Go to Blog
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Women Play Vital Role in Peacemaking


The Women's Refugee Commission met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during a delegation to Liberia

Like women’s rights and peace activists around the world, I was thrilled earlier this month when I heard that the Nobel Committee had chosen to honor President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen with the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

These women have worked tirelessly and with great courage to bring peace and stability to their countries. It is especially fitting that this tribute comes in the month that we mark the 11th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. This landmark resolution acknowledged the distinct impact of armed conflict on women and recognized women’s vital role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

In celebrating the achievements of these outstanding honorees, we are reminded of the tangible benefits that result when women are full and equal partners in building peace and security. The Women’s Refugee Commission has long worked with women and girls displaced by conflict. We have seen first-hand why it is so important to put women at the center of peace and reconstruction processes. We know that in Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda and Northern Ireland, women helped bring delegates to the negotiating tables and supported the creation of sustainable local structures to rebuild communities. Women were also among the most vocal advocates of the use of nonviolent means to solve these and other political crises.

But these examples of women’s full inclusion in peace processes and reconstruction remain the exception, when they should be the rule. When women cannot participate as full partners, peacebuilding is often more protracted and difficult, women’s concerns and needs go unaddressed and post-conflict structures are more fragile and less sustainable. Vital opportunities are missed to tap the skills and grassroots activism that women can bring to bridge-building work across religious, ethnic and cultural divides.

When nearly half of all peace processes fail within the first decade of their signature, different approaches are required. And they should be grounded in the framework of Security Council Resolution 1325. We were so pleased when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last October that the United States would develop its own National Action Plan to advance the implementation of Resolution 1325 in our governments policies, programs and diplomatic efforts. The Women’s Refugee Commission believes the U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) should include components that provide a strong platform for ensuring that refugee women and girls have safe and equal access to humanitarian aid and are afforded every opportunity to participate fully in decision-making processes about the design and implementation of assistance programs. Particular attention should also be given to initiatives that reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to violence and exploitation and improve services for survivors. And the NAP should promote the inclusion of displaced women in all efforts to build peace, effect reconciliation and reconstruct their communities and country.

We hope the excitement, energy and inspiration generated by the selection of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners will spur our government to finalize its national action plan this year and will encourage other governments to develop and implement their own plans. 

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence