Exploring the economic empowerment of women in conflict affected areas

combining UNSCR 1325, CEDAW, BPFA and MDGs

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Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are essential to achieve effective and sustainable development; to foster vibrant economies and to promote peace and security.  It is important to recognize the unique contributions women can make as countries emerge from economic crisis, especially in conflict and disaster affected societies.

We take this opportunity to share with you the findings of an Asia Pacific regional research inquiry conducted collaboratively between Justice Equality Rights Access (JERA) International, an Australian based women’s NGO; Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW) a regional network of women’s organizations and groups in the Asia Pacific Region; and Women and Media Collective (WMC), a Sri Lankan based NGO.

JERA International acknowledges its appreciation to AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development) for the financial support received and for the technical assistance that was provided in the production of this report.

The research was carried out in six countries from the Asia Pacific Region; Aceh (East Asia) Fiji (the Pacific), Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia), and Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka (South Asia). These countries were identified as having been affected by conflict; by the overthrow of governments and the institution of repressive regimes, or by other military operations, resulting in large numbers of people being killed or becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and destruction of property.

The inquiry explores the reality of the lives of women affected by conflict and the effect on their opportunities for livelihood enhancement and economic empowerment.

It sheds light on the opportunities to contribute to achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and compliance with International Human Rights Conventions and treaties in two ways;

(1)    by exploring and documenting the cross-linkages between these Human Rights Instruments in the context of women’s economic empowerment in conflict affected and post-conflict contexts in the Asia Pacific Region;

(2)    by  building knowledge and awareness of Human Rights Instruments at the grass roots level to explore practical ways to implement  CEDAW, BPFA, UNSCR 1325, and support a human rights framework for the achievement of the MDG.

This knowledge can be used to strengthen the achievement of MDG in the context of economic empowerment programs for women in Asia Pacific conflict affected and post-conflict areas.

In addition to this report there is a DVD which highlights the key areas discussed during the collection of data.

Carole Shaw mapping conflict at Regional Research Workshop

The six country study brought to light 4 key realities in the lives of women who are living in/have lived in situations of conflict. These realities are:

  • Displacement,
  • Insecurity and Violence,
  • Economic insecurity,
  • Lack of representation of women in decision making structures (within the household and in the community).

These realities were identified as key barriers to women’s economic development and empowerment across all states of conflict and conflict affected societies.  The case studies reveal that each of these areas intersect and compound the issues for women within conflict and conflict affected areas.

The challenges women are facing are core areas addressed in the International Conventions and Agreements on women within which the study was framed. By setting out the accounts of women’s experiences, we argue that there is an urgent need to place the complementary measures set out in international mechanisms and agreements in the Asia Pacific context

What this study also reveals is that, despite the international recognition of rights of women, these have often not been translated into practice on the ground. Women suffer sustained violations of their human rights, particularly in societies torn by conflict.

Carole Shaw and Sepali Kottegoda convening Regional Research Workshop

Issues of livelihood and economic empowerment are integrally tied to issues of permanent resettlement. Displacement, one time or periodic, is one of the most severe consequences of war that a population has to go through. In the face of conflict, displacement becomes a debilitating reality for families, communities and at times entire villages. People may be compelled to leave their homes as fighting or devastation becomes intolerable.  They may be forcibly displaced by either Government or by non-governmental combatants. Displacement weakens social and economic structures making individuals, families and women vulnerable to control by groups or armies with different political or ideological agendas. Displacement takes away people from their economic avenues for survival; it deprives women from access to healthcare, children from access to education and blurs the roles and responsibilities within and outside the family unit.

Protracted insecurity, fear and violence abound throughout the case studies and yet we are afforded a mere glimpse of the impact this has on women’s lives. This manifests itself in many ways with regards to the economic empowerment of women in conflict and conflict affected areas.   Within the context of this study, focus groups and interviews were carried out with a great deal of sensitivity to ensure the safety of the women who attended and spoke as well as the local organizations working in the areas.

