Women and Civil War: Impact, Organizations, and Action

Women and Civil War: Impact, Organizations, and Action

Women and Civil War: Impact, Organizations, and Action

Women and Civil War: Impact, Organizations, and Action


Women typically do not remain passive spectators during a war, nor are they always its innocent victims; instead, they frequently take on new roles and responsibilities, participating in military and political struggles and building new networks in order to obtain needed resources for their families. Consequently, while civil war imposes tremendous burdens on women, it often contributes to the redefinition of their traditional roles and the reconfiguration of existing gender relations in the society. This work presents a detailed analysis of how intrastate conflict affects women, and how women's networks and organizations respond in ways that increase their economic, social, and political power. The authors also consider policy implications for the international community.


This book is the fourth in a series of publications coming out of the ongoing evaluation studies directed by Krishna Kumar at USAID's Center for Development Information and Evaluation (CDIE). In Rebuilding Societies After Civil War, Kumar presented a set of case studies, illuminating the different dimensions of transition from civil war to fledgling peace. In Bullets to Ballots, Kumar and coauthor Marina Ottaway underscored the problems and challenges of postconflict elections. Postconflict Elections, Democratization, and International Assistance further elaborated issues surrounding international assistance for postconflict elections. Now Kumar has produced Women and Civil War, based on USAID's fieldwork in Bosnia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Georgia, and Guatemala. While the book presents thoughtful findings on a wide range of issues, I would highlight three that corroborate my own experience in many war–torn societies.

First, despite the popular stereotype, women are not passive spectators in civil wars. Rather, they are active participants; they assume new roles and responsibilities both during and after conflict. They valiantly look after their families in the most trying of circumstances. They shoulder new economic burdens and responsibilities and play vital roles in the community. Many join military operations on both of sides of the conflict. I have found women to be survivors, demonstrating remarkable perseverance and initiative in the tragic conditions of war.

Second, women's organizations often play an important role not only in dealing with the challenges created by civil wars, but also in transforming traditional male–female relations. In many countries, these organizations have provided vital services to needy populations in the health, education, and economic sectors. More important, they have helped push gender issues onto the national agenda, facilitating the increased participation of women in social, economic, and political affairs, as documented in this volume.

Third, the international community has assisted women and women's organizations in war–torn societies in a variety of ways. Its timely assistance . . .

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