In depth


Women building peace: invisibility and presence

Elena Grau i Biosca
Issue coordinator

In the last issue of Peace in Progress, we looked at the role of civil society in all phases of a conflict, considered in its most plural and broadest sense. Women building peace are an active part in terms of their creativity and commitment. In this issue, we would therefore like to look at the role of women in the construction of peace with contributions by various authors who have worked on various aspects of this contribution.

Elena Grau i Biosca

Elena Grau i Biosca

This subject is also linked to invisibility and presence. Women committed to building peace mostly work at a grassroots level, and are often organised in informal networks or working in the micropolitics of relations. They rarely enter the sphere of the visible, which in the world we live in is connected to the seats of power and the media. They are therefore present and active for peace in all stages of conflicts and in all social arenas, but are also invisible. Carmen Magallón also discusses the presence and invisibility of women working for peace, and suggests six ways of recovering and fostering the threads of thought and action by women so that they become part of a legacy and a cultural framework aimed at reducing violence and constructing peace by improving human coexistence.

We have also wanted to highlight the work done on the construction of peace by women with Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council (SCR 1325), the tenth anniversary of which fell in October of this year. The article by Manuela Mesa provides an overview of those ten years, looking at the progress made and the difficulties in implementing the actions proposed by SCR 1325. The United Nations has been very active over those ten years in terms of the institutional embodiment and the monitoring systems related to the application of SCR 1325, but the member States have been much less active in the application of Action Plans, and the ten years have also seen the strengthening of women's movements for peace and security around the world.

As it is well known, SCR 1325 recognised the contribution of women to the construction of peace for the first time and as a consequence, declared that women's participation is necessary in peace negotiations, in decision-making authorities and international institutions for the management and prevention of conflicts. This resolution also attempts to tackle the issue of sexual violence in contexts of armed conflict, urging the protection of women and girls and calling for no impunity for the crimes committed. Over its ten-year history, SCR 1325 has contributed to raising the profile of women, but there is a risk of making them more visible as victims of violence than as agents of peace. While it is essential to take steps to protect women and girls from sexual violence and work vigorously to end the impunity of the perpetrators, it is also necessary to raise the profile of women's work for peace, placing them in relevant positions in negotiations and in short, acknowledging them as actors that contribute creative and effective solutions in the various phases of conflicts, so that as their presence becomes increasingly highly valued, and with the inclusion of the gender perspective, they will be contributing to reducing the violence against them.

As a result, we have asked for a range of articles focusing on raising awareness of the role of women as agents of peace. The article by Maria Villellas shows that it is necessary to include not only women but also a gender perspective in peace processes when considering what the integration of this perspective involves and what issues have to be covered on an agenda that includes it. These issues are related to violence, security, legislative and economic reforms, which enable progress to be made in redefining the relations between men and women and an end to the patriarchal logic of violence and exclusion, and the construction of a peace that is inclusive and therefore sustainable.

Renata Capella talks about the experience of the International Women's Commission (IWC) for a peace in the Middle East as an example of the application of the SCR 1325 at a local level. Based on the previous initiatives by grassroots women's movement, the IWC is a high level political commission that aims to influence peace and security policies in the Middle East with its own proposals.

Olga Amparo Sánchez talks about creating peace in her country, Colombia, based on a feminist ethic. This entails making progress on the eradication of sexism and militarism, creating feminist policies for peace with proposals such as disobeying orders for war, mobilisation to demand dialogue and political negotiation that leads to peace without impunity.

The interview with Nekane Altzelai sheds light on the experience of Ahotsak, a project that brought together women from across the spectrum of political, trade union and social movements in the Basque Country to debate on peace and the resolution of the conflict there. She points out that Ahotsak has been the only initiative that has succeeded in representing all the Basque political forces when dealing with this issue, and that the work of Ahotsak has been possible thanks to the desire to find common ground by working from the perspective of empathy and openness towards the other's point of view.

With these articles, we hope to have brought together reflections, points of view and experiences related with women's work in the construction of peace that contributes to transforming their presence into visibility.