Pathways for Peace: Case Studies of Women’s Leadership in Peace Processes – Women Deliver

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March 10, 2019 Emily Silk Global Women's Leadership Initiative

Pathways for Peace: Case Studies of Women’s Leadership in Peace Processes


In 2000 the UN passed Security Council Resolution 1325, calling for the increased participation of women in peace processes. Despite this, women made up “only 2 percent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators, and 5 percent of witnesses and signatories” worldwide between 1990 and 2017. Evidence suggests that “when women and civil society groups are invited and meaningfully participate in peace negotiations, the resulting agreement is 64% less likely to fail and 35% more likely to last at least fifteen years.” However, we need female leaders at all levels of the peace process, especially as negotiators, peacekeepers, and signatories, not just as part of civil society organizations. When women are present in peace negotiations, they challenge norms and bring forth ideas and policy suggestions that would otherwise be ignored or forgotten. In examining the case studies of Colombia and Yemen, we see not only the historical importance of including women in peace and security negotiations, but also the potential pathways forward.


In 1998, women were formally brought into peace negations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  Three women assisted in the peace process as negotiators and coordinators. Though a marker of progress, three women is not enough to call the process inclusive. When an agreement was reached in 2002, women civil society organizations knew that peace would not last and continued to lobby the government and insist plans be made for future conflict and negotiations. When peace talks reopened in 2012, only one of the twenty negotiators was female. In response, civil society leaders organized the National Summit of Women and Peace, calling for women’s involvement in the peace process. And by 2015 “women comprised 20 percent of the government negotiating team and 43 percent of FARC delegates.” Women were included on all levels of the peace process and started the first Gender Subcommission. They also demanded that the FARC introduce “confidence building measures” and an apology process to promote peace. Bringing in female peacekeepers was similarly essential. Alexandra Tenny, the chief of the Eradication, Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S Embassy in Bogota described how no man in the Ministry of the Interior thought to engage the local population (specifically mothers) to find out where IEDs might be (Hudson and Liedl 2015, 290). Without her suggestion, the Ministry would have continued to struggle to locate IEDs. While it is too early to classify this peace as “lasting”, without the actions of women, critical issues would not have been addressed. Therefore, it is vital to include women at the table, taking action and implementing policy.



In Yemen, the peace process is just beginning. Following peace talks in Geneva, where only one woman was present, the two factions met on a UN chartered boat moored off of Hodeidah. At present, no women are at the table on the UN side, the Houthis, or the Hadi government. This is an issue for multiple reasons, but the most important is that women are at the heart of and the most affected by this conflict. Since the war began, women and children have been disproportionately impacted by the conflict, “including the number of casualties, increased malnutrition, higher displacement, and increased likelihood of gender and sexual based violence.” As the war continues, women are doing all of the agricultural work, childcare, and household labor, and yet only 7 percent of these women earn a wage (Hudson and Liedl 2015, 290). As in Colombia, Yemeni women civil society groups are laying the groundwork for peace and created the Yemini Women Pact for Peace and Security in October of 2015, which drafted and submitted policy recommendations to end the war and start a peacebuilding process.

Despite their efforts, women have not been given an active role in the Yemeni peace making process through official channels. If Yemeni women are not allowed to participate in the peace process, it will be difficult to establish lasting peace. And if all actors do not understand the critical roles women are playing, and have played in Yemen, the negotiations will miss half of the issues involved in securing lasting peace.

When looking at the process of peace and security, women need to take formal leadership roles.  Practice shows that women improve the prospects and longevity of peace processes.  Women often comprise at least half of the population and are often the ones that run communities and household and community decision-making processes during conflict. It is therefore time to make sure those women have a chance to lead negotiations and policy implementation as negotiators, ministers, ambassadors, and peacekeepers. Women’s voices are critical to the process of ending war and building lasting peace.


Works Cited

Hudson, Valerie M., and Patricia Leidl. The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.


Photo 1 Credit: US State Department
Photo 2 Credit: Al Jazeera

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