Initiatives to Address Women's Active Participation in Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Iraq

Monday, May 5, 2003

March 17-April 25, 2003, Geneva

In this year's dialogues held during the Commission's side events and in statements made during the Commission's General Debate, representatives of non-governmental organizations and governments mentioned the importance of Resolution 1325 as a tool to ensure women's human rights in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. It was obvious to those of us representing NGOs that the resolution was relevant to multiple agenda items, and likewise, the resolutions being considered.

Security Council Resolution 1325 was mentioned in the following CHR resolutions and statements:
-CHR Resolution on Violence Against Women E/CN.4/2003/L.52: note preambular paragraph 6
-Women's International League for Peace and Freedom statement
-Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS) statement
-World Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) statement

To read the above resolution and statements, click here.

Back to Top

2. 1325 NEWS

Visit our updated news pages on Iraq, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Israel-Palestine

May 5, 2003 – (UN Wire) DynCorp on Friday dropped its planned appeal of a ruling that it unfairly dismissed a woman who blew the whistle on DynCorp-employed U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia for frequenting nightclubs where girls under 15 had sex with customers. The U.S. firm's dropping of the expected appeal follows its landing last month of a $35 million U.S. State Department contract to provide police officers to Iraq.

Geneva, 1 May 1, 2003 – (OMCT Press Release) The UN Committee against Torture will tomorrow, 2 May 2003, begin its examination of the implementation of the International Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Turkey. In its alternative country report entitled "Violence against Women in Turkey," which has been submitted to the Committee against Torture, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expresses its grave concern at reports of violence against women at the hands of both private individuals and state officials.

April 30, 2003 – (Refugees International) Women in post-war Iraq will require assistance in three critical areas: reproductive health services, education, and political participation. The United States and international donors must address these challenges quickly in order to give women an opportunity to play an active role in building a new Iraq. Refugees International is concerned that the U.S. government and the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) are not making women's issues a top priority. Within ORHA, for example, there is only a part-time gender focal point, and RI has been unable to obtain any specific information or strategy from U.S. government agencies concerning programs designed to improve the lives of women.

April 29, 2003 – (AP) The Indonesian military systematically forced dozens of East Timorese women to become sex slaves for officers during its 24-year occupation of the half-island, a former governor said Tuesday.

April 29, 2003 – (UN Wire) More than 100 Afghan women gathered in Islamabad yesterday to protest the Afghan central government's continued support of warlords with histories of abusing women's rights.

April 29, 2003- (Reuters) The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan was hailed as a triumph for the rights of women, but in Iraq women say liberation American-style has brought them little but hardship.

April 22, 2003 - (IRIN) The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has launched a research project to establish how vulnerable and disadvantaged women are in Afghanistan. The study is focusing on sexual division of labour to explore the dynamics of the country's diverse livelihood patterns and how they fit into the larger picture of reconstruction.

April 21, 2003 – (The Monitor -Kampala) Women delegates from 10 African countries meet in Kampala this week to prepare a documentary on women's peace initiatives on the continent.

April 15, 2003 – (Business When I look at the news these days, I can't help but wonder: Wouldn't we be a lot better off if women were in charge, given all the violence and atrocities perpetrated by men and male-run governments in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and Iraq? Would U.S. troops be in Iraq today if, say, Hillary Clinton were President, and not George W. Bush?

April 10, 2003 – (New Vision-Kampala) If your husband is a war monger deny him sex, women attending a one-day public dialogue in Kampala have resolved. "Women should use all their means to dissuade their husbands from engaging in war. If they still insist then it should be a yes-to-war, no-to-sex situation," Jackie Asiimwe, the coordinator of Uganda Women Network, read the resolution on Tuesday [8 April] at the International Conference Centre.

For more 1325 news, click here.

