With the recent election of a female leader in the UK and potential new female leaders in the US and head of the United Nations, we wanted to know: What do women bring to peace-building?
While we have not had many female leaders, research to date shows that women have a lot to offer the peace-building community. Let's count the ways:
Women Can Make it Happen
When there's an effort to settle violent conflict, women’s involvement on the ground can get groups to the negotiating table, and increases odds of peace agreements being reached.
Ambassador Swanee Hunt from Inclusive Security is a leading authority when it comes to involving women in peace and security, and she says that across cultures women have particularly effective techniques for bridging divides.
"Basically, women on one side of a really horrific conflict seem to, or they are able to, get beyond the pain of that conflict, and the anger and the hatred, to make connections in particular to women on the other side,” she said.
"It's particularly dramatic with women because they will say things like 'We are all mothers' - so they will use that connection with their children to connect with mothers of children and feel like there's a certain empathy there."
When there's an effort to settle violent conflict, women’s involvement at the negotiation table increases odds of peace agreements being reached. One recent study of 40 peace processes in 35 countries, over the last three decades, showed that when women’s groups were able to influence a peace process, an agreement was almost always reached.
Women Can Make it Last
Women’s participation increases the probability of peace agreements lasting longer. With women involved, the odds of a peace agreement lasting at least two years goes up by 20 percent. Women’s participation has an even greater impact in the longer term: an agreement is 35 percent more likely to last for fifteen years if women participate in its creation.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said recently that the benefits of women’s participation in peacemaking are too great to ignore.
"When you consider that historically, over half of all peace agreements fail within the first five years – women’s involvement becomes imperative,” he said.
“Think about the lives saved and economies maintained by a 35 percent decrease in repeated conflicts."
Women Can help reduce Extremism
Marie O’Reilly is head of research at Inclusive Security, and she found that “…when women influence decisions about war and peace and take the lead against extremism in their communities, it is more likely crises will be resolved without recourse to violence,” Ms O’Reilly said.
But we don’t just need women in peace-building, we need women in leadership. Today, only 22% of parliaments are made up of women, and inclusivity needs to be more than just a token gesture.
Imagine if half the world's negotiators, decision-makers and leaders were women - what would that do for peace?