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WDN: Empowering Women Peace Builders in Kenya and Colombia

October 31 marks the anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which acknowledges the impact of instability on women and girls and the importance of their involvement in peace processes. The International Republican Institute’s Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) is proud to support work around the world that increases women’s participation in peace and security efforts, including in countries such as Kenya and Colombia.  

This week marks 20 years since the United Nations Security Council adopted the first resolution on Women, Peace and Security, urging governments to increase the participation of women in peacebuilding. The resolution also reaffirms the notion that when women have equal access to participate in conflict resolution, their interests are more likely to be addressed and sustained peace becomes more likely.

Since the adoption of the resolution, there has been increased global recognition of the disproportionate adverse effects that armed conflict has on women and girls, as well as a growing concern that women’s representation in peace processes has lagged – despite the fact that women are often the primary targets of armed groups.

WDN is committed to increasing women’s representation in peace processes by equipping them with the skills to advocate on behalf of their needs and rights. To that end, WDN launched the Building Inclusive Peace and Security (BIPS) project in Colombia and Kenya in 2019, which seeks to increase women’s contributions to peace and security processes as well as promote community resilience efforts.  

Studies show that when women are included in peacebuilding conversations, negotiations tend to be more collaborative, bipartisan and sustainable. Women are more likely to recognize social welfare issues and push for their inclusion in agreements. Since BIPS’ inception, WDN has supported over 150 women government officials and members of civil society in addressing gendered aspects of peace and security policy. As a result, women government officials have demonstrated an increased understanding of gender sensitive policymaking and related issues.

In Kenya, combatting violent extremism has proven to be an enduring challenge, undermining women’s rights and putting girls at risk of radicalization and forced recruitment. In response, WDN trained women government officials through a series of workshops on gender-responsive policymaking and the operationalization of local peace and security frameworks, with the goal of increasing their capacity to contribute to, monitor and conduct advocacy campaigns around peace and security policies.

In Colombia, a peace accord was signed in November 2016 following decades of conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. However, Colombia continues to face challenges in restoring social cohesion and ensuring that the peace accord is implemented. Through BIPS, six local municipalities in Montes de Maria were reviewed to provide an analysis of the peace and security status and capture how local governments are addressing the needs of women and girls. These reviews were followed by governance trainings for each of the local municipalities focused on strengthening city council governance, gender equity guidelines in LDPs, crisis communication management and Law 1981, which requires municipal councils to create gender committees that advocate for the needs of women and girls at the local level.   

WDN’s work has helped women in Kenya and Colombia take a step forward in achieving gender parity in peacebuilding, but there is much more work still to be done. WDN will continue to support the initiatives of women government officials in peace and security projects and ensure that the voices of women and girls in conflict-affected areas are not only heard, but acted upon.