Back to Top

3. FEATURE ANALYSIS: No Place for a Woman

Lesley Abdela
The Times, Op-Ed
April 29, 2003

Leslie Abdela is senior partner in the gender parity and democracy consultants Shevolution and Eyecatcher Associates in the UK. Due to the length of her editorial, we have included excerpts below with a link to the full statement on

Just after the liberation of Basra, as I stared at my TV watching the British military commander appoint clerics to help to run Iraq's second-largest city, I realised that there was something familiar about it all — echoes of Bosnia, Kosovo, Timor, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. I was witnessing the latest rebirth of a nation in which women are being almost completely left out of the new power structures and discussions over the future of their society.

…It's not just the military who need to swap their night-vision goggles for gender spectacles; diplomats and politicians lack vision too. Yesterday Jay Garner, the retired US Army general who heads the Pentagon's civil administration in Iraq, held the second meeting of what has been officially described as “representative groups from across Iraqi society”. Garner says he wants to include fair representation of all ethnic and religious groups, but so far has made no mention of the largest group in Iraq — women.

…Why is it that in the aftermath of dictatorship and conflict everyone talks about human rights and democracy, yet women find themselves having to fight hard for any voice at all? Hardly days after liberation from Saddam, Iraqi women fear they will end up living under a distorted legal system with a constitution denying them almost all their basic human rights.
On Saturday I was at a conference in Geneva hosted by the Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces, a Porsche-end of the market think tank funded by the Swiss Government. Twenty of us with international conflict experience were acting as an advisory board on women and war. Among us we had experience of conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Asia.

Dr Krishna Ahooja-Patel, president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, has spent 25 years working inside the UN system. She spoke of her frustration: “UN Resolution 1325 was passed in 2000, stating clearly that women must be included in all aspects of peacemaking and peace-building discussions. It didn't happen in Afghanistan and so far it doesn't look as though it is being implemented in Iraq. The question we should ask is ‘Why?'”

I have been asking that question almost every waking minute of the past three weeks. With colleagues, I have been engaged in intensive lobbying alongside Iraqi women fighting for the right to have an equal place with men in discussions on the future of their country.

…Last week, sitting in the BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour studio, I took part in a discussion with Iraqi women. The presenter, Jenni Murray, stared at me. “Lesley, haven't we had this same conversation before, at the time of Kosovo, and the time of Sierra Leone, and the time of Timor, and the time of Afghanistan?” Yes, I agreed. I'm beginning to feel like a metronome.

…I had hoped that out of the manifest failures of Kosovo, a template would spring to ensure that in the aftermath of conflict and war a nation's women were never again so excluded, derided, patronised and sidelined. But the following year in Sierrra Leone the British authorities installed 150 “paramount chiefs”, of whom 147 were men. Then in Afghanistan the international community entrenched warlords. It took a massive international lobby campaign, led in the UK by Joan Ruddock MP, to get even two Afghan women included at the post-Taliban Bonn conference. And so far Iraq looks like being just another cut and paste from the same old outworn, shabby text.

…Last week six activists travelled from Iraq to Washington to speak for Iraqi women. Two of them, Rend Rahim Francke and Zainab al-Suwaij, had gone to the April 15 meeting in Ur to take part in the first gathering of the FCC after the fall of the Baath regime. They and Iraqi women inside and outside Iraq were dismayed to discover that only four of the 80 delegates were women.

In April 23 meetings at the State Department with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the under-secretary of state for global affairs, Paula Dobriansky, Rend Rahim Francke, executive director of the Iraq Foundation, spoke of the challenge Iraqi women face in trying to gain political participation. Their message: Iraqi women constitute at least 55 per cent of their country's population and they want a voice in its rebirth.

Above all, they want a secular constitution that does not discriminate against women. Dr Shatha Beserani, an Iraqi doctor living in London, founded the Iraqi Women for Peace and Democracy Campaign in 2000. She estimates that despite the noisy Iran-funded religious movement, out of a population of 25 million as many as 75 per cent would support a secular constitution. She says any new legal code should repeal Sharia and introduce a secular legal system that does not discriminate against women.

