Empowering Women to Promote Peace and Security

Promoting Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 by Enhancing Capacity Building for National NGOs, Women’s and Grass Roots Groups and Addressing Gender-based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

A Briefing of the outcomes of UNFPA organized Capacity building, Communication and Leadership Training for women’s NGOs and supported Gender-based Violence Trainings held in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and East Timor, November 6-December 1, 2006


Five years ago the UN Security Council passed its landmark Resolution 1325, the first international agreement to specifically recognize the impact of armed conflict on women and their role as builders of peace. Key provisions of the resolution are captured by “three P's”: protection of the human rights of women and girls during times of conflict, the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV), and the equal participation of women in peace building and reconstruction.  The Resolution pointedly “calls upon all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.”

UNFPA, as part of an inter-agency task force to implement the resolution, has been a key leader in ensuring that the mandate of 1325 is recognized and acted upon in the field.  In particular, the Women, Peace and Security Initiative of the Technical Support Division of UNFPA have spearheaded a wide range of activities aimed at narrowing “the gap between the provisions of this legal instrument and the reality on the ground.”

UNFPA participated in the United nations study on the impact of conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace building and the dimension of gender in conflict resolution and peace process. In 2001, UNFPA organized a consultative meeting in Bratislava to examine the impact of conflict on women and girls and to formulate strategies and tools to ensure that reproductive health programs and women‘s empowerment interventions accurately respond to the needs of women. The strategy developed in Bratislava had four components, Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS, the Role of Peace Keeping Forces, Gender Based violence including Trafficking, and the Local Community role in reconstruction and Peace Building. Since then UNFPA organized several capacity building, leadership and management raining for women’s civil society groups.

More initiatives taken were the UNFPA-sponsored workshop Reassessing Institutional Support for Security Council Resolution 1325, held in Bucharest 17- 20 October, 2005, brought together UNFPA staff, partners and international experts to discuss the successes and challenges in implementing the resolution.  The overwhelming consensus of the participants was that despite certain gains ensuing from 1325, such as greater political participation of women in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, and Sudan, the UN has not done enough to ensure that all three of the major components of the Resolution--the three P’s--are adequately addressed in conflict and post-conflict countries around the world.  Participants argued that this failure in implementation is particularly true related to addressing GBV:  international experts, UNFPA staff and field-based partners alike maintained that women’s and girls’ special vulnerability to sexual and other forms of violence during conflict and its aftermath is a on-going health and human rights crisis in conflict-affected settings, and that international intervention related to GBV can too often be characterized as too little, too late.

Part of UNFPA input during 2006 for institutionalizing the implementation of the resolution was a series of workshops and training. The first was TOT NGO training, and multi-sector training on GBV in conflict and post conflict in three countries.

Capacity Building Training for NGOs from Conflict and Post Conflict Countries

The UNFPA training workshop on capacity building, communication and leadership for women from conflict and post conflict situations took place in Tunisia, 6-10 November. the workshop which brought together 39 women and 3 men from conflict and post conflict countries around the world had two objectives, to empower participants through skills development and building, to enable them contribute more effectively to the rebuilding of their conflict-torn societies; and to formulate strategies and tools to ensure that UNFPA best support their interventions, specifically by addressing the strategies through a comprehensive gender-sensitive approach. The participant were NGO representatives, and selected UNFPA staff came from; Afghanistan Azerbaijan, Georgia, East Timor, Indonesia,  Kosovo, Nepal,  Liberia, Pakistan,  Palestine, Sierra Leone, Sudan ,Tajikistan, and Uganda . 

The workshop themes of empowerment and capacity building are consistent with UNFPA organizational priorities and are also consistent with UNFPA mandate to improve the lives of women and girls, thus the workshop was a step forward in ensuring the availability of the enabling  environment and providing the tools to do so .The land mark Security council resolution 1325 on women, Peace and  Security examines the impact of conflict on women and girls and points to the role of women, and women’s NGOs in conflict and post conflict settings. The resolution calls on all actors involved in negotiating and implementing peace agreements to adopt a gender perspective that includes the special needs of women during repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration, and post conflict reconstruction.

In the course of the workshop , training was provided on gender mainstreaming, CEDAW principles; United nations Security council resolution 1325, leadership , conflict management and prevention, how to prepare meetings with decision makers ; communication ; active listening ; advocacy  and public speaking ; and dealing with the media.

The workshop was planned in consultation with the GDs. and field offices, on the basis of the needs of the participants following a needs assessment that was conducted earlier, and as expressed in the questionnaire send to the participating NGOs. These made it clear that while many participants had experience of gender issues and women’s rights, they wanted to know more about how to put these issues to the media and decision makers. Others wanted to know more how to implement 1325, and how to empower them selves and their colleagues on how to build peace and negotiate it.

