On 23 March 2017 the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a webinar launching an analytical study on ever-growing levels of insecurity and violence in Libya and Yemen. This study was developed on the basis of local consultations with Libyan and Yemeni women leaders, activists and international displaced persons (IDPs) from different backgrounds.
The webinar was well attended with participants from across the world and explored the rapidly shifting political landscape that permitted destructive economy of wars to prevail over sustainable peace and the rule of law. Taking place under the shadow of escalated discriminatory policies that limit women’s agency, the conversation showcased important voices critical for action on peace at the UN.
Discussing the impact of ever-growing level of militarisation on women in Yemen, Rasha Jarhum noted that about three million IDPs are currently lacking basic needs and forced to live in shacks without any humanitarian assistance. Moreover, Yemeni women are targeted by airstrikes and exploitation; they are also often recruited by the militia to disperse peaceful protests. Despite these inhumane and dangerous conditions of living, Jarhum notes, Yemeni women are at the front lines of addressing the crisis, facilitating relief for convoys in locations where it is difficult for humanitarian assistance to go through. They are tackling disarmament, demilitarisation, reintegration; they are developing programs to prevent violent extremism. However, Jarhum highlighted that male political leaders, including Yemeni politicians, high-level Western diplomats and UN mediators, still claim that women are not qualified for peace negotiations. She insisted that it is largely overlooked that women have the same goals in peace negotiations. This goal is to achieve peace. "[Women] just want DDR programs to be gender-sensitive and start immediately; they want women’s inclusion in the security sector; and they want a humanitarian response plan with women’s voices in it", she concludes.
The second presenter, Lina Salim of the TOBE Foundation, addressed the issues that local civil society organisations face when they are conducting humanitarian missions within Yemen. These concerns are multidimensional. The withdrawal of international NGOs from liberated areas directly affects the work of local groups. Moreover, there are growing challenges between local non-governmental organisations located in the south and the north of the country because of the conflict dynamic. Finally, while local organisations have only humanitarian mandates, there is no expectation of security for these organisations, as many activists continue receiving threats.
Echoing previous statements, Inas Miloud of Together We Built It emphasised that Libyan women have no presence in peace negotiations. As follows, their needs, views and experiences are not taken into consideration. In an attempt to create a platform to address these needs, Miloud and colleagues consulted more than fifty women of different backgrounds in the north and south of Libya. The results of this work demonstrated that women are the primary target of armed violence in the communities. The militias are threatening their way of life and basic daily activities, specifically in the IDP communities. Many women do not even know that there is a possibility for them to participate in peace negotiations. "Their exclusion is not random but intentional", says Miloud.
While there is a growing trend in support of the systematic exclusion of women from peace processes, there are ways to improve the situation. Moving forward, participants explored different ways of strengthening women's leadership and building sustainable peace based on gender justice. They affirmed that the UN has to take a leadership to fund and ensure women's participation in all peace processes, including in Yemen and Libya. As per participants, Member States should also commit to gender aware disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes that have to start immediately and substantially improve and regularise meaningful engagement and consultations with civil society including local women's groups. Only when the current state of affairs will be challenged, the space will be created for stopping an "endless war".
Full version of the webinar is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLNWt-0BnqE