UN Women forms Expert Group on Women & Peace in South Asia

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In a landmark move, the 11-member expert group will provide expertise and strategic direction to UN Women’s Women Count for Peace programme

New Delhi - A three-day meeting of women’s rights activists and peacebuilders culminated in the formation of a new 11-member core group to take on the task of engendering peace and security in the region. This is the first time that such a group has been constituted for South Asia and their expertise will help shape UN Women’s Women Count for Peace programme. The meeting was organized by UN Women South Asia and strengthened its partnership with civil society groups to devise strategies for advancing the agenda of women and peace.

Participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan shared their experiences on gender and peacebuilding, and provided guidance for the creation of the new Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.

“Civil society advice and experiences are important and fundamental to ensuring justice and criticial to enhancing further dialogue,” stressed Anne F. Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia

The Expert Group meeting provided an opportunity to expand the discussion on topics such as peacekeeping, security sector reform, the state of the feminist peace movement in South Asia, transitional justice, and women’s participation in peace talks.

“We must ensure that peacebuilding does not remain an a political process, but a process that brings about real transformation of gender relations and alters the status quo,” underlined Roshmi Goswami, Head of the Women, Peace and Security Unit at UN Women SARO.

Sapana Pradhan Malla, one of the members of the Expert Group, emphasized that the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 for increasing women’s participation in political decision-making have not become effective, while Kumudini Samuel from Sri Lanka critiqued the Resolution’s lack of transformative potential. “1325 does not talk about the politics of ending war – it is about mitigating war and its effects, making war safe for women,” said Samuel, another Expert Group member.

Highlighting the cultural and religious dimensions of addressing peace, Nasima Rahmani from Afghanistan said: “In a society and culture that does not recognize women as equal human beings, it is extremely difficult to engage women in peace talks and bring women into peace processes on an equal footing.”

The importance of engendering transitional justice processes in post-war societies was another issue raised during the meeting. The Nepalese Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal have a crucial role to play in advancing reconciliation and bringing justice to women. “It is not just the moment of rape but post-rape, where pain and suffering continues, that we need to examine and address,” said Hameeda Hossain from Bangladesh.

The meeting was a follow-up to Regional Open Day on Peacebuilding organized by UN Women South Asia in September, 2011.