The program was structured in such a way as to maximize the opportunity for both participants and facilitators to express their opinion and feelings about the issues and share their experiences and concerns. This way all involved could discover their similarities as well as their uniqueness , and understand how their conception of themselves and others have been formed by their families , school, community , and how they internalize stereotypes perpetuated by the media.

The methodology used was multi-form and included open dialogue, short presentation, practical exercise, role playing, self test hand out and group work. The training material was designed to allow the participants to develop and facilitate their own workshops and training in their countries.

The participants said that, over the next 9-12 months, they would engage in advocacy for women’s participation in peace-building and on gender-based violence ; advocate for improved policy and increased budget for health services, particularly reproductive health and counseling for women; work with other partners in their communities to develop strategic plans for implementing the SC resolution 1325 , and provide training on CEDAW, and 1325 for NGOs , government agencies and women’s groups.

The participants suggested that gender equity could be enhanced by eradicating stereotype and introducing more affirmative action; reversing negative trends in education, poverty and development around the world; respecting the human rights of deprived women; introducing legislation addressing sexual –and gender-based violence; protecting women and girls from all forms of violence; and signing /adapting/implementing CEDAW, UNSCR1325, and the UN Convention on Torture.

A number of skills and sets of knowledge were deemed to be important , including: partnership work skills ; effective advocacy planning and leadership; developing advocacy and communication tools ; learning about electoral systems and gender equality legislation; acquiring new skills/knowledge on response to sexual and gender based violence ; and finally developing innovative ways of sustaining networks of national NGOs particularly those working on development, gender and peace building issues.

During the workshop, two pieces of gender news were received. The first from Nepal, where an alliance agreement had finally been signed between Maoists and the Nepalese government. Only two women had participated in the peace talks, but 18 will be represented in the new government. It is worth mentioning that UNFPA is taking the lead in Nepal on the implementation of 1325. The Women Peace and Security initiative worked closely with UNFPA office in Nepal in training the UN agencies, donors, NGOs on 1325, an outline for the development of a national action plan for the implementation of 1325 was developed, and was elaborated and detailed with comprehensive national participation. UNFPA Representative took the lead for this process, and succeeded to rally all the partners to work towards the implementation and institutionalization of the resolution an. UNFPA Representatives later on, became a member of the UN Technical Assessment Mission in Nepal. The main purpose of the mission is to “assess the political, logistical, security and other operational conditions in Nepal, and propose a concept of operations for the UN political mission that could deliver assistance requested by Nepalese parties in support of their peace process “. UNFPA Representative in Nepal was nominated to work as a full member for the team to be in charge of gender/1325. Mainly due to her capacity as the chair for the Peace support working group on 1325.

The second piece concerned a newly released report by the UN high-level panel on UN reform which recommended the creation of a women’s agency by consolidating the UN current gender architect. The best news of all was that all participants pledge that they would be taking home lessons learned , particularly about CEDAW and UNSCR 1325 , and implementing them.  

Gender-based Violence Technical Support through Field-based Trainings 

In an effort to facilitate activities to redress gaps identified by partners at the Bucharest meeting, UNFPA’s Women, Peace and Security Initiative launched a follow-up project aimed at providing field-based technical and financial support for GBV training and project development to three country offices—Afghanistan, Indonesia, and East Timor--where preliminary assessments indicated a need and where UNFPA staff were enthusiastic about receiving external support.  A global expert on GBV was recruited to design and facilitate four-day training in each country.  While the specific content of the training was altered somewhat to meet the needs identified in each setting, the general content of the training focused on developing core capacities in understanding and addressing GBV.  The overall objectives of the trainings were:

The trainings were implemented consecutively in Kabul, Bali, and Dili in November 2006.  In each setting, country offices worked directly with local NGO partners to prepare for and execute the trainings—creating an important additional opportunity during the training process for local NGO support and capacity-development.  Invitees were selected not only to ensure representation of the key sectors involved in GBV prevention and response (security, legal/justice, health, and psychosocial), but also to engage those who could effect change in their communities.  Across all countries, the resulting participant list was an exciting mix of key government leaders, health, psychosocial, security and legal-sector policy makers and/or program designers, and key local women’s activists.  Because participants in each of the trainings were attending from diverse regions of their countries, most had never interacted before or never had the opportunity to share experiences related to GBV, resulting in lively dialogue and meaningful exchange of challenges and, where existent, best practices in addressing GBV.

In Afghanistan, for example, representatives from the ministries of Public Health, Culture and Youth, Women’s Affairs, and Justice shared ideas for the first time with health care workers, military and police representatives, provincial leaders, and women’s and human rights activists.  In Indonesia, those working deep in the front lines of conflict and/or disaster had the critical opportunity for the first time to express their frustrations and needs in the presence of key representatives of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, as well as to receive support and recognition from colleagues based all over the country.   In East Timor, administrators from nine districts across the new nation came together with women’s NGO leaders from Dili and from several key outlying districts for the first time to hear about and secure partnerships with Dili-based initiatives to address GBV.  Women’s representatives from the IDP camps in Dili also listened for the first time about guidelines for addressing GBV in emergency settings.

