation and Relief and Recovery. Efforts to reduce and prevent conflict require women’s participation and are integral to any ongoing protection and relief and recovery process.

There are two main approaches to prevention. Operational prevention measures seek to address immediate crises or stem an escalation of violent conflict. Operational prevention measures include the use of diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation or mediation, sanctions, conditionality or incentives (economic, political or security), or preventative deployment.23

The second approach, structural prevention, seeks to take a long-term approach to addressing the drivers of conflict such as poverty, political repression, weak institutional or governance capacity and uneven distribution of resources that can, if left unattended, escalate into violence. 24

Devising gender sensitive early warning indicators is an important way in which drivers of conflict can be monitored and prevented as stated by Leticia Anderson in the ‘Side by Side: Women Peace and Security’ documentary (see CD for longer case study). The systematic collection of information and data about women in fragile, conflict and post-conflict environments is vital to conflict prevention.

Successful prevention of sexual violence requires a high degree of local ownership and close co-ordination between multiple entities.

Women’s Contribution to Conflict Prevention Activities

As discussed in the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary, women play pivotal roles in many conflict settings including: reaching out across conflict divides; encouraging parties to abandon entrenched positions; influencing male family members to disarm; and helping to reintegrate ex-combatants into communities.

Case study supporting Conflict Prevention Initiatives in Solomon Islands

Women in Solomon Islands have always been active participants in traditional conflict resolution and peace mediating processes. This cultural heritage allowed women to play formative roles in attempting to broker peace between the militants at various stages of the conflict in Solomon Islands, encouraging them to lay down their arms and return to their villages. They have now formed a national body, Women for Peace, and a women and peace-focused media organisation to influence public opinion. See the Prevention module in the CD for more details.

Case Study Supporting Gendered Conflict Prevention Initiatives in Mindanao
The Mindanao Commission of Women (MCW) promotes gender and conflict prevention activities at all levels of society. Dosita Tutana-Andota discusses their work in the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary. They run a peace building campaign through their peace circles, ‘Mothers for Peace’ and Youths for Peace that supports communities in planning for a conflict free Mindanao. MCW reports to local, national and international agencies on the economic and political status of women in Mindanao. They are involved at local government level in capacity building around issues of gender and trying to ensure more women can participate in local government decision making. See the Prevention module in the CD for more details.

Strategies and Actions to Enhance Women’s Contributions to Conflict Prevention

The following strategies and actions will enhance the likelihood of ensuring women contribute to conflict prevention activities:

  1. Ensure women have opportunities to participate in Operational and Structural Prevention Missions and in deployments overseas, including in decision-making positions (see Video Clip in Prevention Module on CD for example of UNPOL);

  2. Support government, multilateral, international and national civil society organisations to promote the roles, and address the needs of women in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict;

  3. Encourage the promotion of women’s involvement and leadership in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts through engagement with the UN and other multilateral fora, and in the development of best practice guidance;

  4. When working in fragile and conflict-affected states, seek out and use existing networks of women’s groups to understand how communities are using traditional and other mechanisms to prevent conflict and the women’s role in these strategies;

  5. Consult with women’s groups regularly to learn about conflict trends at the community level, their impact on women and women’s potential roles in mitigating violence (See Prevention Module on CD for Video clip and reflective questions on consultation);

  6. Advocate for wider interaction and support of women’s groups and the use of gender-based indicators, helping women to identify a range of indicators that highlight trends in society (see Prevention Module on CD for More information on developing Gender Early Warning Indicators);

  7. Work with the Security Sector to advocate for more women in leadership positions in the Police and Defence Forces;

  8. Ensure that female engagement teams and female interpreters are involved in humanitarian and conflict prevention activities; and

  9. Increase the number of women police officers involved in community policing.


We need to stand firm, we need to let the people know that some of these things are wrong, they are not good for us anymore.”

Felicia John, interviewed in ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security
The Reality to Date

As articulated by Michelle Bachelet, Head of UNWomen, in the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary, women are not adequately involved in peace processes and women’s rights and gender equality has only been mentioned in seven per cent of peace agreements.

Why Are There So Few Women Involved?

Women’s organisational skills and cooperation during conflict usually result in the proliferation of women’s civil society organisations post-conflict. However, women and men have differential access to resources, education, formal political parties, and the media. The media frequently perpetuates negative stereotypes and traditional conceptions about women’s capacities, highlighting their victimisation rather than their capacity to make unique contributions to bring about positive change. Seats at the formal negotiating table are usually reserved for armed factions and governments, and even where women are members of these groups, they are under-represented in negotiations.