Dr Beserani and other Iraqi women say that any new constitution for Iraq should be constructed from a gender-balanced team.

There is a precedent. The negotiating team which drew up the South African Constitution was 50 per cent female. The former South African High Commissioner in London, Cheryl Carolus, believes this remarkable gender balance was fundamental to an outcome acceptable to 26 different political parties.

…We should remind Iraqi men that Iraqi women shared the horrors of Saddam and the terrors of bombing and should be taking an equal place in shaping a peaceful, prosperous future.
And all should take inspiration from the clarion call enshrined in the magnificent South African Constitution: “United in diversity, based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; and every citizen equally protected by law.”

To read the full analysis, click here.

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles and analyses on women's peace theory and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organisational building. Please go to:

Back to Top

4. FEATURE STATEMENT: A Cautionary Tale from Kosovar Women to Women in Post-War Iraq

Prepared by Igo Rogova, Board Chair, Kosova Women's Network
April 2003

This newsletter is being released as another war came to an end, the war in Iraq. It is clear by now that the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein vanished under the heavy bombing of the American and British forces. Many rejoiced the day when a government that persecuted and discriminated its own people disappeared. The big question is what comes next. To us as women's rights activists, the big concern is what will happen to women in a post-war Iraq. And, as women's groups that work in a post-conflict area, run mainly by a UN administration, we have a briefly recounted but very complex story to tell to the women of Iraq.

Kosovar women started to get organized in the early 1990s and worked very closely with the local parallel ('underground') government that resisted the persecution of the Kosovar Albanian population by the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. When war started in ex-Yugoslavia, we became part of the regional women's networks that raised their voices against the war and provided help to women and refugees in those very hard times. When the war came to Kosova, women's rights activists became refugees themselves, but never stopped working with and for women, this time in refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania.

We greeted joyfully the decision that put Kosova under a UN administration. UN was to us the revered international organization that developed and passed key documents that stipulated women's rights and promoted their integration in all levels of decision-making. But, when we returned home we were, unfortunately, disappointed by the UN Mission in Kosova (UNMIK). We were eager to work with the international agencies in developing effective strategies for responding to the pressing needs of Kosovar women, but most of those agencies did not recognize that we existed and often refused to hear what we had to say on decisions that affected our lives and our future.

Some of the international staff came to Kosova thinking and assuming that this is an extremely patriarchal society where no women's movement can flourish. And there were those who wanted us to do all the groundwork for them: find staff and offices, set up meetings and provide translations, but were not interested in listening to us and acknowledge our special expertise. They had their own fixed ideas and plans and their ready-made programs that they had tried in other countries and did not want to change their plans to respond to the reality of our lives.

Instead of dedicating all our energy to helping women and their families put together lives shattered by war, we had to spend efforts in fighting to be heard and in proving to UNMIK that we knew what was best for us, that women in Kosova were not just victims waiting to be helped - they could help themselves, as they did in the past, and they could be key and effective actors in building their own future.

But we did not give up. We raised our voice. We met with UN officials, wrote letters, went to meetings to present our ideas, knowledge and expertise, we talked to donors and built alliances with those international organizations in Kosova and abroad that genuinely saw and related to us as partners in the common efforts to advance women‚s cause in our country. This is part of an on-going multi-layered struggle that women's groups in Kosova have been engaged in during the last four years, a struggle to be part of the decision-making process from day one, a struggle to get better organized and become more effective, a struggle to take the place we deserve in shaping our life and the future of our society.

We urge and encourage women in Iraq to organize, raise their voice and be part of the rebuilding of their country.

We saw how the international media portrayed the women of Iraq. They showed only the women with black scarf. They had no voice in the media, like they are not part of Iraq. The same happened with Kosovar women's image during the war. International media didn't show intellectual women on TV. It was as if they don't exist.

