By Fabíola Ortiz
Two landmark studies are contributing to fostering global citizenship, by pleading not only for gender equality as such but also stressing the crucial role women can play and are playing in resolving conflict, overcoming violence, countering terrorism and bringing about peace and security.
According to data from the Institute for Economics and Peace in its 2015 Global Peace Index, conflict and violence are costing the planet 14.3 trillion dollars, or 13.4 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (Gross Domestic Product) equivalent to the combined economies of Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Britain.
“The world is less peaceful today than it was in 2008,” says the study. The indicators that have deteriorated the most, it adds, are the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the number of deaths from internal conflict and the impact of terrorism. In 2014 alone, it is estimated, 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago.
How much of over 14 trillion dollar costs have to be borne by women, when they are subordinated and become the targets of extremist ideologies, is not known. Nor does the 2015 Global Peace Index mention the number of women that fell prey to extremist ideologies.
But a global study released by the United Nations to mark the 15th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on October 13, highlights the important gains to be made by the greater empowerment of women in peace-building efforts.
The Resolution on Women, Peace and Security is the first declaration to link women’s experiences of conflict to international peace and security.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the independent lead author of the comprehensive new report commissioned by the UN Secretary-General in preparation for the 15th anniversary review on the implementation of Resolution 1325, said that the study proves “beyond any doubt” that women’s “participation in peace processes sustains [those] processes for a much longer time” than efforts that exclude them.
Coomaraswamy said: “We recognize the world has changed a lot since 2000 and we need to revive and move this agenda forward with more proactive dialogues.” But there is an ambivalent situation in which the world and the UN have not understood how to deal with this situation.
She cited the report’s focus on prevention, the nature of early warning systems, armed and unarmed presences, and the need for dialogue. “Levels of military spending are high and the cycle of escalation must stop,” she noted, adding that force should only be used as a last resort; when dialogue is impossible.
“It is clear: the current models of making peace are not working,” stated UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Between 1990 and 2000, just 11 percent of peace agreements signed included a reference to women. When the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, this figure reached 27 percent of peace agreements that made reference to women. Of the six agreements resulting from peace talks or national dialogue processes supported by the UN in 2014, 67 percent contained references relevant to women, peace and security.
Nonetheless, only 9 percent of negotiators were women out of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011. Just 3 percent of the military in UN missions are women, and the majority of these are employed as support staﬀ. “This is unacceptable,” declared Mlambo-Ngcuka.
When women are at the peace tables, their participation increases the probability to achieve peace by 35 percent in the following 15 years.
The UN Women representative and the lead author of the 100-page global report agree that empowering women contributes not only to peace, but also accelerates economic growth and improves humanitarian assistance. “The progress from the last 15 years remains far too slow,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasizing that at least half of 50 percent of leaders dealing with peace processes must be women.
Women are still at the bottom of the agenda, criticized Muna Rihani Al-Nasser, chair of the UN Women for Peace Association. Founded in 2008. The association is committed to the prevention of violence against women and girls, and strengthening the implementation of laws and policies against violence. It also fundraises for the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.
“We need to push governments to place issues of women on top of the agenda. We believe women have to be involved in discussions about the peace process. They are more into peace than men; we are 55 percent of the whole population,” she told IDN
Al-Nasser believes that there are currently so few women involved in working as police officials and judges or ranking among decision-makers against terror. “If we open the door, women will be engaged. They need to receive proper training and be treated as men in the sense of equal opportunities. We don’t want to sit and wait until the situation gets worse and worse. Terror is against humanity and we have to fight together, not only through governments; civil society should play a proactive role,” An-Nasser said.
Women in conflict-zones
When there is a conflict accompanied by terrorist attacks, women and children are often the most vulnerable ones and they suffer most, stressed Al-Nasser. This is evidenced in the global study with a special section about reality on women and girls who live in conflict zones, she said.
Half of the children of primary school age, who are not in school, live in conflict-affected areas. Girls, whose adjusted net enrolment rate in primary education is only 77.5 percent in conflict and post-conflict countries, are particularly affected.
In conflict and post-conflict countries, maternal mortality is on average 2.5 times higher. More than half of the world’s maternal deaths occur in conflict-affected and fragile states, with the 10 worst-performing countries on maternal mortality all either conflict or post-conflict countries.
The study also urges that funding should address projects that affect women on the ground. Al-Nasser is very emphatic against the terror committed against minorities by the self-proclaimed caliphate ISIS, particularly targeting the Yezidi communities.
It is estimated that there are around 3,000 women and children under captivity since ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) militants attacked and seized the Sinjar Mountains in the northern region of Iraq on August 3, 2014 – where this Iraqi ethnic and religious minority resides.
The Yezidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish and are mostly living in the Iraqi Kurdistan (the provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah). ISIS troops are violently attacking people who do not convert to Islam and are also promoting massacres to the non-Muslim Yezidis.
Pari Ibrahim is a young 26 year-old Law student belonging to a Yezidi traditional family who fled Khanke, province of Dohuk, in the 90’s. After the ISIS attacks against her community, she started the Free Yezidi Foundation based in the Netherlands, where she currently lives.
“At that moment, nothing was being done for the Yezidis. Many men were killed and girls were forced to become sex slaves. Their testimonies are horrible. Yezidi are either being killed or forced to convert to Islam. We don’t know how many were killed but there are a lot of mass graves in Sinjar within the area Isis is controlling”, she told IDN.
Inaccurate data estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 women and girls were kidnapped by Isis. Since then, more than 2,000 were rescued, but there is a great proportion of victims there are still under this extremist group control.
“When girls come back out of ISIS captivity they are traumatized, and most doctors don’t know how to treat them. Girls come back and don’t receive any help. The worlds’ reaction until now is far from enough; there is no real attempt to stop this,” said Pari striving to draw focus on the need for global action.