Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Women and Armed Conflict: Cultural Obstacles to Pashtun Women's Participation in Peacebuilding

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Women and Armed Conflict: Cultural Obstacles to Pashtun Women's Participation in Peacebuilding

Article excerpt


Research on women and post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding tends to focus primarily on women as victims and passive targets for aid rather than conceptualizing peacebuilding as a process where greater participation by women may help increase the prospects for success (Gizelis, 2011; Woroniuk, 2001). Governmental organizations and international agencies often view peacebuilding in terms of post-conflict reconstruction of societal infrastructures and emphasis structural rebuilding of institutions and infrastructures. Peacebuilding discourses overlook that peacebuilding is both culture-specific and gendered (De La Rey and McKay, 2006).It is important to ensure that gender equality issues are taken into consideration in peacebuilding initiatives because both conflict and peacebuilding are gendered activities. There is a strong gender division of labour as women and men have differential access to resources, including power and decision-making during conflicts, and men and women experience conflict differently. The United Nations recognized and highlighted this in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: "while entire communities suffer the consequences of armed conflict and terrorism, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society as well as their sex" (UN, 1995: para 135). Given their overall economic and political marginalisation, women in many societies are not well-placed to play an effective role in peacebuilding processes (Woroniuk, 2001).

This article outlines the specificities of peacebuilding in post-conflict situations and argues that women have been traditionally barred from playing their active role in peacebuilding efforts. With a focus upon Pakistan and the Pashtun culture more specifically, we argue that both the societal traditions at the local level and the state policies at the national level have systematically excluded women from peacebuilding efforts. Sustainable peace in the region cannot be achieved unless women, along with other marginalized groups, are given their due role in peace making forums.

Conflict, Peacebuilding, and Women

Peacebuilding refers to those initiatives which foster and support sustainable structures and processes which strengthen the prospects for peaceful coexistence and decrease the likelihood of the outbreak, reoccurrence or continuation of violent conflict (Bush, 1998). Peacebuilding is a two-fold process requiring both the deconstruction of the structures of violence and the construction of the structures of peace. In other words, peacebuilding is a process that facilitates durable peace and tries to prevent violence by addressing the root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation. This means that peacebuilding process not only prevents violence but also advances the economic and political rights of people. The absence of violence only does not necessarily means peace. Desirable peace can be achieved to protect people from injustice and discrimination and to work for socio-political empowerment. It is important for the positive peace to protect the economic and political rights of the people irrespective of racial and gender discrimination.

During the past few years, there has been an increasing recognition by government and civil society organizations of the importance of women's participation in peacebuilding. It is mainly because women suffer the most during conflicts but their role in the post-conflict scenarios has not been given due recognition. A growing challenge facing the world today is the increasing violence against women and girls in armed conflicts. They are not only the indirect victims of hardship, displacement and warfare; they are also targeted deliberately in the shape of forced marriages, rape, and physical assaults as an instrument of war. In some cases, women suffer even more than men during ethnic conflicts because they are considered symbols of community and ethnic identity, and at the same time, the easy and soft target for violence (El-Bushra and Sahl, 2005). …

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