“If we focus exclusively on women as victims, not as agents of the peace, we will fail to invest in a major driver of recovery, which is women’s leadership for peacebuilding.”
— UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet
 

A devastating silence

Women and children account for the majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict. They suffer disproportionately during and after war, as so often existing inequalities are magnified, and social networks continue to break down, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation, and poverty.

Violence against women in conflict is severely underreported. In cases of sexual violence, survivors face severe medical complications and psychological trauma. They often cease contributing to the economy within their area and are crippled by shame and stigmatization from their community.

However, seeing survivors of violence as helpless victims does damage to onlookers and to the survivors themselves. In fact, when she survives such dangerous circumstances and experiences, her full inclusion in the leadership of the community, and the peace-building process, before and after conflict erupts, becomes essential!  Sadly, even though women make up 50 percent of the population, they are often excluded from conflict resolution.

Our problem is too much silence. Hers and ours. Will you raise your voice, so that the world can hear hers? 

•       It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

•       Evidence suggests ethnicity, disability status, or sexual orientation and contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, drastically increase women’s vulnerability to violence. 

•       Worldwide, 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. 

•       Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape damages individuals, families and entire communities, devastating societies that see women as the guardians of a community's cultural and spiritual values. Breaking women breaks the village, and breaking the village breaks the culture, making it easier for invading forces to take control of human and natural resources.

•       Nearly 80 per cent of the 53 million people uprooted by wars today are women and children. When fathers, husbands, brothers and sons are drawn away to fight, they leave women, the very young and the elderly to fend for themselves. 

•       Girls and women can be subject to forced prostitution and trafficking during times of war, sometimes with the complicity of governments and military authorities.  

Sources:  UNWomen, UNICEF, and Human Rights Watch

 Photo: Benjamin Edwards/ World Relief

Photo: Benjamin Edwards/World Relief

 

 

The International Response

In 2000, The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. For the first time, the international peace and security agenda focused on conflict’s disproportionate impact on women and the need for women’s involvement in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Fifteen years later, violence against women as a weapon of war and as a means of forcibly displacing people is still an ongoing trend. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has advised the international community that high-level advocacy alone will not suffice: grassroots-level peace must be established.

 Photo: Sean Sheridan/ World Relief

Photo: Sean Sheridan/World Relief

 

Header Image: Sean Sheridan/World Relief