Ploumen: women are key to making communities safer and more peaceful

Development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen wants women in conflict areas to be more involved in resolving social problems and making the areas where they live safer. With this in mind she is today launching the Women, Peace and Security programme, aimed at supporting women in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

‘A great many women are living in unsafe areas where they are in constant danger,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘They are often primarily regarded as potential victims. But that is only part of the truth. There needs to be a much greater focus on what women themselves can do to make their own village or region safer and more peaceful, particularly in war zones or areas where the authorities cannot satisfactorily guarantee the safety of civilians.’ Women have a unique understanding of social relationships and are often better at making connections with the other side. Studies show, for instance, that when women are involved in post-conflict reconciliation processes, this promotes greater tolerance in communities and thus contributes to lasting peace.

Women, Peace and Security follows on from the programme of the same name which ran from 2012 to 2016. It helped introduce fairer legislation and boost authorities’ knowledge of women’s rights. It also enhanced women’s involvement in politics, conflict mediation and efforts to create safer communities. Ms Ploumen commented, ‘Take, for example, Marcelina Moses Simangi in South Sudan, who has been trained as a police officer along with other women in her community. Despite intimidation and opposition, she persevered. In the city of Yambio she now leads a special police unit that combats sexual violence against women. Following her example, more women have applied for jobs with the police force.’

Meanwhile, at the request of women’s organisations supported by the Netherlands, Colombia’s national Truth Commission is specifically investigating violent crime against women during the over 60-year period of conflict in that country. In Afghanistan, a special campaign has boosted women’s participation in elections and there are many more women voters and female candidates standing for political positions. And in eastern Congo, thanks to a text messaging system and a popular radio show, women are updating each other and the authorities about danger and violence in the most isolated parts of the region.

For a new four-year period, the programme will support initiatives for and by women. It will be implemented by Dutch NGOs in partnership with local organisations in the 8 participating countries. Women, Peace and Security is one of the Netherlands’ efforts to put into practice UN Resolution 1325 on this subject. As such, it is part of the Dutch National Action Plan on Resolution 1325, a partnership between the Dutch government and 50 Dutch civil society organisations.