This is how gender-sensitive conflict analysis improves peacebuilding

6 November 2020 Diana Trimiño Mora and Julia Poch This is how gender-sensitive conflict analysis improves peacebuilding

To mark the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, last week Saferworld and Conciliation Resources (CR) launched its Gender-sensitive conflict analysis facilitation guide – an important tool for peacebuilders and peace activists to put gender equality at the front and centre of their work.

At Saferworld, we are also celebrating the 20 years with our new gender and peacebuilding campaign 'This is how', in which we will look at different ways the ways we can advance gender equality through peacebuilding and the impact of our work with partner organisations.

With this blog we mark the start of this campaign. We explore what a gender-sensitive conflict analysis is? How does it really benefit peacebuilding work? We look at how Saferworld has worked with it in practice in Yemen and South Sudan, and the impact we’re seeing with our work.

What is a gender-sensitive conflict analysis?

A gender-sensitive conflict analysis (GSCA) is a starting point that looks at how harmful gender norms fuel not just gender inequality but also conflict, broader discrimination, exclusion and violence. It highlights how different types of violence, including economic violence, gender-based violence and political violence, are used to maintain power in public and private spaces, and how these spaces are connected. Gender inequality not only makes conflict worse, but it limits the autonomy – the ability to act on motives, reasons, or values that are one's own – of women, girls, and sexual and gender minority groups (SGMs) and others who want to challenge and transform the prevailing norms, and so it prevents us from achieving inclusive peace.

Why does it matter?

Conflict analysis is the foundation of designing policies and programmes in conflict-affected settings. If you have a conflict analysis that doesn't consider gender, or that does so in a superficial way, your policies and practice will not just be incomplete and inefficient – by not considering the specific needs of at least half of the population you're working with and how gender norms fuel men’s violent behaviour at all levels, for example— they may even cause harm. The participatory aspect of GSCA also allows for each analysis to be tailored to each context, putting people’s experiences at the heart of it all.

GSCA is a game changer for the peacebuilding sector. Effective GSCA can move us beyond "do no harm" and temporary responses to women's, girls' and SGM's needs in conflict settings, to creating opportunities for sustained and meaningful participation for women, girls and SGMs. It also give the opportunity to reflect on and shift the root causes of conflict and violence from a gender perspective, which is what we call 'gender-transformative peacebuilding'.

What does a gender-sensitive conflict analysis look like in practice?

At Saferworld, we believe that gender underpins all peacebuilding and conflict prevention work. We have considered gender in conflict analysis in different ways since 2015. For the last three years we have been piloting a new methodology with CR and internally, and have now used it in over 8 countries.

This new GSCA methodology draws on the work of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects on analysing conflict using a systems approach, which sees the interconnectedness of structures, behaviours and relationships in conflicts to identify causes and impacts, uncover opportunities for peace, and understand how people interact and influence each other.

We have seen how GSCA can make peacebuilding programmes more inclusive and effective, as well as being the starting point for gender-transformative changes. Here are two examples from our programmes in Yemen and South Sudan:


In Yemen, we have used GSCA as the foundation of our community work in Sana'a, Aden and Ibb since 2017 with Wogood for Human Security and the National Foundation for Development and Humanitarian Response (NFDHR). The analysis conducted found that male elites at local, national and international levels were manipulating the Yemeni population to create division, maintain power and control over resources. To address these issues, partner organisations ensured women actively made decisions about and participated in peacebuilding initiatives where they live. Using the GSCA, volunteer groups made up from communities came up with concrete action plans to reduce conflict in their areas and increase women's participation in these projects. Our Yemen team and partners have seen major outcomes from this work.

In Aden, a woman in one of our community groups designed a disarmament campaign to reduce violence in their community, including sexual and gender-based violence. "My house is [...] a residential block that is full of weapons and armed men, but I have worked hard to collect the weapons from the young men that I know so that I can keep them for them until they return to their bases. I have convinced them not to carry their weapons in the streets or keep them in their homes..." Entsar, Aden.

"...I have worked hard to collect the weapons from the young men that I know so that I can keep them for them until they return to their bases. I have convinced them not to carry their weapons in the streets or keep them in their homes..." Entsar, Aden.

In Ibb, women spearheaded months of advocacy and negotiations to get government authorities to issue ID cards for 199 women. They not only secured their goal, where they were able to get the local authorities to lower the prices for the IDs and open nearby ID centres for women, but as a result, 60 per cent of the women who got their ID cards enrolled in educational courses and 15 per cent were able to exercise legal rights previously denied.

Women involved in these initiatives reported that the project's trainings and activities made them feel capable of addressing community issues. They felt supported by this work, by the fact that they were able to access male-only spaces and lead activities with men in the community. Men in the volunteer groups also changed their opinions on women's abilities to be active members of society. Some men directly challenged authorities and armed actors to let women participate in activities usually reserved for men, for example demonstrations in Aden in which women were threatened with violence if they did not leave. The women were able to stay with the support of their male group members.

South Sudan

In South Sudan, community action groups supported by Saferworld and six partners* have incorporated gender-sensitivity in their work since 2012. Over time, their analysis has identified recurring drivers of conflict: manipulation of tribal differences by male elites, gender norms fuelling gender-based violence and conflict including early and forced marriage and cattle raiding which increases violence within and between communities, and weak patriarchal justice systems which also exclude women and minorities. It became clear that male elites have used these drivers to retain power.

In response to the latest GSCA, Saferworld and partners set up separate women's groups within their community action groups, which allow them to safely discuss issues affecting them and develop strategies to address them, while also joining the larger mixed-gender community groups. While this is common practice in women's protection programmes, most peacebuilding interventions prioritise mixed community groups in traditional conflict sensitive approaches. This approach, which also supports youth-only groups, has seen a significant increase in community groups adopting women-specific and youth-specific action plans in their larger work, compared to those who did not have the separate groups. Specifically, after doing the GSCA and applying this approach, 12 out of 44 action plans in six locations have specifically responded to women and youth needs, versus six out of 48 action plans in 16 locations when we didn't use the GSCA (but included some gender-related questions in a traditional community safety assessment methodology). When we applied this GSCA and sub-group approach, all action plans included women and youth-specific initiatives in all of the project locations, while only three out of 16 locations specifically targeted women and youth needs with the traditional approach.

Women and youth felt more confident and better able to communicate their needs in safe and separate spaces than in the wider groups, which also included authorities and community leaders. This has enabled male elders and authorities to understand needs other than their own, contributing to sustainable change and planting seeds for gender transformation. As a result, we've seen an increase of women leading the community groups, an increase of referrals to gender-based violence support services, and among others, a successful project that advocated for the Executive Director of Wanyjok County to lead on sexual exploitation and abuse prevention initiatives with traders.

For more detailed advice on how to do GSCA, see our new facilitation guide or join our online event Gender-sensitive Conflict Analysis: impact & lessons from Yemen & Nigeria.

*Church and Development (C&D), Disabled Agency for Rehabilitation and Development (DARD), Community Initiative for Partnership and Development (CIPAD), Maridi Service Agency (MSA), Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA) and Centre for Livelihoods, Peace Research and Poverty Reduction (Clip Poverty).