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Side Event: Women’s Multidimensional Insecurities Amidst the Shrinking Civil Society Space in Yemen and Libya

9 October 2017

Geneva, Switzerland- On the margins of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) hosted a delegation of women activists from Libya and Yemen. The side event gave these brave women the space to address the issues and concerns they are facing as women and women led civil society during the difficult times of conflict.

The panel: Experts on Libya and Yemen

The event brought together women activists from Libya; Dr. Rida Al Tubuly and Inas Miloud, and Yemen; Rasha Jarhoum and Suha Ba Sherin. The four panelists discussed the different aspects of women’s multidimensional insecurities and how they are manifesting similarly or differently in each context.

Another key panelist was Isabelle Geuskens, the Executive Director of Women Peacemakers Program, who has worked extensively on Counterterrorism financing and the impact on gender equality. Geuskens talked about how the new trends of financing are resulting in shrinking spaces for women led civil society organisations (CSOs) and what can be done to counter this impact. 

The international community and more disappointments

Dr Rida Al Tubuly, Director of Together We Build It Organisation, shared the feeling of disappointment regarding the international responses and the exclusion of women from the peace negotiations in Libya despite many commitments made by the international community to gender equality and women participation.

Al Tubuly, touched on how Libyan women should not be seen as victims but activists lobbying and pushing to make their voices heard and their needs met. She concluded by urging the international community and donors to be more flexible in funding grass root organisations.

Difficulty of being a woman activist during conflict

 Inas Miloud, Libyan activist and member of Together We Build It Organisation, highlighted the struggles of women activists in Libya, who put their life on the frontline every single day.

She discussed the recent phenomenon of targeting women activists and questioning their agency, which is inevitably resulting less space and visibility for their work. Miloud concluded by listing the achievements of Libyan activists and stressing how they should be supported.

The different roles Yemeni women are taking up during conflict

Suha Ba Sherin, a Yemeni gender expert, focused in her talk on the current dire situation in war torn Yemen, including the lack of humanitarian assistance and its impact on Yemeni civilians.

She shed a light on women’s involvement in hostilities through both political affiliation with warring parties and direct recruitment by armed groups.  Ba Sherin stressed that understanding and acknowledging this phenomenon is key to a comprehensive action to transform such involvement into peacebuilding rather than serving a political agenda.

Another key panelist from Yemen was the social researcher Rasha Jarhum. Jarhum focused on the positive role Yemeni women are playing during the armed conflict. She highlighted the work of women in helping releasing detainees, preventing child recruitment and sending aid to besieged cities when international organisations have failed to do so.

Support civil society to push for peace

The armed conflicts in Libya and Yemen have a grave and disproportionate impact on women and girls who face “multidimensional insecurities”. As armed violence and the absence of rule of law continue to grow local efforts of women activists and women led civil society organisations is being jeopardized by the “shrinking civil society space”.

Women activists and CSOs have played an important role in both countries in pushing for peacebuilding and in mitigating the consequences of war on everyday life. WILPF and WPP urges the international community and donors to support the peaceful work of the civil societies, by protecting their existence and funding their grass roots activities.

 

 

 

 

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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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Demilitarisation

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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