One of the common features of post-conflict reconstruction is the implementation of new political processes, such as elections, the establishment of new or reconfigured governance structures and the strengthening of civil society participation in public life. Elections can provide women with the chance to express newly developed political clout, or can pose a risk to advances made by women during conflict and its aftermath.

There are considerable obstacles to women’s exercise of political expression in post-conflict environments, stemming from restricted mobility, less access to information and education, limited time due to work commitments, cultural norms dictating men’s control over women’s decisions and/or coercion and intimidation by family members and communities. As a result, women candidates face particular challenges when running for elected office.

Women in Politics in Timor Leste – a New Direction?

Timor Leste has one of the highest proportions of women in parliament in the Asia-Pacific region: 29 per cent. There are three women in Cabinet. Political parties are required to have at least one in three women on their candidate lists, a quota system which has now resulted in more women being elected than the quota calls for, suggesting that it has raised awareness of women’s leadership capability and provided inspiring role models for candidates and voters alike. This shift is hoped to increase women’s participation in future peace processes. In the past, women have been excluded. During the waves of crisis between 2006 and 2008, ‘It didn’t really occur to anyone to invite women’ to the negotiating table and it seemed ‘you were only invited to talks if you had a gun in your hand.’ Of the 37,472 listed ex-combatants to receive benefits, not a single one was female. Women hope that a new era is afoot. Women’s participation in parliament, new measures to increase the number of female police, and the decentralisation process in which women leaders may have greater opportunities, are all hopeful signs.25

Strategies and Actions for Increasing Women’s Participation

Chapter Four, of the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary analyses and discusses a range of ideas and strategies for increasing women’s participation and empowerment in all levels of decision-making and peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts.

International Mechanisms

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) details the numerous steps that must be supported in the area of women’s equal participation in political and public life in order to ensure their enjoyment of these rights in practice at local and national level. They include the following:

  1. Guarantee women the right to vote and to be elected;

  2. Use temporary special measures (quotas, financial assistance) to ensure an increase in women’s participation;

  3. Ensure women’s right to participate in non-governmental organisations and providing incentives to political parties to include women;

  4. Ensure women’s right to participate in policy formulation and implementation and to hold public office, including through appointment of women to senior positions, including in traditionally male- dominated fields;

  5. Establish or strengthen a national women’s machinery to provide advice on the impact on women of government policies, monitor the situation of women and formulate policies and strategies to eliminate discrimination;

  6. Put women’s machinery at a high-ranking level, resource and empower it; and

  7. Support gender mainstreaming throughout government departments.26

Other Strategies

  1. Open ‘back-channel’ or parallel talks to formal peace negotiations, drawing on the network of women activists across conflict lines. Develop a common agenda, highlighting issues that are critical to women and that must be included in negotiations;27

  2. Develop a media campaign and generate support among journalists covering the issues;

  3. Ensure that you are aware of, and have positions on, all issues being discussed. Initiate simulated negotiations to strengthen women’s capacities for formal processes. Where women negotiators do exist, reach out to them to provide support, expertise and advocacy on gender issues;

  4. Seek out “champions” and supporters of women’s participation among national figures (men and women) such as politicians, religious leaders, media and business personalities. Inform them about the issues that need to be addressed and ways in which women’s participation can improve the process;

  5. Support women to join political parties involved in the negotiations so as to promote their agenda from within the structures. Or if this meets with resistance, help them to consider alternative measures, such as creating a civil society dialogue, asking for the support of respected national institutions and leaders or creating their own political party;28

  6. Work with the Security Sector to advocate for more women in leadership positions in the Police and Defence Forces;

  7. Ensure that female engagement teams and female interpreters are involved in humanitarian and conflict prevention activities;

  8. Increase the number of women police officers involved in community policing; and

  9. Build the capacity of women to advocate for positive change. Encourage networks and coalitions and alliance building across women’s organisations.


"There was one woman I met who we were talking about needs in terms of food and water and shelter and she said to me but what I really need, what I really need the most is white cloth and I looked at her and said “White cloth?  What would you be needing that for?  And she said, the least I can do, she said I couldn’t feed my children but the least I can do is give them an honourable burial.  And that voice, that incredibly powerful mother’s voice, for her recovery and for getting society back together and being able to at least say that they had been dying with dignity was something that was so important and I think that those voices have to be heard."

