No More Grandiloquence. The Role of Women in Peace and Security: An African Perspective

According to John. D. Brewer, gender has been understood, as a social construction. The concept of Masculinity and Femininity has been a subject of deliberation for centuries, also has the concept of war and conflict. (Brewer, 2010) However, the incontestable fact remains that only women can elucidate the brutality of war or conflict.  With the advent of the new millennium, the impact of women in the international system can no longer be underemphasized. The Resolution 1325 of the United Nations reiterated the importance of the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict and in peacebuilding. (UNSC 1325, 2000) Despite the impetus on the role of women in sustainable peacebuilding in Africa, the participation of women remains relatively low over the last 15 years. (Kumalo, 2015)

The era of the traditional perception of the woman’s role is long gone, therefore, there is the need for policymakers to revamp the rhetoric of mainstreaming gender participation and put such Grandiloquence into practice. Women’s contribution in peace building and security has been overemphasized since the 90’s, yet they have been devalued or ignored by their male counterparts.(Sigsworth, 2016)  Many experts believe that leaving women out of peace and security processes hinders communities from finding long-lasting peace. In times of conflict, women’s vulnerabilities and unique needs are often forgotten during negotiations, which in turn limits the effectiveness of both peace and security agreements, and humanitarian responses. (Musau, 2015) Observations show, that only 9% of negotiators during peace talks are women. Within peacekeeping missions specifically, women’s share of senior positions has been declining from 21% to 19% between 2011 and 2013. (Kumalo, 2015)

Nevertheless, cases show the positive effects of women’s participation in peacebuilding and security.  According to UN Women, in spite of their absence from official conflict resolution processes, women leaders in the North are using informal channels to call on the leaders of armed groups to participate in peace dialogues. Just two weeks ago, nearly 1,000 women leaders and members of civil society groups gathered in Bamako and delivered a common call for peace, expressing solidarity across ethnic and other divisions and recommended specific measures to protect women's rights and prevent violence against women and children. (Bachelet, 2012) The cases of Liberia and Somalia, for instance, show some of the different ways in which women have been involved in peace processes. In Liberia, women’s peace building participation included activities such as education and skills training, communal farming and group micro-loans that encourage women to collaborate to improve their quality of life. (Kumalo, 2015)

Looking at the case of genocide in Darfur, the Sudanese women responded actively to this course, thus this led to the establishment of women’s world wide activism, and the support of international network of women’s groups, several women’s group and network were established with a peace vocation, such as the Sudanese Women’s Voice for peace, The Sudan Women’s Federation all in the effort to bring peace.  (Brewer, 2010)

Furthermore, according to Bineta Diop, the role of Liberian, Sierra Leonean and Burundian women who have led processes of reconciliation in the region, in part thanks to organizations such as the Mano River Women’s Peace Network. Thus, such participation has been recognized as a key factor in the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president of Liberia. She goes further to accentuate the role of women in the Burundi peace process, which was overseen by Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela. She explains that research has found that peace talks that involve women in the process are more sustainable than those that do not.  (Diop, 2015)

Statistical analysis of the largest dataset on the status of women in the world today shows that where women are more empowered in multiple spheres of life, countries are less likely to go to war with their neighbors, to be in bad standing with the international community, or to be rife with crime and violence within their society. (O’Reill, 2015)  Fourteen out of the seventeen countries at the bottom of the OECD’s index for gender discrimination also experienced conflict in the last two decades. Syria, for example, has the third-most discriminatory social institutions of 108 countries surveyed women face legal and social restrictions on their freedom of movement, only men can act as legal guardians to their children in most communities, and judges can authorize marriage for girls as young as13 years of age. (

The initiative of women in peace and security is not without shortcomings, in the Republic of Congo, women have constantly been assaulted and raped. The crisis was so horrific, Margot Wallström, (the then UN special representative for sexual violence in conflict), described the country as the “rape capital of the world”, (Musau, 2015) or the crisis in the Southern Sudan, or the disappearance of the Chibok Girls till this day.  Lack of funds has been yet another shortcoming of this initiative, as the African continent remains a developing continent; the insufficiency of funds will remain a challenge to the course. Another of its shortcomings is the lack of time-bound objective for countries to abide by thus, countries have not been put under pressure to actualize the vision.  (Musau, 2015)

Peace and Security should no longer be a gender prerogative, but a combined effort of both sexes, starting with the practicing the resolution 1325 by involving women in peace process. Also allocating more funds to our peace movement.  Educating the youth on the importance of gender equality and the participation of women in the society. There is the need for more public awareness of these issues. 

Furthermore, strategic policies should be put in place with effective recommendations, women are still primarily the victims of conflict, therefore, there should be responses given to gender-based violence. Given the complexity of the role of women in conflict, there should be relevant research analysis related to dispute resolution, conflict analysis, crisis management and peace building, which should be conducted by women themselves to give the foreknowledge.   There should be a united font, a general cry if one might add, to see this resolution actualized. However, It can be accentuated that Africa has put in more effort as a developing continent than most developing continents towards the implementation of peace and security.  I end by quoting  “This anniversary must mark that threshold moment where words become action,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,  (The Executive Director of UN Women)  (

Bachelet, M. (2012). at the Open Debate of Security Council on Women and Peace and Security.

Brewer, J. (2010). Peace processes. Cambridge: Polity.

Diop, B. (2015). African Peace and Security: Enhancing the Role of Women. Chatham house London.

Kumalo, L. (2015).Beyond rhetoric: the role of women in sustainable peace building. Institute for Security Studies.

Marie, O’ Reily, (2015). Why Women?
Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies

Musau, Z. (2015). 15 years of implementing UN Security Council resolution 1325 in Africa -. African Renewal.

Sigsworth, R. (2016). Women's rights beyond promises and paper tigers. In: A.U. Pretoria: Institute of Security Studies.

Resolution 1325. (2000). [Manuscript]


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