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Gender Equality Gets a Re-Think

20 September 2012

We have just returned from an incredibly informative discussion at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), entitled ‘An Institutional Retrospective of UNHCR’s Work on Gender Equality: Issues, Obstacles and Entry Points to Advance the Agenda’.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Alexander Aleinikoff, the Director of the Ethics Office, Nemia Temporal, and the Deputy Director of the Africa Bureau, Raouf Mazou, all gave their opinions on implementing greater gender equality policies in UNHCR’s work.

And our very own Secretary General, Madeleine Rees was moderating the discussion – the first of four. It made us very proud to see that WILPF’s continuing emphasis on a gender perspective is being directly considered by the UNHCR.

The talks get underway

Alexander began the discussion by stating that the oppression of women is the single most important issue in the world – something we at WILPF were very happy to hear acknowledged.

The talks showcased UNHCR’s continuing commitment to ensuring gender equality both within the organisation and in the field.

The panel seemed to agree that in order for real progress to be made, there must be a combination of practical and ideological changes. These range from raising the number of women in positions of leadership within the UNHCR, to thinking critically about the deconstruction of entrenched gendered roles.

The high turn-out to the discussion and the lively debate it generated made us very excited to see how the next three unfold and the outcomes that can be taken from them.  Watch this space!

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WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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