It’s time to make the Women, Peace and Security agenda work for women everywhere6 December 2023
To mark this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we asked our partners how to localise Women, Peace and Security – so that the global agenda meets different women’s needs and visions for gender equality. Here, partners from Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen share their reflections.
Amal,* a representative of a women’s rights organisation, Yemen
Donor organisations should provide more support and guidance for locally led approaches. In May 2016, many donor countries and humanitarian organisations signed the ‘Grand Bargain’ to make the humanitarian system more efficient, effective and people-centred.
In Yemen, this concept is still unknown. Without a direct partnership with donors, our work is limited to what international organisations dictate to us according to their strategic goals, without a true reflection of the needs of the people. The response is therefore not proportional to the context, as what succeeds in Yemen may not succeed in another country, and what is implemented in the north cannot be implemented in the south.
Donors need to establish a system that enables us to form genuine partnerships with them. They should: map local organisations and work with them instead of bringing organisations from other contexts; facilitate reporting mechanisms that are easy and aligned with the capacities of local organisations; make due diligence processes easier to fulfil; invest in capacity-building programmes for local organisations; and make communication accessible.
As local institutions, to achieve the principle of ‘localisation’, we also need to focus on having clear visions and goals, choose donors that align with our objectives, and strive to develop ourselves with all available resources.
*Amal’s name has been changed to preserve her anonymity.
Zainab Omar, Executive Director, Bay Women Association Network, Somalia
Localisation [a process of transferring a greater share of resources to those most affected by crises, with more going to local organisations – so that those organisations can determine how best to use aid and implement their own solutions] is a profound approach that recognises the distinctive needs and challenges faced by women in specific regions. Our vision integrates the principles and objectives of the Women, Peace and Security agenda into local peacebuilding initiatives. This means active engagement with grassroots movements, community leaders and civil society groups, ensuring that their voices not only resonate but also play a pivotal role in shaping decision-making processes.
We invest in capacity strengthening for local institutions. With a specific focus on women's rights organisations and civil society groups, our training programmes encompass gender-sensitive conflict analysis, effective peacebuilding strategies, and safeguarding women's rights. We advocate for women's active participation and leadership across all levels of decision-making, from dialogue within local communities to contributing to formal peace negotiations. We work to dismantle barriers to women's engagement – discriminatory laws, cultural norms, or limited access to resources and education.
We secure funding for local peacebuilding initiatives because we understand the pivotal role of resources in effecting change. We actively lobby for increased donor support and the allocation of resources specifically for local women-led organisations and initiatives. These resources, often provided in the form of grants, are catalysts for sustainable empowerment.
Shukria Dini, Executive Director, Somali Women’s Study Centre
Sustainable peace emerges from within the community. It demands the involvement of all people – especially women and marginalised groups – in decision-making processes concerning peacebuilding initiatives. This ensures diverse perspectives and collective ownership of the peace process.
Education and empowerment are fundamental pillars. For example, initiatives such as the Violence Observatory Systems have equipped women activists and journalists with the skills to document and report violence. This has tangibly transformed communities, fostering a safer environment and better support for survivors.
Integrating the principles of the Women, Peace and Security agenda into national policies and legal frameworks is critical. This needs to be informed by data-driven approaches that acknowledge intersectional issues concerning gender, age and social status, ensuring tailored interventions that address specific challenges faced by different groups. Robust advocacy for gender-responsive laws, policies and institutional frameworks that support women's rights and participation in peace processes is integral to localisation efforts.
Lastly, investing in capacity-strengthening programmes and mentorship initiatives for women leaders and activists plays a pivotal role. This would help nurture leadership skills, build networks, and create platforms for women's meaningful participation in peace processes and decision-making.
Elizabeth James George, Executive Director of the Child is Gold Foundation, Nigeria
As a women’s rights organisation working in north eastern Nigeria, localising the Women, Peace and Security agenda comes with so much fulfilment, seeing the drastic improvement in the lives of the women we work with. The flexible funding we have makes it easier to carry out interventions according to the specificities of each of the communities, since they face different issues ranging from sexual and gender-based violence, conflicts, and harmful gender norms and stereotypes.
The women we work with have a voice. They participate in decision-making, they are gradually conquering gender norms and stereotypes, and everyone in the community is benefitting from this giant stride. These women are changing the narrative.
Ghada Abdullah Al-Imam, Gender Department Officer at the Community Progress for Development Organization, South Darfur, Sudan
At the Community Progress for Development Organization, we have localised the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Darfur and Western Kordofan State by encouraging women to be active and to continue to play a role in peacebuilding processes, and to speak out about the challenges women face in the ongoing war in Sudan. The war in Southern Darfur has increased vulnerabilities for people, especially women and girls who are now more exposed to sexual violence in conflict, and who have experienced rape and other human rights violations. True localisation allows peacebuilders and women leaders to be part of shaping peace and stability, and this requires designing, planning and implementing programmes with a central focus on women and people most affected by the crisis.
Tagwa Hamid, Program Manager at the Sudan Women’s Development Organization in Darfur, Sudan
Based on my experience in Darfur, when I think about the question ‘How can the women’s agenda for peace and security be truly localised?’, it is important that we understand the concepts of peace and security first. People in Darfur need awareness and training on how people – including women, men, older people and people with disabilities – can be part of the peacebuilding process. Due to the fragility of the region and the multiplicity of wars and conflicts, the role of women has been weakened, they are often undervalued and their opinions ignored. Support for women’s peacebuilding initiatives and safe spaces – for example, ‘Lamat Gabana’ (a space for women to gather) – is necessary to localise the agenda.
Esther Atem, West Nile Regional Project Coordinator for Saferworld’s programme in Uganda
At Saferworld in Uganda, we are localising the agenda by enabling women’s participation and leadership in negotiating and mediating conflicts related to land and natural resources in the West Nile region. We do this through linking women to decision-making platforms and decision makers. We are challenging patriarchal and religious constraints that have excluded women from community dispute resolution mechanisms – which involve local councils, religious and opinion leaders – through gender and conflict sensitivity trainings. In a region that hosts the highest number of refugees in the country, we are inspiring women to take part in spaces dominated by men – especially mediation and dialogue for conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Read more about our work on gender, peace and security.
Photo: Ngozi Eboh, founder of the Global Initiative for the Development and Care of Women and Youths in south-east Nigeria, leads a session on gender-based violence at a club established by her organisation at Trans-Ekulu Secondary Girls' School. Credit: Andrew Esiebo/Saferworld/Fairpicture