Grantee & Partner News

February 5, 2018

ICAN launches 3rd thematic animation: Gendered Devolution

Grantee News From ICAN:

We are excited to launch our third thematic animation in the Better Peace Initiative series! Gendered Devolution: Why it matters, how to do it explores why gender sensitivity and inclusivity in devolution processes matters and how it can be done in very practical ways.

Click here to view and download the video

Since the 1990’s the proliferation of actors and growing complexity of contemporary wars have demanded new approaches to their prevention and resolution. Traditional approaches to conflict resolution are not working. Inclusion of a range of actors is necessary to achieve sustainable peace.

Women are often the ones to stand up and struggle for peace in their country. Research conducted across conflict zones over the past 15 years has confirmed that the inclusion of women civil society in peace processes can reduce the chance of failure by 50%, and that women’s groups make significant contributions when present. But inclusion in practice requires a paradigm shift away from a narrow notion of peace negotiations as security and political processes to acknowledging that they must be inclusive societal processes.

Recognizing the need to move beyond the question of why inclusivity matters in peace processes to how to do it in practice, ICAN in 2014 launched its Better Peace Initiative (BPI). Drawing on consultations with expert practitioners and mediators, we developed the Better Peace Tool (BPT), the first in our series of tools. The BPT explores the history and evolution of peacemaking in modern times, and considers six common barriers to inclusion and how to overcome them. It then presents a four-part framework for the inclusion of women peacebuilders. The tool addresses the “how to” question by offering practical guidance for the effective inclusion of gender perspectives and women peacebuilders.

As the demand and momentum for gendered peacemaking and women’s inclusion grows, personnel in state and multilateral institutions as well as women peacebuilders are requesting guidance to inform their work. To meet this demand, we continue to develop innovative tools that can be used by diplomats, governments and grassroots peacebuilders to ensure inclusivity and gender sensitivity in peace making. We are producing short thematic animations on gendered thematic topics that are commonly addressed in peace processes, such as transitional justice and devolution.

We also recognize that a comprehensive peace agreement alone does not guarantee sustainable peace. Reforming institutions like the justice- and security sector are often part of building a peaceful society. So this year we are tackling more themes, such as gendered community policing.

Our materials are translated for use in multiple settings. We welcome translation requests as well as suggestions for thematic topics  to tackle.

We are incredibly thankful to the UNDP, the Compton Foundation, The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development for supporting the Better Peace Initiative!

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January 26, 2018

These Pakistani Women Are Cutting Off Extremists’ Resources—One Thread at a Time

Grantee News From International Civil Society Action Network :

It all started last spring, when a group of Tolana Mothers—community peace groups trained by a local organization called PAIMAN—were doing community work in Pakistan. They were raising awareness about violent extremism, its indicators and impact, when they were discreetly told to meet a certain woman. No further information was given. They went to the woman’s house and they found out she was stitching something that looked quite strange: a waist coat with many pockets. After pressing the matter with her, they learned that she gets orders to stitch such jackets from another woman.

The Tolana Mothers told her that these pockets are used to put explosives in—that these are suicide bombers jackets, that her work was basically helping to kill people. “I don’t mind,” the woman told them, “as I am being paid for it and have nothing to do what they are used for.” The peace group was unable to dissuade her, but they got some information on who places the orders and collects the jackets—and found out that there were 30 other women in the village doing the same work.

The group went on to meet the woman supplying the jackets to the extremist group. They asked her whether she knew what they were used for. “Of course I know,” she told them. “We are all engaged in a jihad. I haven’t told the other women who sew the jackets, but they must know. What other use can these strange jackets be for? I know whom I am supplying, I know what they are being used for and I am putting my bit in the jihad that is being carried out against the infidels.”

That small village, known for its poetry, beauty and progressive ideas, had become a place where voices of violent extremism found resonance. “It was a shock for us,” Mossarat Qadeem, PAIMAN’s director, told Ms., “to know that this particular area could be home to violent extremism ideas.” Qadeem, who had met women in this same line of business before—and managed to work with them until they became members of a Tolana peace group—decided to meet with one of the women who stitched the jackets.


