Gender Inclusion in Policy making and implementation

On 31st October 2000, the UN Security Council passed its first ever resolution on Women, Peace and Security (Resolution 1325). Furthermore, NGOs like Oxfam, Amnesty International, International Alert, Conciliation Resources began also to stress the gender- dimensions of conflicts and their implications for peace-building process as well as their significance for their own work.

Women influencing Governing Policies

Their policy recommendations, project planning and assessment address and stress – to varying degrees – women’s diverse experience in war, including their particular and distinctive peacemaking roles and the psychological, physical, and mental consequences of violent conflicts on women, such as trauma and war injuries.

People not only have different access to power structures and material resources before, during and after the escalation of a conflict; they also experience the pre-conflict phase, open conflict, and post -conflict situation in diverse ways. In most peace negotiations women’s experiences and situations are neither mentioned nor considered, and gender equality has not been adopted as an explicit aim. Therefore, with peace settlements as ‘gendered deals’, patriarchal structures tend to be perpetuated in political and economic institutions as well as in gender-relations.

In addition to the peace negotiations phase, the presence of international agencies and peace-keeping troops has also resulted in the “sexualization” of war zones, e.g., an increasing commercial sex trade include child prostitution. The rise of prostitution under such conditions also entails a striking rise in sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.

There is growing body of evidence which points to the diversity of women’s activities and new experiences during a conflict that may have social, political, and economic consequences for post -conflict settlement and peace-building process.

In recent years, the immense variety of active roles played by women during violent conflicts was not very visible because of poor documentation and limited studies. As a result, the analytical focus has tended to be very much on women as passive agents, as helpless recipients of aid and targets of warfare.

This has changed. Today, it is documented and acknowledged that women play a variety of roles during violent conflicts. On one hand, women have functioned as peacemakers, peacekeepers, caregivers, and survivors (adult and children) etc.., while on the other hand, some have been involved in conflicts as freedom fighters.

Although there is a great of evidence, especially in the African context, which illustrates women’s roles as conflict mediators and as the main advisors in intra-group, inter-group, and national conflicts, one must realize that the equation of “women as peaceful sex” is not supported by historical evidence. The documentation of women’s involvement in actual violence and directly supporting of most contemporary violence conflicts tells a different story.

In Rwanda, for example, women actively supported and participated in the 1994 genocide. And women have not only used violence but have also incited men to use violence. Therefore, women cannot be considered- whether socially or biologically to be automatically more peaceful than men. The alleged peacefulness of women is the result of their exclusion from power i.e., the result of their dependent and subordinate role in hierarchical gender roles.

Everyone wants to be represented and heard

Given the wide variety of roles women and play in violent conflicts, one must differentiate between disempowering and empowering effects of violent conflicts on gender relations and women’s and men’s roles in peace-building processes.

Despite gross atrocities, human rights violations and everyday brutality and terror, violent conflicts also bring some empowering effects. In many wars, in the absence of men, women assume traditionally male-dominated roles, thus breaking with the old social order.

The end of a violent conflict may not only imply changes in the division of labor, political transformation etc. but may also lead to (radical) changes in gender relations. In the light of surviving violence and social and economic deprivation, women may gain more or new self-confidence, social and political skills. However, there is no guarantee that all these changes will be sustainable and empowering for women in the long term.

As far as disempowering effects of violent conflicts are concerned, both men and women often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including suicide, depression, different forms of mental illnesses etc. Striking aspects of this include different forms of sexual violence against girls and women like rape, forced prostitution and sexual humiliation. In Bosnia, for example, the sexual abuse of women was part of ethnic cleansing under the guise of national and ethnic supremacy.

True Leadership represents all

Rape as systematic war strategy and its social, psychological, and physical effects on women have received more academic and political attention during recent years. While both male and female rape often aim to humiliate and demoralize the adversary, there seems to be a different motivation behind both forms of rape. Female rape seems to aim at humiliating and even destroying the community. Male rape, on the other hand, may be means to humiliate men.

In this context it is crucial to note that in the aftermath of violent conflicts female rape remains prevalent, while in some conflicts rape and other forms of sexual violence (domestic violence) even tend to be on the increase.

