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No development without peace, security for women

Written by Jane Godia in New York
A delegate from Tunisia addressing a side event on Women, Peace and Security in New York A delegate from Tunisia addressing a side event on Women, Peace and Security in New York Picture: Jane Godia

Violence against women and peace and security for women and girls are topics that could not have been left out during discussions in the just concluded 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York at the United Nations headquarters.

The fact that violence against women and girls is detrimental to their future development also got captured in the final outcome document of the Commission.

The importance of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spaces, through multi-sectoral and coordinated approaches was noted. The Commission reiterated that to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls will need the exercising of due diligence, investigations, prosecutions and punishing of the perpetrators of violence against women and girls. It called for an end to impunity and provision of protection as well as universal access to comprehensive social, health and legal services for all victims and survivors, to ensure their full recovery and reintegration into society.

The Commission noted the importance for all women and girls to live free from violence and the need to address the structural and underlying causes of violence against women and girls through enhanced prevention measures, research and strengthened coordination and monitoring and evaluation.

The Commission called for the elimination of all harmful practices, including child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, through reviewing, adopting, enacting and enforcing laws and regulations that prohibit such practices, creating awareness around their harmful health consequences, and generating social support for the enforcement of these laws.
The Commission’s statement came out of the calls by various groups including government and civil society delegations that added the world’s second largest gathering after the United Nations General Assembly.
It was noted that violence against women and girls was everywhere.

Speaking at a session on Empowerment of Women and Girls: Beyond Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the Post-2015 Agenda, Dr.  Nicholas Alipui, Director of Programmes at UNICEF noted that Gender Based Violence (GBV) during conflict made it risky for women and girls to be at risk of it.

According to Tamara Tutnejevic Gorman, Senior Policy Advisor at the World Vision, violence is preventing women from achieving equality. There are many forms of violence that greatly affect women when they are girls.

Gorman added exposure and fear of violence when schools are not safe make girl’s drop out of school.

This was also noted by Patrick Stewark, in a video recorded by Breakthrough, a non-governmental organization engaged in the business of ending violence against women who noted that he grew up in a family with a violent father and would not like to see women being abused.
 “When you live with violence in a confined space, you gauge the temperature of when the strike is going to happen,” he added.

H said that violence is a choice a man makes and he is responsible for it. It is not a woman’s issue. It is everybody’s business and when it happens in the space we are in, we cannot feel secure.

Calling on women not always to be portrayed as victims of conflict, delegates noted that women are peace builders and they must be recognized as such. However, they noted that the MDGs had failed to address the issue of violence against women especially during conflict.
It was noted that war is a gendered activity after child birth and it is one of the activities segregated along gender lines.

Men in difficult circumstances, it was said, may resort to violence out of frustration and resort to misuse of fire arms.

“Women who experience violence may have few resources that could enable them escape,” said one delegate, reiterating that small arms are the main tools of conflict and the ones being used in human rights violations including domestic violence.

She added that armed conflict is affecting economic development. Conflict is the main cause of food insecurity and it makes it difficult for vulnerable populations in need of food.
The meeting also noted that countries that have been in conflict are the ones that have performed poorly in relation to the MDGs. They called for need to ensure that in the post-2015 agenda there is no country that will be in conflict.

“Where there are high levels of conflict, schooling and lives are disrupted,” said one delegate.

The delegates noted that although there are seven more resolutions after United Nations Security Resolution 1325, the biggest gap in the MDGs is the absence of a goal on peace and security.

 “Ninety per cent of homicide victims are men, and women bear the burden of caring for the victims,” noted a delegate from Nigeria.

They pointed out that the whole purpose of the UN is to determine to help succeeding generations in peaceful co-existence noting that the post-2015 development agenda must include integration of women in peace and development, reiterating that violence is an impediment to progress.

According to Nahla Valji, Peace and Security advisor at UN Women peace and security in the post-2015 development agenda has been the missing piece.

“How can we leverage women, peace and security into the post-2015 goals through the UN security Resolution 1325?” she posed.
Valji noted that conflict drives development backwards. She reiterated that UN Women was trying to bring gender, women, peace and security as a stand - alone goal in the post-2015 development agenda.
“Lack of peace and security affects women’s ability to participate in the development agenda,” said Valji.
Her sentiments were echoed by Hannah Wright, Gender, Peace and Security Advisor Saferworld who noted that conflict prevention is an area that has been neglected.
“Women cannot make strategic gains during times of conflict. If we want to make gains for women’s empowerment and gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda, we must talk about women, peace and security,” urged Wright.

It was also noted that sexual harassment against women and girls continue despite 117 countries having passed Sexual Offences Acts.

It was noted that violence was the main reason women were still missing in leadership and decision making positions.

“Elections violence has deterred women from participating in politics,” said Mary Clara Makunga, Malawi’s Minister for Gender and Women’s Affairs. She added: “Post-2015 development agenda provides an opportunity to sustain momentum and increase women’s leadership.”
“A stand alone goal in gender equality is a sure way to address inequalities that exist for women. Women must be part of the decision making processes that affect their lives,” making said.

She added that women’s participation in peace building is critical in the post-2015 agenda.


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