Archive for the ‘Global gender news’ Category

The State of Security and a Call for the Prevention of Armed Conflict: Women, Peace and Security Fifteen Years On

Monday, October 19th, 2015

by GW Professor Aisling Swaine

secretary genera

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launching the report [photo: Aisling Swaine]

This week, the UN Security Council hosted a High-Level Review” to consider progress made towards meeting its commitment to overcome the historic exclusion of women and their concerns from its purview.  The event marked fifteen years since the Security Council adopted a ground-breaking resolution, Resolution 1325 (2000), that for the first time, recognized and strived to advance the overlooked, but critical role women can play in global efforts towards conflict resolution and peacemaking. 

In the UN Security Council on Tuesday, we heard from the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Their representative described how in the last decade, a century’s worth of progress on women’s rights has simply come to a halt as a result of the cycles of conflict there. These women provide life-saving aid to families trapped in areas that international organizations and the government itself cannot reach. This is in a context where they risk becoming one of the over 3000 women that they estimate to have been captured by ISIS.

The panel that launched the report. Left to right: Radhika Coomaraswamy, lead author of the Global Study; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee.

The panel that launched the report. Left to right: Radhika Coomaraswamy, lead author of the Global Study; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. [photo: Aisling Swaine]

As part of its review process, the Security Council commissioned an independent Global Study on the Implementation of Resolution 1325. Also launched by the UN this week, the study assesses progress over the past 15 years on securitizing the world in ways that equally reflect both men and women’s rights and concerns.  The study points towards much progress.  It also points towards much that remains to be done.

Global trends on the prevalence of armed conflict bear grim tidings. The current era is characterized by a-symmetrical conflicts, where factionalized and fragmented modes of warfare means that more and more civilians are deliberately targeted. In these conflicts for example, we see variant ways that women, men, girls and boys are forced into combatancy and subjected to a myriad of harms, the propensity for and impact of such experiences determined by gender roles and norms.  Terrorism and counter-terrorism as strategy predominates, and new technologies, such as the use of drones, enable a remote controlled warfare that appears unapologetic of the collateral damage it causes to civilians. 


Kudos to GW’s Mary Ellsberg

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Kudos to GW’s Mary Ellsberg

Mary Ellsberg

Mary Ellsberg, Director of the Global Women’s Institute (GWI), was recently quoted in the New York Times article, U.N. Reveals ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women. This article discusses several major obstacles that continue to stand in the way of gender equality. Some such barriers include: counterproductive laws, cultural norms, and the wage gap. Though there have been advancements in certain areas of gender equality there is still a long way to go.

“At the time of the Beijing conference there was a desperate call for more information. We have data from most of the countries in the world. That, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment. The issue is, it’s very hard to collect this data”. Mary Ellsberg, co-author of Prevention of VAWG: What Does the Evidence Say?, which was featured in the special issue of the Lancet released late 2014, continues to focus on data as a way to incite change. Facts are difficult to ignore.

The next step in gender equality will be seen with the release of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which come to a close this year.  The SDGs have many more gender specific goals than their  predecessor did, yet only time will tell how this strengthened focus will pan out.

To read the full article click here.

New report by Refugees International

Thursday, February 5th, 2015


February 4, 2015
Author: Marcy Hersh

Congolese Women: What Happened to the Promise to Protect?

Download the full report at (en français)

It is impossible to talk about the Democratic Republic of the Congo without talking about sexual violence. The widespread acknowledgement of gross levels of conflict-related sexual violence in the DRC spurred the international community to act in an unprecedented manner to protect women from these atrocities. In particular, there were two major investments by the United States and the United Nations, one with an unprecedented level of programmatic funding, the other with a novel coordination strategy.

While the U.S. and UN interventions yielded important results, both were built without the benefit of a strong evidence base to properly understand the context of gender-based violence (GBV) in the DRC. As a result, some policymakers in the U.S. and at the UN now believe that because women and girls continue to experience widespread GBV, these interventions have failed. In turn, some U.S. government policymakers feel that intervention is futile, and that the DRC is a bucket with the bottom removed, which no amount of funding can fix. Now, vital resources (both human and financial) are being transferred towards other competing priorities around the globe. The U.S. government is also considering new approaches that could jeopardize GBV survivors’ access to lifesaving care.