Phoebe Wynn-Pope, Humanitarian Consultant, interviewed on Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security
Relief and Recovery Definition

In conflict affected and post-conflict situations, relief and recovery efforts are focused upon:

  • Restoring internal security, including the reintegration of uprooted populations, and disarming, demobilising and reintegrating former combatants;

  • Building administrative and governance capacities, establishing functioning financial infrastructures and economic restructuring;

  • Repairing physical infrastructure, including building homes, roads and bridges; restoring water, electricity and fuel supplies; repairing schools, markets and hospitals; recruiting personnel; and providing the training necessary for operations and maintenance;

  • Establishing a credible and functioning judicial system; and

  • Ensuring social well-being, including the health care needs of the population, providing basic social services and rebuilding education systems.29

The ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary demonstrates the wide range of activities and actors involved in relief and recovery efforts, and why it is critical to approach all relief and recovery tasks with a gender sensitive approach.

Why is a Gender Perspective in Relief and Recovery Work Important?

The ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary demonstrates the difficulties faced by women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations. Relief and Recovery programmes may not recognise or give priority to supporting women's and girls' health needs, domestic responsibilities, or their needs for skills training and credit. Relief camps may be set out in ways which make it unsafe for women to access latrines, health services and food allocation points. Demobilisation and reintegration programs in the past have given very little attention to the specific situation of girls and women.30

The participation of women and men in all aspects of relief and recovery efforts is critical. This includes the planning and delivery phase, implementation, monitoring and evaluation and maintenance of project achievements, peace and stability. In the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary Anne Marie Goetz notes the increase in female-headed households post-conflict and some of the challenges associated with inheritance and legal entitlements. The case study below of Aceh, an autonomous province of Indonesia, demonstrates how important it is to address these challenges.
Ensuring a Gender Perspective in Relief and Recovery Work:

  • supports a more accurate assessment of the situation, needs and vulnerabilities of different people;

  • facilitates the design of more appropriate responses that meet actual needs; and

  • identifies opportunities and resources of men and women and takes into account their varying ability to contribute to relief and recovery activities.

CASE STUDY: More Rights for Aceh’s Women31

The Indonesian autonomous province of Aceh has introduced an innovative Women’s Rights Charter – a signal that women are to have an equal say in the societal development of the Indonesian province post-conflict and post-tsunami. It is the first charter of its kind in an Islamic region to be officially recognised by representatives of all the relevant groups. Its signatories include the Governor of Aceh, the Chairman of the Provincial Parliament, the Chairman of the Sharia Authority, representatives of the judiciary, police, and the military, members of the regional Islamic Scholars Council, and women’s organisations. In the context of multiple challenges for the women of Aceh – the tsunami, the conflict, and legal and cultural discrimination against women – it deals with measures such as legal documentation for identification purposes, which are crucial for property and electoral rights. See the relief and recovery module in the CD for more details.

Strategies and Actions for Ensuring Women’s Participation in Relief and Recovery Efforts


  1. Consider the use of specific strategies to promote the participation and protection of women and girls in fragile, conflict and/ or post-conflict settings. For example Female Engagement Teams that understand the specific needs of women and girls in relief and recovery processes, and the use of gender advisers.

  2. Consider the specific vulnerabilities of women in humanitarian emergencies and in conflict and ensure that relief efforts are targeted at combatting them.

  3. Involve women in the assistance effort, including asking for their advice on the appropriate layout of camps and design of services, thus ensuring equal access to water and sanitation, food points and medical services.

  4. Support humanitarian action that responds to sexual violence in crisis situations, with particular regard to health.

  5. Ensure that humanitarian assistance and recovery programs in conflict and post-conflict situations can be accessed by and benefit diverse groups of vulnerable women and girls and respect applicable international human rights and refugee law as they relate to women and girls.

Recovery and Reconstruction

  1. Work with national governments and international actors to ensure that women’s skills are developed. Pay special attention to technical education and training in new technologies and advocate for the employment of women in major reconstruction efforts.

  2. Support girls’ education at primary and secondary levels and initiate programmes to enable children that missed schooling to return to their education.

  3. Involve Women’s organisations in reconstruction and economic development efforts by involving them in physical and social reconstruction projects, as well as supporting a range of finance projects that target women.

  4. Promote women’s involvement in the development of institutions, including national judiciary, security and governance structures in fragile, conflict and/or post-conflict settings so that women can access and benefit from these structures as well as inform their design.