“I invited her and we had a discussion,” Qadeem remembered. “I asked her how much she is being paid for this one jacket. She said a 100 rupees, less than one dollar, so if she stitches five per week, she gets around five dollars, sometimes she would get a little more, and she said that that is enough for her to buy groceries or clothes. So I said, well you are only earning 1,500 rupees per month. Le’s start working on your stitching skills and use it in a positive way. You can still earn money but you won’t live with the regret of using your skill to kill people. You can instead use it to help and support other women, by stitching their dresses, and you will earn even more money. And then we came to the discussion of jihad.”

In Pakistan, the religious texts being used are selective and taken out of context, specifically about jihad. Extremists exploit the fact that Arabic is not the language of the region, and that people are thus left at the mercy of those interpreting the Quran. “Even though we have developed a counter-narrative based on our knowledge of Islam and the prophet’s life, it is very hard to change the common thinking being preached by those who people view as religious scholars or mullahs,” Qadeem explained. “People have internalized these teachings of extremism for a long time.”

There is an additional hurdle: The interpretation of religion is perceived to be the domain of men. “It all gets very complicated,” Qadeem told Ms. “Women do not have an authority on religion, so we use other methods to convince them. Most of all, we use the socio-cultural aspect of Do No Harm, which is inherent in the code of Pashtunwali—the traditional set of ethics governing the Pashtun.”

During this encounter, Qadeem and the Tolana Mothers managed to convince 13 of 30 women stitching suicide bombing jackets to stop. They provided the women with alternative sources of livelihood. They explained to them that going to heaven can be done in many other ways—without being part of a group that kills people. The work is ongoing with the other women.

It was the PAIMAN trained Tolana peace keepers of the community that found these tailors. “They are our eyes and ears in the community,” Qadeem explains, “and without them it would be very difficult to engage more women in our peace programs.”

The impact of engaging women is these areas is huge. “The average family is nine to 10 people,” Qadeem continued, “and when women are educated in peace and have some form of economic empowerment, their entire families are transformed.”  The work is also cost effective: For just $2,000 a month, PAIMAN can engage, educate and provide livelihood skills for over 60 women, who will in turn take something home to their families and communities.

“What we do is prevention,” Qadeem said. “Violent extremism has become a way of thinking, a normal way of life. Creating awareness, sensitizing these communities, engaging these women so that they themselves spread the message and take ownership, is essential for preventing violent extremism.  It is these women with knowledge and skill that can influence the thinking of their family and community.”

International Civil Society Action Network is a U.S.-based nonprofit whose mission is to support civil society activism in promoting women’s rights, peace and human security in countries affected by conflict, transition and closed political space. ICAN aims to support women’s efforts through bridging the divisions between activists and the policy community, elevating the voices and experiences of women activists, building skills and ensuring the exchange of knowledge and resources.

Rana Allam is the Senior Editorial Adviser and Strategic Communications Director at ICAN and the Women Alliance for Security Leadership. Previously, she served as the chief editor of Daily News Egypt in Cairo; she currently serves as a commentator on Middle East political affairs and human rights issues in the region.

These Pakistani Women Are Cutting Off Extremists’ Resources—One Thread at a Time

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January 8, 2018

The Perils of Mixing Masculinity and Missiles

Grantee News From Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights:

President Trump makes the job of a feminist security analyst almost too easy. No subtle teasing out of subtexts required with this guy.

Something seemed to click for people across the political spectrum this week, even among those least inclined to see the world through a gendered lens: When Mr. Trump tweeted, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” the nuclear saber-rattling at Kim Jong-un of North Korea sounded a lot like, well, penis-measuring.

Sad. But significant? From most commentators, the response has been an eye-rolling dismissal of Mr. Trump’s tweet as “juvenile” — yet one more impulsive, impolitic, dangerous and unpresidential act by a president like no other. But methinks not only that the president doth protest too much about his “Nuclear Button,” but also that many commentators are still missing the point. This is not simply a trivial, if embarrassing, sideshow.