At the same time, the UN’s investment, a new approach to coordination called the Comprehensive Strategy to Combat Sexual Violence, created a five-pillared system co-led by the UN and the DRC government. After five years, this coordination strategy has largely failed to avoid duplication or generate momentum on addressing sexual violence, instead bogging humanitarian actors down with bureaucracy.

Policy Recommendations 

  • Donor governments, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations should take on more gender-based violence (GBV) initiatives, rather than focusing on conflict-related sexual violence.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development should reinstate funding for stand-alone, multi-sectoral GBV services that include medical, psychosocial, judicial, socio-economic, and prevention activities. This funding must support multi-year program cycles and include community-based organizations in implementation to build sustainability.
  • Donors should increase funding for programs that seek to address the root causes of GBV by empowering women and engaging men.
  • Donor governments, in particular the U.S., and the UN should pressure the DRC government to seriously address and prioritize GBV, particularly in the provision of sustainable health and social services to GBV survivors, as well as on issues of impunity and security sector reform.
  • The DRC Minister of Gender, in collaboration with UN Women, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should overhaul the current National Strategy to Combat Gender-Based Violence and dissolve the pillared structure for coordination.
  • In the DRC provinces where humanitarian clusters are active, UNICEF and UNFPA should activate GBV sub-clusters.
  • The DRC Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children should develop a new national strategy to combat GBV that coordinates civil society, humanitarian organizations, and the UN.

Marcy Hersh assessed the humanitarian response to women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2014.

Download the full report at   


Kudos to IGIS and GGP

Monday, January 26th, 2015

womenThe Guardian mentions an Institute for Global and International Studies (IGIS) and Global Gender Program (GGP) Working Paper in its article, “Women Still Face a Fight for Recognition in War and Peace”.

To read the Working Paper click here.

To read The Guardian article  click here.

Event Recap: A Call to Action on Violence Against Women and Girls

Monday, December 8th, 2014

A Call to Action on Violence Against Women and Girls—The US Launch of the Lancet Series on Violence Against Women and Girls

by staff contributor Camry Haskins

On the seventh day of 16 Days Against Gender Based Violence, the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at George Washington University hosted the US launch of the Lancet Series on Violence Against Women and Girls. The launch opened with the Call to Action followed up by two
panel discussions. The first panel focused on evidence while the second looked at lessons from practice.

Panel one: Prevention of VAWG:
What Does the Evidence Say?

Panel one centered on the research and findings by Mary Ellsberg, Director of GWI, and her team. Ms. Ellsberg was joined by Dr. Lori Heise, Director of the Centre on Gender, Violence and Health and James Tielsch, Chair of the Department of Global Health at the Milken institute School of Public Health. One of their biggest findings was that there is a shortage of research. What research has been conducted is mainly skewed toward high-income countries. When compiling what data there is, it becomes clear that there are
different tendencies for violence at all levels of society. And the percentage of gender-based violence (GBV) can differ between 2 percent and 70 percent depending on location. The fact that the percentages differ so greatly creates hope
that we can greatly reduce violence against women and girls (VAWG). The first panel closed with remarks on what they hoped the future focus would be in regards to VAWG. overall, the consensus was on a push for convergence of research, increased interest in valuations of programs, and increased testing of studies and strategies.


Women, peace and security and much more accountability

Friday, February 21st, 2014

By guest contributor Aisling Swaine 

As we approach the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, there remain challenges to ensuring that women’s rights, needs and interests are fully addressed in all matters relating to international peace and security.  On the one hand is a need for the more substantive gender equality provisions of the women, peace and security agenda to be fully engaged with and addressed, and on the other, a need for strengthened accountability on implementation of the range of normative provisions that we do have in place.

CEDAW logo

CEDAW logo

Two recent developments within the UN system offer great potential in this regard.  I have recently published a brief piece as part of the American Society for International Law, Insights series about these developments.

