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International Women's Day 2024: Women driving change

8 March 2024 International Women's Day 2024: Women driving change

As we mark International Women’s Day 2024, we take a look at the amazing work that people in conflict-affected environments are doing to achieve peaceful, lasting change in ways that further gender equality. Here are some of the areas that we and our partners are focusing on.

Inadequate and inflexible funding for women’s rights organisations

Women’s rights organisations provide essential support in places affected by conflict. But the services they can provide are often limited by the financial support they receive from funders. This support is frequently tied to projects with set targets, so these organisations cannot respond flexibly to changes in their situation. What’s more, people who are most affected by conflict are often not part of decisions about which activities to fund – instead, they see their expertise undervalued by donors in the Global North, in offices far removed from the places where crises are developing.

We believe that women’s rights organisations are best placed to determine their own priorities, which is why, since 2021, we’ve worked with partners and women’s rights organisations in Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen, in a project that provides them with core and flexible funding. We’ve seen amazing results – organisations responding to community needs, determining their own training and security requirements, adapting rapidly to changing situations, and coming together to work on shared concerns and agendas.



Lucy Atim, Saferworld's Country Director in Sudan, and Grace Dorong, Executive Director of Root of Generations in South Sudan, talk about the importance of flexibility when it comes to projects and the funding mechanisms that support them

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is prevalent in all parts of the world, but there is a heightened risk in places affected by conflict and war. In such places, societies are often heavily militarised, with men and boys encouraged to take up arms and even forcibly recruited into armies. In some conflicts, gender-based violence is used as a weapon of war to cause fear and terrorise communities through rape and kidnapping. Early and forced marriage and intimate partner violence continue to pose significant threats to women’s mental and physical health.

Gender-based violence is also used to push back against changes that some people don’t want to see. Women activists, human rights defenders, politicians and journalists who are working to advance gender equality often face more violence in retaliation for the work they do.

Saferworld and partners Somali Women Development Centre and Somali Women’s Studies Centre established the Violence Observatory System, which provides a systematic process for managing data on violence against women, as well as guiding survivors to appropriate referral services in Somalia. It supports survivors, provides evidence to authorities and informs their responses, and ensures a safe mechanism for women journalists and women activists who report abuse, gender inequality, discriminatory practices in the workplace and threats as a result of their work. It is a crucial and transformative tool for change in efforts to address violence against women in Somalia, and in creating a response to gender-based violence that is sustainable and led by Somali women.



Saferworld colleague and Programme Manager Maryan Abdi Khalif talking about the Violence Observatory System (VOS) in Somalia

Obstacles to women’s participation in peacebuilding

Women’s inclusion in conflict prevention is essential to achieving genuine, long-term peace. And yet women across the globe face immense obstacles to participating in peacebuilding. From patriarchal norms casting women in the role of ‘caregiver’, to unsafe environments for women inside and outside the home, the barriers can sometimes seem insurmountable.

In Somalia, supported by Saferworld and partners, women activists are developing peace platforms, bringing together women from diverse backgrounds to discuss issues related to peace and security and to advocate for the needs and rights of women in the community. They are creating a conducive environment for women to participate in decision-making processes, including peace negotiations.

In Kyrgyzstan, we and partners Foundation for Tolerance International work with communities to ensure women’s voices are heard at meetings with authorities, and we support women's committees to address problems such as street harassment, early marriage, low levels of education for girls, bride kidnapping and domestic violence.

Women also play a central role in community action groups in Uganda, campaigning against gender-based violence, raising awareness of mental health issues and leading on efforts to resolve land disputes.



Grace Dorong, Executive Director of Root of Generations in South Sudan, and Maryan Abdi Khalif, Programme Manager in Somalia for Saferworld, discuss some of the challenges that women face in their participation and about the importance of women's inclusion in conflict prevention.

The impact of climate change on women

In patriarchal societies, women are often more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change because of relatively higher levels of poverty, unequal power relations, and limited access to resources.

In Kenya, we work with partners the Catholic Justice and Peace Department, the Elgeyo Marakwet County Department for Peace, Turkana Pastoralist Development Organization and Pokot Youth Bunge County Forum to help people adapt to climate change-related shocks and address intercommunal conflicts in three counties in Kenya’s dry lands. Climate-related events in this region – such as drought or floods – impact the availability of natural resources, increasing competition over these resources and reinforcing tensions and grievances.

Our research in the area showed that decisions over the use of natural resources are generally made by men, with minimal participation from women, leading to decision-making that can reinforce traditional gender norms. Climate change also contributes to a transformation of traditional gender roles, as a scarcity of resources forces men to travel greater distances in search of pasture and water – leaving women to take on additional responsibilities which can overburden them and expose them to more insecurity and violence. We are working with county governments and communities to improve the management of natural resources and increase the resilience of vulnerable households to climate change-related shocks, lessening the burden on both men and women. This includes providing technical assistance to county government departments on gender-responsive policies for natural resource management and climate change, with the aim of increasing women’s participation in decision-making structures and processes and ensuring their needs and perspectives are taken into account.



John Njoroge Mucheru, Saferworld's Country Manager in Kenya, talks about our strategy around addressing climate-based drivers of conflict in Kenya.

Intersectionality

People from diverse backgrounds and identities experience different constraints – and their realities need to be considered in peacebuilding activities to avoid exclusion and reinforcing inequalities. For example, a woman from an ethnic minority will probably have fewer opportunities to engage in peace and political processes; or a person with disabilities might be at greater risk of harassment.

At Saferworld, we have worked with women refugees in Uganda, researching the gender norms that cause discrimination and violence and which create conflict between refugees and other communities. We are also working with Somali authorities to enhance the participation of people with disabilities and internally displaced people in security and justice policymaking processes. People with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities also face greater discrimination, and in Nepal we worked to prevent this, helping to secure their rights and enhancing their public and political participation.

Saferworld is committed to advancing gender equality. We work with partners around the world to challenge and transform gender norms that drive violent conflict, understand masculinities to engage meaningfully with power structures, support women’s leadership and inclusion in peacebuilding, and centre our peacebuilding work in gender equality. Gender-sensitive conflict analysis informs our work and our ambition to shift to gender-transformative and intersectional approaches.

Find out more about our work on gender.

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