Gender-Inclusive Peace Processes: Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation Through Constituency Building

Published on Wednesday, 10th of November 2021

As violent conflicts and humanitarian crises intensify globally, and especially in the Middle
East and North Africa (MENA), communities are paying the price in the absence of political
settlements and sustainable peace. Women, in particular, are severely impacted by these
crises, but they remain mostly excluded from meaningfully participating in peace processes.

UN Women convened the global conference ‘Gender-Inclusive Peace Processes: Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation through Constituency Building’ in July 2021, in partnership with CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation, and with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The conference attracted the participation of more than 320 peace practitioners from 70 countries worldwide, with a focus on the MENA region. It was hosted completely online for the first time since its inception in 20182, taking place over Zoom (live events, synchronous component) and SparkBlue (asynchronous engagement) platforms.

Discussions focused on how to leverage the practice of constituency building to foster inclusive peace and enhance women’s meaningful participation in formal peace processes.3 Scholars have found that one reason why women’s inclusion in peacebuilding is correlated with more durable agreements is because of the strong and extensive linkages that women signatories establish with constituencies of women’s civil society groups. Yet, for women leaders in particular, the practice of constituency building also brings about challenges, including the risk of being relegated to spaces generally perceived as women-only, and the assumption that one woman leader represents all women, or that women can represent “women’s issues” only.

A reconceptualization is necessary that considers women as equal political actors and that deepens the general understanding of the gendered dynamics of accountability and representation in contemporary peace processes.

With technical inputs and facilitation from experts and thought leaders, the conference offered a safe space for the sharing of experiences and cross-fertilization of ideas among practitioners with deep knowledge of different country contexts. Participants reflected, among other issues, on how to mitigate the increased security risks that women activists and politicians face for their participation in political processes – from being retaliated against for their activism to becoming the target of other political groups.

They shared their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of digital methods in constituency building, including the use of social media and digital tools to amplify women’s voices, and the heightened risks women can face as targets of hate speech and cyber harassment. Finally, participants pointed out that the best way to foster women’s meaningful inclusion is to ensure that women hold strategic leadership and decision-making roles.

Download the report here: Gender-Inclusive Peace Processes: Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation Through Constituency Building

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