Ideas about masculinity and femininity matter in international politics, in national security and in nuclear strategic thinking. Mr. Trump — with his fragile ego and his particularly obsessive concern with his reputation for manliness — may have brought these dynamics to the surface, but they have been there all along, if in less crude and lurid ways.

I started thinking about this over three decades ago, when I was working among civilian nuclear strategists, war planners, weapons scientists and arms controllers. What struck me was how removed they were from the human realities behind the weapons they discussed. This distancing occurred in part through a professional discourse characterized by stunningly abstract and euphemistic language — and in part through a set of lively sexual metaphors.

Continue reading the main story

Carol Cohn is the director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
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January 4, 2018

5 reasons the U.N. Security Council should care about the Burmese military’s sexual assaults on the Rohingya

Grantee News From Council on Foreign Relations:

Burma’s ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims has been rife with sexual violence, according to recent news accounts. Among the more than 600,000 people who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, many are survivors of rape, gang rape and sexual slavery.

How many? Pramila Patten, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, reportsthat every woman she encountered during her November visit to Bangladesh had either witnessed or endured brutal sexual assault. Their stories are harrowing. One 15-year-old girl was ruthlessly dragged on the ground for over 50 feet, tied to a tree and then raped by 10 Burmese soldiers. Patten has urged the U.N. Security Council to take action.

To be sure, the rape of Rohingya women is a gross violation of human rights. But why should the Security Council — charged with maintaining international peace and security — address sexual violence?

Because sexual violence in conflict is not simply a human rights issue — it’s also a security challenge, according to a significant body of social science research, which we highlight in our recent Council on Foreign Relations report. What’s more, widespread rape in wartime can be prevented. Here are five key insights into how this works.

1. Sexual violence is often a symptom of military weakness.

Sexual violence committed by troops can signal weak command and troop discipline, which makes military units less effective in their mission. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mass rape of more than 150 civilians in 2011 was attributed to local armed forces’ lax command and control structures. When state forces regularly commit sexual violence, the command hierarchy may simply be too weak to enforce a policy forbidding this crime — and therefore may be ineffective in maintaining peace once a conflict is resolved.

In other cases, armed groups that recruit through abduction command those troops to rape in order to build solidarity among them. These groups have lower levels of unit cohesion and effectiveness than groups that rely on volunteers. A review of 91 civil wars, for example, found that groups that recruit by force committed significantly higher levels of rape against civilians, in an attempt to build social bonds through rape.

While groups or individuals commit sexual violence in conflict for any number of reasons, when it happens there are strategic implications. Research shows that military units and law enforcement bodies that respect human rights and prevent sexual violence are more effective at promoting security.

2. Sexual violence can increase the flow of refugees.

When armed groups commit sexual violence, more people flee — making the region less stable. As we can see from the staggering number of Rohingya refugees, wartime rape forces people from their homes, depriving them and their families of their livelihoods, property and access to health services and education, destabilizing communities. Sexual violence has increased displacement around the world, from Guatemala to Iraq to Syria, where reports suggest that the danger of rape is a primary reason people flee cities under siege.

3. Unchecked sexual violence can undermine trust in the state.

Conflict-related sexual violence signals a government’s inability or unwillingness to protect its citizens. That’s particularly true when, as in South Sudan, the military commits this crime widely and with impunity. The lower citizens’ level of trust in the state, the more difficult it becomes for a government to undertake economic, social or political reforms, which undermines stability.

4. Countries with widespread sexual violence incur high financial costs.

Wartime rape is costly in ways that undermine national stability. Victims of sexual violence may suffer long-term physical and psychological aftereffects, which impose high costs of care, reduced economic productivity and lost income. In the DRC, for instance, agricultural output decreased partly because women were afraid to return to working in the fields.

Further, some evidence suggests that sexual violence during wartime continues as gender-based violence in peacetime, leaving behind still more costs long after the conflict has ceased. In Burma, neighboring governments are bearing the burden of these costs, with the support of humanitarian agencies that provide services to Rohingya refugees.