Notably, very few participants had ever received specific training on GBV—including officials from ministries tasked with women’s and/or gender affairs, police representatives working in women’s or family support units, and/or those currently working in NGOs serving victims of violence.  In Afghanistan, many of the participants had never discussed GBV in a public forum.In Indonesia where comparatively more policies and programs have been developed to address GBV than in Afghanistan, most participants had never had the opportunity to receive a basic grounding in concepts related to GBV or theoretical models for best-practice program design.  In East Timor, only women’s activists had some prior training in GBV, but the low level of comprehension of basic issues suggested even their prior training was very limited.  For all other participants, as for the majority of the population of East Timor, GBV—while not a new phenomenon—is a new concept that is only now being addressed through nascent and relatively small-scale programming.

Using the new conceptual knowledge gained during the training, participants were invited to develop a list of key recommendations or action points for improving their communities’ or country’s ability to prevent and respond to GBV.  Although in most cases the recommendations remained fairly general given the time allotted for brainstorming and the overwhelming lack of prior knowledge about GBV programming strategies, the process of developing recommendations not only gave participants an opportunity to apply the concepts presented in the training, but it also gave UNFPA representatives an opportunity to hear priorities identified by training participants.  Below are select highlights from the recommendations.

In Afghanistan, participants focused heavily on the need for developing coordination mechanisms for addressing GBV through, for example, establishing national and local leadership committees.  Recommendations also focused on the need to build the capacity of the security sector to investigate and appropriately respond to cases of GBV, as many women will not report a case to the police for fear of being stigmatized, censured, or, in the worst cases, endangered.  Adequate psychosocial response to survivors was also identified as a key priority, particularly in terms of supportive counseling and transitional services such as income-generation and other independent-living schemes.   All participants also agreed that a national strategy should be developed that focuses specifically on GBV, to expand and clarify the action points identified in the newly drafted national gender policy.  Prevention strategies were also discussed, and included broad-based IEC campaigns through mass media, incorporating gender and GBV sensitization into school curricula, recruiting women into governance, and developing national strategies for gender and GBV budgeting.

In Indonesia, where services and basic knowledge regarding GBV are more developed, recommendations were organized specifically in terms of prevailing best-practice models.  Participants suggested that at the level of structural intervention (law and policy reform), adjustments should be made in existing domestic violence legislation in order to make it more comprehensive, criminal procedures should be adjusted so ensure the rights of the victims and witnesses, and regulations should be put in place to ensure free and integrated response services across the country.  In terms of systemic interventions (capacity building of relevant sectors), participants recommended that training be provided to key actors across all sectors, referral processes be refined, and mechanisms be developed to reduce the bureaucratic and procedural delays that victims often experience when seeking assistance.  At the level of operative intervention (direct services), participants recommended that welfare and other forms of psychosocial support be expanded, that actors across all key sectors have the ability to respond with compassion and respect, and that comprehensive services be provided free of cost.  Several other specific issues arose in Indonesia, the most critical relating to the abuses committed with impunity by the military forces.  The participants nominated the advocacy NGO responsible for organizing the training, Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan, to draft a statement regarding the issue to be signed by all members of the training and presented before parliament.

In East Timor, the almost complete lack of prior exposure by participants to concepts related to GBV resulted in a much more pared-down training curriculum oriented towards key concepts.  As a result, participants were not asked to create a series of specific recommendations regarding programming, but instead were encouraged to develop a general list of priorities for prevention of and response to GBV.   Most priorities were related to building coordinated response in each of the districts outside of Dili, primarily addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, and in conducting widespread community sensitization (particularly targeting youth) to change attitudes that perpetuate and promote GBV.  Participants also recommended that empowerment efforts targeting women be expanded significantly so that potential victims will have alternatives to living in abusive relationships.  Participants further identified a need to address the low level of understanding about strategies for addressing GBV through widespread education and training of national and community leaders.

Moving Forward

In addition to the recommendations and priorities generated during the training, participants had an opportunity in the final evaluations to identify any specific recommendations related to improving the training itself.  In all three countries, approximately 70 percent of the participants noted that the training should be longer, and over 90 percent recommended that the training be conducted in the provinces, districts, and or more remote regions where communities may have little access to support and/or training on GBV.  At the same time, participants recognized that additional trainings should be conducted amongst key leaders at the national government level to heighten understanding and commitment to the issues, and that there should be more national level fora for engaging in strategic planning.   The message was clear:  training and other capacity-building efforts need to be more widespread—top-down and bottom-up--and on-going.  The UNFPA-supported trainings in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and East Timor were a first and promising step in a longer-term commitment to building local capacity to address GBV in conflict and post-conflict settings.