By: Senani Dehigolla
The role of women in war and peace while being subjected to heated debates around the world also emphasises the significance that needs to be attributed to them as an integral part of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. Being a major target of combatants women are undoubtedly the most affected during conflict or in circumstances of war owing to their physical vulnerability. Paradoxically, some instances of modern day war fare prove that the integration of women in to military either as combatants or as strategic approaches triggers the need of reconceptualising the requirement of the so called “weaker sex” in DDR. When Yazidi women’s armed struggle against ISIS takes the centre stage, going back in the historical time line it is possible to trace the active participation of extraordinary women such as Joan of Arc, Rani Lakshmi Bhai of Jansi against British India, the French women against the Nazis etc. who were in the limelight for their capacity for military prowess to engage in struggles for national liberation or struggles for their own safety.
Women’s participation is a key ingredient in achieving DDR goals as well as for sustainable societal balance in correcting the damage done to the social fabric of a country. Under the Security Council resolution 1325, measuring the advancement of women in all aspects of peace-building is crucial to DDR and other post conflict reconstruction activities. The caseload of Congo is a classic example where the role of women is instrumental in rebuilding the nation while serving as a real challenge. The degree of violation of women’s human rights is immense and ranges from physical abuse such as sexual harassment to contracting deadly diseases like HIV/ AIDS as a result where rebuilding their lives in a later achieved peace is also perplexing. The deep rooted family traditions and male dominated society hinders the possibility of addressing the special needs of women which prevents them from actively participating in DDR and other crisis prevention interventions. Therefore, moving the social lens from men towards women requires much effort on the ground.
UNDP’s survey in Congo to identify conflict affected women could be noteworthy as it has detected the subtle ways in which the issues can be solved. As an instance, the solidarity fund for agriculture to empower women was remarkable in combating unemployment due to lower skill level. The studies have shown that the women led families which are a result of losing their spouses in war were proven extremely weak in economic stability underlining that that women empowerment is decisive to DDR. Promotion of women’s rights by working to reconcile traditional values with progressive ideas will lead to improving the participation of women in society. Their vigorous involvement in early economic reconstruction activities also has the capacity to fight the social and economic marginalization of women. Local institutions and donors for Congo have experienced the creditable progress and the visibility of UNDP intervention. Increased economic and social opportunities while carefully considering local interpretations paves the way for a better future for women in confronting social obstacles and fighting their own battles of a disturbed past. Their contribution to DDR matters in major and minor levels deciding its rate of success.