Countries attempting to rebuild after a war need all citizens to become engaged in the process of moving beyond conflict and creating a peaceful and stable society. Yet, women play a particular role in post-conflict reconstruction. Their contributions are often overlooked but tend to be key to the sustainability of security and the economic, social, and political development of conflict-stricken societies.
Despite the fact that women across the globe are likely to be poorer, less educated, and more discriminated against than men,women in war-stricken nations are often the first to voice the need for an end to bloodshed. There are numerous examples of women in post-conflict nation’s that exemplify women’s important role and devotion to transforming their societies.
In Afghanistan,hundreds of women who were exhausted by decades of war and lost lives gathered for a national peace prayer last year. This was the first of its kind in the country and, astonishingly, the move was initiated by women in Kandahar (one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces). This was a historical moment for all Afghan women. Afghan women are seldom heard, usually fulfilling roles in the confinement of their homes and rarely, if ever, seen by the public. Yet they initiated the peace prayer to demonstrate that if given the opportunity, women are ready, able, and willing to sacrifice their lives for their nation and families. This has shown Afghans throughout the country and the international community that women do have a voice and they are still optimistic despite of the tragedies they have faced.
Rwandan women have played a key role in the country’s reconstruction since the 1994 genocide. Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of agriculture Agnes Matilda Kalibata has stated, “Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the back of our women.” This even holds true in a nation where women, who comprise over 60% of the total population, were severely marred by the after effects of the genocide. Rwandan women today lead the world in the number of women in parliament and have become the world’s leading example of how empowering women can fundamentally transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty.”
Not only are women becoming entrepreneurs to support their families and economies, but many are stepping away from traditional roles and are playing a part in duties otherwise seen in their societies as inappropriate. In Sudan, another nation torn by years of civil war and genocide, women are selflessly working to play a role in the country’s stability as they bravely clear mines, risking their lives for the mprovement of their nation. Similarly in Iraq, a group was formed by women dedicated to preventing future female suicide bombers in their province. Daughters of Iraq volunteers will not carry weapons but feel an obligation to play part in the security, development, and progress of their country. As one volunteer and widow has expressed, “The danger is normal for me. If I don’t help my country, who will?”
These examples are just a few of the efforts women around the world are making to help rebuild their nations. Integrating women and harnessing their post-war rebuilding efforts is instrumental to peace building. As post-conflict reconstruction requires the contributions from both men and women, female survivors have proven to be resilient and motivated to contribute to their nation’s sustainability.
The international community’s support for these women’s efforts is vital to ensuring enduring peace and revitalizing post-conflict societies. International support for the integration of women will ensure a more equal and integrated society and will provide a holistic approach to long-term development of war-torn nations.