Sudanese Woman-UN Photo

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.