5. Sexual violence can undermine reconciliation efforts after ethnic conflicts.

Particularly when it’s ethnically driven, sexual violence used as a tactic of war can make reconciliation much harder — including any efforts the Burmese government may pledge to pursue if the Rohingya return. Women raped by opposing parties are often stigmatized, treated as guilty by association with their perpetrators. Children born of rape frequently suffer discrimination, fostering tension in a community long after the conflict.

Rape in wartime corrodes future stability — but it is not inevitable. It’s true that throughout history, many armies considered rape to be one of the legitimate spoils of war; this crime was tacitly accepted as unavoidable through the early 20th century.

But more recently, legal rulings have outlawed sexual violence and recognized it as a war crime. And research shows that while some conflicts include widespread sexual violence, not all do: One analysis of 177 armed groups in 21 African countries found that 59 percent were not reported to have committed sexual violence. Another analysis of 91 civil wars between 1980 and 2012 revealed that 17 percent did not include widespread sexual violence.

In other words, armed groups don’t always rape with impunity; levels of sexual violence vary from one conflict to another. That’s because while some leaders of armed organizations may order or tolerate rape by their soldiers, others prohibit it. That suggests that sexual violence in conflict can be prevented. Research has revealed best practices around the world, from community-based police reforms initiated in Nicaragua in the 1990s to innovative prosecutorial approaches recently instituted in the DRC.

It’s possible, therefore, to drive down sexual violence in conflict — and evidence suggests that doing so matters to security and stability.

From The Washington Post Monkey Cage

Jamille Bigio is a senior fellow for Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Find her on Twitter @jamillebigio.

Rachel Vogelstein is the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School.

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November 16, 2017

A 12-Year-Old Warrior for Justice

Grantee News From Antonia Juhasz / Society for Environmental Journalists:

Angelika Soriano suffered her first asthma attack in the fourth grade, though she didn’t realize what it was at the time. She was walking to school in her Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland, California when pain gripped her body. She began to wheeze and cough. Unable to get sufficient air into her lungs, she found herself weakening until she was too tired to continue forward.

As luck would have it, her sister, Angeline, just two years her senior, also suffers from the disease. After getting a ride home, Angelika’s diagnosis was easy to derive—as she quickly regained her breath using her sister’s inhaler.

The children of Filipino immigrants, Angelika and Angeline are not alone. In East Oakland, where 93 percent of residents are people of color, children are more than twice as likely to visit an emergency room or be hospitalized for asthma than those in the county of Alameda overall, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department. A leading culprit identified by the Department is the disproportionally high amount of outdoor air pollution where they live—among the highest pollution rates in the state—caused by an over-concentration of motor vehicles, refineries and power plants.

A little more than two and half years later, Angelika, now a remarkably mature and composed 12-year-old, organizes to protect not only the quality of the air she breaths, but on behalf of everyone’s environment and climate. I meet Angelika as she recounts some of this story to a group of about 100 fellow middle- and high-school students, predominately youth of color from low-income East and West Oakland. They are joined by teachers and parents, all gathered together on Halloween eve. Like Angelika, many are costumed in zombie face paint, having just finished marching through the affluent and exclusive Oakland Hills neighborhood.

They did not come to ask for candy. Rather they have led a “Zombie March on Coal” from a local park to the private home of local developer Phil Tagami. Carrying banners and signs reading, “Oakland vs. Coal” and “Stop the Tagami Coal-Pacolypse” they are here to protest Tagami’s plans to build a coal export terminal in West Oakland. If approved, it would be the largest such terminal on the West Coast, taking in train shipments of coal from Utah, with plans to potentially export millions of tons of coal annually. Tagami’s plan fits nicely with the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan and frequent pledges to increase U.S. coal production and “end the war on coal.”  More>

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October 14, 2017

Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet

October 12, 2017

As the Threat of Nuclear War Grows, ‘the bomb’ Breaks the Silence

September 25, 2017

America is a global leader— here’s how Congress can maintain that status

July 31, 2017