As the international “bill of women’s rights,” the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) matters greatly in advancing substantive gains in equality and rights for women worldwide.  What has also mattered is that, despite its applicability to conflict-affected contexts, the provisions set out by CEDAW have not been systematically implemented in relation to contexts of conflict and their aftermath.

In October 2013, the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation No. 30 on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situationsThe General Recommendation outlines how CEDAW, and its principles of non-discrimination, may be explicitly applied and implemented relative to conflict and post-conflict contexts.

At the same time, additional steps were taken by the UN Security Council to advance its commitments to addressing gender equality relative to conflict-affected contexts. Also in October 2013, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2122 which employs strong and substantive language on women’s leadership and participation, doing much to address concerns that the Council was taking too strong a focus on women’s victimization in concentrating on sexualized violence.

These recent developments potentially take us forward in advancing more substantive approaches to holding states to account for implementation of gender equality concerns in conflict-affected contexts. Brought together, the CEDAW General Recommendation and the series of by now, seven women, peace and security resolutions adopted by the Security Council, represent a strong legal and normative framework to ensure that gender equality concerns are addressed relative to conflict.

Importantly, the CEDAW General Recommendation sets out provisions and ways for states parties to the Convention to report on and be accountable for their implementation of the women, peace and security resolutions in their reporting to the CEDAW Committee.    It will be interesting to see how states parties to CEDAW begin to report under this General Recommendation and what difference the link with human rights law makes for overall progress on implementing the women, peace and security agenda.

Aisling Swaine Jan 2014Aisling Swaine is Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, GW.  Aisling has spent over 14 years working on issues of violence against women, women, peace and security and transitional justice at programming and policy levels internationally.  She teaches on gender and conflict and on global gender policy. 

Call for Applications: Scholars in Residence Program, 2014-2015

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Scholars In Residence Program
Who: Beatrice Bain Research Group (BBRG) is the University of California at Berkeley
Where: Berkley, California
Deadline: March 15

The Beatrice Bain Research Group (BBRG) is the University of California at Berkeley’s critical feminist research center, established in 1986 to support and coordinate feminist scholarship across disciplines. The BBRG is particularly interested in enabling research on gender in its intersections with sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, nation, religion, postcoloniality, globalization and transnational feminisms. Among its programs and activities, the BBRG has a Scholars-in-Residence Program. Under the auspices of this Program, each year the BBRG hosts a new group of approximately ten competitively selected scholars from the U.S. and abroad for a period of one academic year. The BBRG Scholars-in-Residence Program is open to scholars who meet UC Berkeley’s visiting scholar definition, from any country, whose work is centrally on gender and women. Applicants must have received their Ph.D. (or its equivalent) at least one year prior to the projected start of their residency at BBRG.

New resource: International Handbooks on Gender series

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Edward Elgar Publishing has announced a new series of Handbooks on Gender. Professor Sylvia Chant, Professor of Development Geography, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK will edit the series, which will focus on topics, such as gender and development; gender and environment; gender and health; gender and employment; gender, cities, and urbanization; and gender, violence, and conflict.

According to Edward Elgar, “the objective of this series is to publish Handbooks that offer comprehensive overviews of the very latest research within the key areas in and surrounding the field of gender. The aim is to produce prestigious high quality works of lasting significance. Each Handbook will consist of original contributions by leading authorities, selected by an editor (or editors) who is/are recognized leader(s) in the field. The emphasis is on the most important concepts and research as well as expanding debate and indicating the likely research agenda for the future. The Handbooks provide an international and comprehensive overview of the debates and research positions in each key area of interest, while also offering space to those who believe that their work fits neither designation easily.”

Soap and Wheels: Sustainably improving hygiene, reducing the spread of disease, and lessening the burden of water-carrying is not rocket science

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

By guest contributor Julia Collins

Sowmya Somnath – representing the Watershed Management Group and its Indian partner Grampari – trained conference participants on how to effectively wash hands.

Sowmya Somnath – representing the Watershed Management Group and its Indian partner Grampari – trained conference participants on how to effectively wash hands.

In the age of instantaneous communication, limitless data storage in the virtual cloud, and cloning entire organisms, advancements in technology seem to hold the key to unlocking better longer lives. But when it comes to managing water, improving livelihoods can be as simple as a hand-washing station or a device to lighten the heavy load of carrying water.

