Women Are On Front Lines Of Every Battle Zone, But Not In The Way You Think

   •    October 13, 2015

syrian women portrait

Photo: mocassino/Flickr

This article was originally published by Defense One.

In April 2011, a crowd of 2,000 women and children blocked a highway in northwestern Syria to demand that government officials release hundreds of men who had been rounded up in neighboring villages. The protest succeeded and the men came home. Through four years of horrendous civil war, women have negotiated local ceasefires, including a recent 20-day truce in a violence-ravaged Damascus suburb. Women have documented human rights abuses, opened temporary schools, and exposed local officials who failed to hand out donated food and medical supplies.

The value of such work has long been recognized — at least in proclamations and plans. Fifteen years ago this month, the United Nations Security Council declared that women need to be included as decision-makers on issues of peace and security. The nascent promise in this consensus, embodied in UNSC Resolution 1325, is most visible in the world’s deadliest conflicts, from Syria to Afghanistan and South Sudan. But the impact is greater than just the hotspots: So far, 55 countries, including the United States, have adopted national action plans to guide greater involvement of women in preventing and resolving conflicts, and to assure that peace is community-rooted and sustained.

The principle behind Resolution 1325 is that women must no longer be seen simply as victims in conflict; they have to be involved in shaping the solutions. This can be dangerous and unwelcome; in varying degrees, most societies are accustomed to thinking of security as a male domain. But that ignores the advantages women bring to the table, including their skill in building bridges across dividing lines, down to the most local of levels.

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