Gender in conflicts - Interview with Saferworld on building peace
Addressing their needs and using their power within communities is actually a strategic endeavor and part of a successful peace strategy, especially when natural resources are involved.
"Saferworld is an international conflict prevention organization, independent of government. We focus on a whole bunch of different issues that we see as key to building lasting peace. Security, justice, governance and the role of the international community in creating and resolving conflicts, but one of the key strategic things that we are focusing on a lot more over the next few years is gender and the way that gender norms drive conflicts on the ground. For instance, in South Sudan, a lot of our conflict analyses have revealed how marriage practices and the way that women are seen in society, the age they get married, the amount of investment there is in girls education, determines things like patterns of revenge, the abduction of girls by different communities, the cycles of violence over cattle, because cattle are used to pay for brides in much of the country.
At the moment, gender is seen as a kind of normative thing. ‘Let’s include more women’, ‘let’s work towards women’s equality in peacebuilding concepts’, but we want to say that working on gender norms is actually strategic. It is part of the peace strategy. One of the ways we do that is through a toolkit that we put together - a toolkit on ‘Gender Analysis of Conflict’ is available on our website and it is really a way for people to build into their programming a way of focusing on gender and how that causes conflict and what they can do in response.
I would not say that there are any barriers to us to look at environmental issues. What we tend to do is focus on what the context demands and the factors that are important and why people are fighting in a particular place. Often, conflicts are about resources, right? Scarce lands, scarce access to water, scarce access to grazing for cattle; this is true across the Horn of Africa, and a whole bunch of places. Where those environmental issues are there and where climate change is impacting on those contexts and making the water sustainability less for local people, yes, you have to focus on that and address that as a way to solving conflict."