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Women's Agency in War and Peace: Bridging the gap on female (ex-)combatants in the UNSCR 1325 agenda

Hosted by the Centre for Women, Peace and Security and Berghof Foundation

Please note the event time stated is 14:00 - 16:00 (GMT) 15:00 - 17:00 (CET)

Twenty years after the UN Security Council launched the landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, substantive progress has been made in acknowledging and supporting women’s leadership in peace(building) processes. However, there remains a persistent gap in understanding the distinct roles and aspirations of women associated with armed groups, and facilitating their meaningful participation in conflict resolution and post-war transition. As a result, donors and implementation agencies fail to consider those women as a target group of 1325 National Action Plans, or when they do, they tend to adopt restrictive and stereotypical approaches to the topic. A more nuanced understanding of the various ways in which women join and participate in conflicts is necessary to seize opportunities to translate their war-time agency into constructive contributions to conflict transformation, and ultimately to prevent recurring conflict and enable sustainable peace.  

This event will give the floor to these protagonists by inviting female representatives from (former) resistance and liberation movements to share their experiences, aspirations and lessons learnt for effective war-to-peace transitions, and by reflecting with UN1325 experts on the challenges and opportunities of supporting those women’s agency in negotiations and peacebuilding processes.

Introduction by Stina M. Lundström, Berghof Foundation.

Panel 1: Discussion with women in (former) political and armed opposition groups sharing their own aspirations and experiences on women’s inclusion during peace negotiation and implementation processes.

  • Wilma Madato. Wilma Madato was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Head of the Training and Education Department for the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB). Currently she is the focal person of the UN-MILF action plan and the Executive Director of the League of Moro Women Organisation (LMWOI).
  • Shadia Marhaban. Shadia Marhaban's expertise is on the political transition of Resistance Liberation Movements, disarmament and reintegration of female former combatants. During the peace talks between The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian Government Ms Marhaban served on the GAM negotiation panel. Currently she works as a consultant for the Berghof Foundation and for Mediators Beyond Borders.

  • Naw Hser Hser. Naw Hser Hser has worked for the Karen Women Organization (KWO) since 2008. She has also served as a Creating Peace Coordinator since 2013. Following that she has worked as part of the advocacy team with Women's League of Burma (WLB). From 2015 to 2017 she joined the Karen National Union (KNU) peace process as a Technical Support Team member. She was elected as Joint General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma in 2017- 2018. She was also selected as a KNU women delegate to join the Myanmar Union Peace Conference in 2019.

  • Victoria Sandino. Victoria Sandino is a Senator of the Republic of Colombia for the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force party (FARC). In 2013 she joined the FARC delegation during the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, which concluded in 2016. She stood out in her struggle to bring the issue of gender equality into the peace agreement, leading the peace negotiation Sub-Commission on Gender. As a member of the National Directorate and of the FARC party, she has tirelessly worked on the topic of gender equality. Victoria tweets as @SandinoVictoria.

  • moderated by Dr Véronique Dudouet. Dr Véronique Dudouet is Senior Advisor for Conflict Transformation Research at Berghof Foundation, where she coordinates and supports various projects on resistance and liberation movements, negotiation and third-party intervention in asymmetric conflicts, and inclusive political/security transitions. She also conducts regular policy advice and consultancy research on inclusive peacebuilding for international agencies. You can follow the Berghof Foundation @BerghofFnd

Panel 2: Inputs and debate by 1325 experts on challenges and opportunities to promote female (ex-)combatants as negotiators and political/community leaders in National Action Plans and policy agendas on peace process support, DDR programming and peacebuilding assistance;

  • Sarah Douglas. Sarah Douglas is the Deputy Chief of the Peace and Security Section in UN Women’s New York Headquarters. She previously served as Gender Adviser at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, and as a Policy Specialist in the Peace and Security team, leading the section’s work on gender-responsive peacebuilding. She led UN Women’s work in integrating gender and women’s issues into SSR, DDR, Community Security and Arms control, and other stability processes. She also worked with UNIFEM Peace and Security section, and for UNDP and the UN Mission in Sudan on gender inclusion in DDR and Community Security and Arms Control. Sarah tweets @saridug.

  • Dr Alexis Henshaw. Dr Alexis Henshaw is an assistant professor at Troy University. She is the author of Why Women Rebel: Understanding Women’s Participation in Armed Rebel Groups (Routledge, 2017) and co-author of Insurgent Women: Female Combatants in Civil Wars (Georgetown University Press, 2019). Her work on gender and conflict has appeared in numerous outlets including International Feminist Journal of Politics, Journal of Global Security Studies, and Small Wars & Insurgencies. Alexis tweets @Prof_Henshaw

  • Elisabeth Lothe. Elisabeth Lothe is a Senior Advisor in the Section for Peace and Reconciliation, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she leads the 1325 team. Her portfolio also includes Asia and the Sahel. From 2017-2020 she was posted to Athens, as Deputy Head of Mission to Greece and Cyprus. Previously she worked with the UN in New York, Timor Leste and South Sudan on Justice and Security Sector Reform and women’s inclusion related to security institutions and post-conflict reform. She also worked as Mediation Advisor for the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue on peace processes in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines.

  • Sanam Naraghi Anderlini MBE. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini MBE is Director of the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN). Sanam tweets @sanambna.

  • moderated by Dr Evelyn Pauls. Dr Evelyn Pauls is the Impact Manager of the UKRI GCRF Gender, Justice and Security Hub, based at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security. Previously, she was a researcher at the Berghof Foundation, where she led a participatory action research project on the long-term reintegration of female ex-combatants using documentary filmmaking in Burundi, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines. Evelyn tweets @EvelynPauls

The event will take place in English, with simultaneous interpreting in Spanish, Burmese and Kurmanji.

This event is hosted by the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security in partnership with the Berghof Foundation. See also the short film and booklet “I Have to Speak”, which collects the stories of female ex-combatants.




Image Credit: Juan Camilo Cruz Orrego