  5. Ensure that transitional justice systems and any judicial systems are adequately resourced to address sexual violence and women’s experiences of conflict, including having closed court sessions and judicial and legal personnel adequately trained in understanding and supporting issues related to conflict and sexual violence.

1 Fragile states are those where the government lacks the capacity or will to provide basic services and security to its citizens, and the relationship between the government and citizens is weak. Conflict-affected states are those experiencing significant internal or international conflict. Conflict and fragility are often linked. AusAID’s guidance on Fragile and Conflict Affected States can be found at

2 Baines, E. K. (2003, June). ‘Body politics and the Rwandan crisis’. Third World Quarterly, 24(3), 479-493

3 Green, J. L. (2004). ‘Uncovering collective rape: A comparative study of political sexual violence’. International Journal of Sociology, 34(1), 97-116

4Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations, 2010, p. 3,

5 Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012 – 2018, p. 6

6 United Nations, Women, Peace and Security, New York, 2002, p.2

7 Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012 – 2018, p. 7

8 Modified from the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012 – 2018, p. 17

9 Peacewomen,

10 Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012 – 2018, p. 3

11 United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an expert body established in 1982, is composed of 23 experts on women's issues from around the world. It monitors progress of the countries that have ratified the key convention on women’s rights, CEDAW.

12 These three women won the 2011 N-Peace awards,

13 ‘Sexual violence, gender-based violence and violence against women are terms that are commonly used interchangeably (although sexual violence has a particular meaning under international criminal law). All these terms refer to violations of fundamental human rights that perpetuate sex-stereotyped roles that deny human dignity and self-determination of the individual and hamper human development. They refer to physical, sexual and psychological harm that reinforces female subordination and perpetuates male power and control.’ Sexual violence in ‘post-conflict areas can take many forms including rape, slavery, forced impregnation/miscarriages, kidnapping/trafficking, forced nudity, and disease transmission, with rape and sexual abuse being among the most common. Rape in conflict settings is often violent and brutal, frequently involving gang-rape and rape with foreign objects such as guns and knives. In addition to rape, sexual abuse is also prevalent, particularly in the forms of forced nudity, strip searches, and other publicly humiliating and violating acts.’ In this toolkit, we use the term ‘sexual violence’ because it is commonly used in the WPS agenda. For our purposes it refers to all sexual violence, gender-based violence, and violence against women.

14 United Nations, Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice, June 2010, p.10.

15 Of the 44 countries rated ‘Fragile’ by the OECD and World Bank in 2011, 37 of them (84%) also rated ‘Low’ in the UN’s Gender Inequality Index. This indicates that in fragile states – those countries with institutions that are unable or unwilling to provide basic security and social services and with fragmented state-society relations – women’s rights tend to be much worse, including in areas like maternal mortality, women’s seats in parliament, girls education, and so on. There are in fact 48 countries on the OECD and WB lists, but 2 of them are not yet recognised as states, while 2 others (Somalia and North Korea) are not measured in the Gender Inequality Index due to a lack of data.

United Nations, Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice, June 2010, p.16.

16 International Parliamentary Union, IPU, Women in National Parliaments, 31 March 2012,

17 Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, p. 41

18 The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) is an organisation working for the advancement of the status of women towards a peaceful and just society. It is an umbrella organisation with many members. To see their short film about the impact of sexual violence in Burma and WLB’s advocacy on it, go to 

19 For example, the Rome Statute (1998) which establishes the International Criminal Court recognises “Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” as crimes against humanity and war crimes, deserving severe penalties, and the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia also recognise sexual violence.

20 A useful PBS documentary on them ‘I Came to Testify’ can be ordered at

21 See more here: Rwanda's widows have renewed hope for the future, The Guardian, 22 November 2010,

22 Final Report of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, . 1999

23 See Chapter Three of the ‘Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security’ documentary for more discussion on the roles that women play in operational prevention.

24 ibid

25 Peacemaking in Asia and the Pacific: Women’s participation, perspectives and priorities, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, March 2011, p. 52

26 UNIFEM, ‘Advancing Gender Equality using CEDAW and UN Security Council Resolution 1325: A Training Module for Gender Equality Advocates


27 SDC (2005) Gender and Peace-building,

28 Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Peace Negotiations and Agreements, Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action, Hunt Alternative and International Alert, 2004,

29 Sanam Naraghi Anderlini and Judy El Bushra, Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action, Hunt Alternative and International Alert, 2004,

30 UN Peace and Security through Disarmament, Gender Perspectives on DDR,, pg 1.

314. GIZ, 2009, Eight case studies from Aceh: GTZ Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programme (ARRP),

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