We know there are strong, organized, intellectual women in Iraq as there were strong, organized, intellectual women in Kosova or in any other country in the world.

But if UN takes the civic administration in Iraq, it is time they change the principle of their work so sympathetic and knowledgeable International people concentrate the work in cooperating with local experts, giving space, resources, a deep hearing and recognition also to the women's local NGOs.

To read this statement on the PeaceWomen website, click here.

To read more about this network, click here.
To contact the Kosova Women's Network, email:

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles and analyses on women's peace theory and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organisational building. Please go to:

Back to Top

5. FEATURE RESOURCE: Initiatives to Address Women's Active Participation in Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Iraq

PeaceWomen Project
May 2003

In recent weeks numerous actors from within the United Nations, national governments, civil society organizations and media have mobilized to address the situation of women in Iraq and to ensure that Iraqi women are included in the “reconstruction” process currently underway.

Considering the number and diversity of these recent efforts, as well as the on-going mobilization on this issue, PeaceWomen has compiled a list of some of these initiatives, including civil society, UN and government initiatives. It is neither complete nor comprehensive but rather a strategic first attempt to see what has been done and what the next steps might be as well as an update on current initiatives.

To ensure that this list remains up-to-date and accurate, PeaceWomen welcomes your input to this list and suggests that maintains this compilation of information about international initiatives addressing women in post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq.

The list includes:
Civil Society Initiatives
Civil Society-UN Initiatives
Civil Society-Government Initiatives
UN Initiatives
Government Initiatives

To view the Initiatives List, click here.

To provide input to this list, contact

For a comprehensive annotated bibliography of books, articles and analyses on women's peace theory and activities, as well as NGO position papers, reports, speeches, statements and tools for organisational building. Please go to:

Back to Top


Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
June 30- July 18, 2003, UN, New York City
The Committee on CEDAW will hold its 29th session during these dates. The countries that will present their state reports include Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Japan, Morocco and Slovenia.

Gender and Conflict Transformation: Online Course
July-November 2003
The Network University (TNU) in Amsterdam is offering 3 one-month long online courses (July to August, September to October and November to December). While the price of the course is 450.00 Euros, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is offering a number of scholarships for candidates who: are active in a conflict or post-conflict area and are involved in conflict prevention, resolution, reconstruction, peace-building; are affiliated to an organization; are able to spend at least 5 hours per week on course work; have access to internet and basic computer skills; and must come from a DAC country. Completed application forms can be sent to: Moderator, Online Course, at

International Conference of Women in Black
New dates: August 28-31, 2003, Florence, Italy
Women in Black from all over the world are invited to this conference, organized by Women in Black (WIB) in Italy. The Conference will include plenaries, workshops, a public demonstration as well as a training session about presenting ideas, communicating, exchanging ideas and experience, with audio-visual materials. For more information and to register, contact Giulia Franchi at

For more calendar events please visit:

Back to Top


The PeaceWomen is a project of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Please visit us at

Previous issues of 1325 PeaceWomen E-News can be found at:

At this time 1325 PeaceWomen E-News is only available in English. The PeaceWomen Team hopes to translate the newsletter into French and Spanish in the future. If you would not like to receive the English newsletter but would like to be placed on a list when translation is possible, please write to:

To unsubscribe from the 1325 PeaceWomen News, send an email to with "unsubscribe" as the subject heading.

Questions, concerns and comments can be sent to 1325 E-News and other submissions should be directed to

This edition of the 1325 PeaceWomen E-News Features:

1. Commission on Human Rights (CHR): Update
2. 1325 News
3. Feature Analysis: No Place for a Woman-Leslie Abdela on Post-War Iraq
4. Feature Statement: A Cautionary Tale from Kosovar Women to Women in Post-War Iraq
5. Feature Resource: Initiatives to Address Women's Active Participation in Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Iraq
6. Calendar Events