Women's Work

The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May 2006, seemed promising on paper—any step toward stopping the Khartoum-sponsored genocide was a good step. Yet soon after the signing, violence in many areas increased, humanitarian access decreased, and now the agreement is dead in the water. What went wrong? One crucial factor was lack of buy-in by all stakeholders. Women leaders, for example, were largely excluded from the negotiations, and the Darfur Peace Agreement proved insufficient to its crucial task.

In peacemaking processes the world over, women are consistently underrepresented. At 50-plus percent of the population, we are the largest group to have this problem. It's not just a matter of fairness or equity: Creating sustainable solutions for conflict and post-conflict societies without the active leadership of women produces structural failure. Evidence shows that gender equality is not a pie-in-the-sky value, but a critical component for effecting long-term peace.

Perversely, modern warfare leads the way in "including" women, children, and civilians—it kills more of them than soldiers—and our approach to forging peace must follow. International Crisis Group's research in Sudan, Congo, and Uganda, for example, suggests that peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction, and governance do better when women are involved.

Why? Women have their fingers on the "pulse of the community." They live and work close to the roots of the conflict, witness unrecorded wartime atrocities, and understand necessary components for lasting reconciliation—such as bringing war criminals to justice. In the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, sex crimes against both men and women got significant redress only when women judges were on the bench.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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