Researchers from Pakistan discuss economic empowerment

The economic well-being of women is often measured by their advancement in education, income, occupation and decision-making. When using a human rights based and a feminist approach, the power relations between men/women becomes quite obvious in determining women’s economic status. This is directly linked to how women are able to make decisions and exercise their rights as identified in the international human rights laws particularly the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

All countries within this case study are signatory to the UN-CEDAW and party to a number of agreements and treaties including the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, Beijing Platform for Action, and MDG.  However, for all 6 countries included in this inquiry, conflict and political unrest in its multiple forms, has negatively impacted on achieving significant progress in realisation of women’s rights despite the highlighted and agreement in principle to the provision of economic advancement of women.

States and International agencies are non-responsive to the need for women’s economic empowerment. International obligations may be included in a particular countries National Plans of Action, but these plans that claim to deliver significant progress in the lives of women are not implemented at the local level. This research study frames its inquiry into international and national level policy and practice to critically highlight the linkages that would lead to meaningful change in the lives of women.

It is clear from these case studies that in conflict and conflict affected societies, there is a need to move from a framework which focuses solely on violence and on the ‘protection’ of women, to a framework that is centered on the ‘protection of women’s rights’ in all shapes and forms.  This framework should engage with the multiple effects of conflict in the social, economic, political, cultural and civil areas, as well as engaging with the complex psychological and ideological changes that result from conflict and transition.  Strengthening and building on existing human rights conventions and frameworks could play a critical role in supporting and protecting women through all states of conflict.

Throughout all case studies the economic empowerment of women depended on:

  • women’s individual circumstances,
  • the nature of the conflict;
  • the dominant ideologies,
  • the aims of the parties to the conflict,
  • the political environment for democratic governance
  • and whether or not there are policies and institutions that are conducive to women’s empowerment.

Promotion of gender equality and empowering women is embedded in the Millennium Declaration, and is one of the eight MDG.  It is also strongly argued that equality and women’s empowerment are critical to achieving the MDG.  This study supports the comprehensive and indispensable use of CEDAW, the BPFA and UNSCR 1325 frameworks, already endorsed by the countries under study, to ensure MDG implementation.

MDG Goals Related CEDAW Article(s) CEDAW General Recommendations Related Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA)

Critical Area of Concern

UN Security Council Resolution 1325

(Women, Peace and Security)

S/RES/1325 (2000)

Goal 1Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2

Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3

Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 8

Develop a global partnership for development

Articles 1 (Discrimination),2 (Policy measures) and

5 (Sex role stereotyping and prejudice)

are relevant to all MDG.

Art 3

Guarantee of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including from hunger.

Art 7

Political and public life

Art 8

Representation

Art 11

Employment

Art 14

Rural women

No 5 1988Temporary special measures, affirmative action, preferential treatment and quotas, in education, economy, politics and employment.

No 6 1988

Effective national machinery to advise on the impact on women or policies and monitor the situation of women.

No 9 1998

Statistical data on women to be presented separately for women and men.

No 12 Violence against women – States parties to protect women against violence in the family, at work of in social life.

No 16 Unpaid women workers in rural and urban family enterprise.

A .  Women and poverty – the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women.Strategic objectives A1, A2, A3 and A4

B. Education and training of women

Strategic objectives B3, B4, B5 and B6

D. Violence Against Women

Strategic objectives D1 and, D2

E. Women and Armed Conflict

Strategic objectives E1, E4, E5 and E6

F.  Women and the economy

Strategic objectives F1, F2, F3, F4, F5 and F6

G. Women in power and decision making

Strategic objectives G1 and G2

H. Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

Strategic objectives H1, H2, H3

I. Human Rights of Women

Strategic objectives I1, I2 and I3

L. Girl Child

Strategic objectives L4, L5, L7 and L8

Utilizing the principles enshrined within UNSCR 1325: Prevention; Participation; Protection.  Reflecting these principles through all relief and recovery programmes.Specifically:

8. Calls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace

agreements, to adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia:

(a) The special needs of women and girls during repatriation and

resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction;

10. Calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect

women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of

sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict

15. Expresses its willingness to ensure that Security Council missions take

into account gender considerations and the rights of women, including through

consultation with local and international women’s groups

Copy of Table 2: Strengthening the Human Rights Framework

(found in conclusions section of the report)

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