Another striking disempowering effect of violent conflicts on gender relations may be social exclusion- including reduced economic opportunities and marriage prospects-of women who have participated in violent conflicts as fighters.

There has been an increased participation of women as international actors in transnational women’s movements for peace, social justice, and human rights.

Transnational women’s NGOs and their work on issues such as domestic violence, women’s human rights, reproductive rights in the context of population policy or economic rights in the context of development policy have an essential impact on the agenda- setting in international relations, playing an important part in increasing gender-awareness in national and international politics and in policy formulation on the national and international level.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is a milestone.

Activism against Gender Based Violence | Blog | GBV | Policymakers | Women in Leadership
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Gender-based violence has been defined by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as ‘Violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.’ It remains as one of the biggest challenges and obstacles to development in the country.

Sadly, South Africa is among the countries with the highest rate of rape in the world.

Police recorded an average of 110 rape cases daily in 2017/2018 and the figure did not account for unreported incidents. Rape, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence are particularly prevalent.

Rape is a terrible trauma that violates the deepest places of a woman’s being. Emotional responses to trauma are normal and natural, and people react in diverse ways. Reactions include confusion, crying, fatigue and depression, flashbacks, sleeping disturbances, anger, fear, anxiety, grief, fear or substance abuse, problems with relationships, or work, suicidal thoughts, and feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

She feels ashamed and dirty. She wonders if she could have stopped it or prevented it. She blames herself.

Let’s work together to eradicate GBV and Rape.

In addition to these feelings, a rape survivor may sustain physical injuries. I could be beating, choking, or stabbing. She faces the possibility of being pregnant, of having contracted venereal disease or HIV, and carries this anxiety with her long after the rape.

At times society blames rape survivors for the ordeal. Therefore, it is important for a survivor to talk to someone she trusts or seek professional help.

In his study on rape in South Africa, Vogelmann notes that, “All women, whether raped or not, fear rape and take precautionary measures which limit their freedom” Rape is an act affecting all women, regardless of whether they are personally raped.

Women are aware of their vulnerability to rape and other forms of violence against them., Thus, they restrict their lives, not venturing to certain places at night or alone, not taking certain jobs, not visiting friends.

Women who have survived rape need the unconditional belief and acceptance of those they tell their story to. It is rare for a woman to make a false rape claim. It is far more likely that a man, in confronted with what he has done, will deny having raped. Most women never tell anyone about their ordeal, such is the shame and victim- blaming surrounding rape. It she does tell someone; it often takes great courage to do. She needs emotional support, medical care, counselling and must report the incident at a police station.

Phola organisation was established in 2016 to address the psychosocial and mental health problems associated with violence, crime, substance abuse, child abuse, gender-based violence, hardships, and trauma.

At Phola Village women and children experiencing gender-based violence or any form of abuse can get help. The Phola Director Ncazelo Mlilo is a psychologist with experience in psychosocial work and counselling.

During the past two decades she has developed methodologies now widely used internationally in countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, United States of America, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Brazil, Swaziland, South Africa, Uganda, and Russia. Her leading publication is The Tree of Life Methodology developed in 2006.

Phola’s Approach to Assisting Survivors is rooted in our Narrative Therapies;

Tree of Life Methodology

Is a hopeful and inspiring approach to working with children, young people and adults who have experienced trauma. It uses metaphors and carefully formulated questions inviting children and others to tell stories about significant experiences in their lives in ways that make them stronger and hopeful about the future. The methodology allows people to explore to explore difficult issues in their lives such as abuse, loss, and grief without being re-traumatized by these experiences.


This is a methodology that takes women and others affected by violence, crime, and abuse through ten sessions that allows them to separate from shame, guilt, and psychological distress resultant from traumatic experience.

Narrative Therapy in the Suitcase Project

The Narratives in The Suitcase project uses journey metaphors to support children and people on the move to share stories, about their movements in ways that gives them hope about their lives and the future.

O.U.T.T.R.A.G.E.D. Methodology (Men and Boys)

O.U.T.T.RA.G.E.D. is a collective narrative therapy framework that facilitates conversations with men and boys for the prevention of violence and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in particular.