The U.S. State Department-funded Women and Water in South and Central Asia Project serves as a platform for women working on community water issues to learn from each other by sharing ideas and best practices. At our first annual conference in Bishkek, Sowmya Somnath – representing the Watershed Management Group and its Indian partner Grampari – trained conference participants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the United States, on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) techniques, and presented an award-winning video about a wonderful invention: the Tippy Tap. The Tippy Tap is a “hands free way to wash your hands that is especially appropriate for rural areas where there is no running water”. Using a foot lever resting on the ground to tip a bucket and produce a small stream of water, the tippy tap reduces the chance of bacteria spreading from hand-to-hand because the only thing anyone touches is the hanging bar of soap. Not only is the tippy tap a fun and enticing way to incentivize hand-washing, but it also conserves water, utilizing only 40 milliliters of water to wash your hands versus the 500 milliliters it takes if you use a mug of water to do so. The Tippy Tap website has an entire section on the importance of this hand-washing station, but drives home this important takeaway: no matter where you are from or how old you are, washing your hands is a simple, effective way of stopping the spread of infection and dramatically reducing the number of deaths from diarrhea. Learn how to build your own by clicking here.

Conference participants from Afghanistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, and India have fun trying out newly learned hand-washing techniques.

Conference participants from Afghanistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, and India have fun trying out newly learned hand-washing techniques.

Another innovative, yet simple, invention is improving lives by lightening the burden of household water supply. Barbara Miller, the director of GW’s Global Gender Program, and a partner of the Women and Water project, recently shared a Guardian article about the WaterWheel. The 50-liter rollable water container is made from durable plastic and boasts numerous benefits over the previous method of transporting the life-sustaining liquid. Instead of carrying water on the head as many girls and women often do, the WaterWheel saves the neck and back from physical strain, is convenient, and hygienic. Every day women around the world spend over 25% of their time collecting water. With the WaterWheel, users can move 50 liters of water at once, “which is between 3 and 5 times the amount of water possible as compared to traditional methods: this means MORE water in less time!” The website also notes that the WaterWheel is constructed to decrease the frequency of contamination at the point of use through its ‘cap-in-cap’ design. This helps to prevent diarrheal disease “which is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 5, according to the WHO.”

Innovations in water management like the WaterWheel also help to balance the household workload across gender lines. Columnist Penny Haw cheekily sums up the WaterWheels impact in her recent article entitled, “Men discover the wheel … at last”. The Guardian article also comments on this phenomenon reporting that, “One of most exciting things is that men love using it, they see it as a tool. Men take on the primary role so the women are freed up to do other things…It has reduced the burden on women. A nurse told me she is not late for work anymore because the husband collects the water.”

When it comes to improving water management and access to the vital resource, it looks like reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary; simply using the wheel will do the trick.

This article has been reposted with permission from the WWCASA project. The original article can be found here.

Julia-Collins-Capitol1Julia Collins is a Program Officer and Researcher for the ‘Women and Water in South and Central Asia’ Project at the Elliott School and a full-time 2nd year Master’s Candidate studying Energy, Security Policy, and Conflict Resolution. Particular areas of interest include the water-energy nexus, the U.S. natural gas revolution, memory politics and dealing with the past, and promoting good governance in transitional democracies – Myanmar in particular. 

She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a BA in Political Science, and minors in Environmental Geography and German. Julia has worked on Guam, studied in Germany and Hungary, taught along the Thailand-Myanmar border, advocated for refugees at a Californian refugee resettlement agency, and conducted economic and social development research at a think-tank in Myanmar.


Special issue of Gender and Development on conflict and violence

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The articles in this issue of G&D focus on the complicated and context-specific relationship between gender inequality and violence and conflict, and debate ways to end gender-based violence (GBV) in its many pernicious forms. Formally ending conflict is not enough to end GBV. Long term, transformative change is necessary in order to advance women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict contexts. The Global Gender Program is especially pleased to note that one of the articles is by GGP pre-doctoral fellow in political science, Kerry Crawford: From spoils to weapons: framing wartime sexual violence.