Over the past three weeks we have run the programme ‘Visions of Feminist Peace’, in partnership with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), to explore the potentialities of ‘feminist peace’ as an analytic framework and political aim, as well as its inherent limitations and exclusions. It did not run, as so many at this time will be familiar with, as our best laid plans and hopes had envisioned pre-pandemic. Through panel discussions, music and poetry, we heard the voices, knowledge, passion, anger, hope and desires of many as they engaged with, reflected on and articulated their visions of peace.
In bringing together academics, policy makers, peacebuilders, lawyers, activists, poets and musicians, the programme was designed to bridge the theory-practice divide and to dismantle the silos that exist between professions. It showcased the multiple and multi-sited experiences and perspectives on both peace and feminism, including what a gender just peace would entail. Although anchored in international law, the insights that ensued traversed broader terrains beyond traditional engagements by international lawyers. What was clear was that feminism’s history alongside war and colonialism made it a complex and complicated framework through which to explore peace. This point is especially pertinent as 2020 sees anniversary celebrations for Women, Peace and Security, the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW. As Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan asked in her poem A 20 point manifesto for women living in genocidal times, “…100 years for who?”
It was also made repeatedly clear that the space for women in peace and security has been both hard won and is shrinking, in terms of resources, urgency and emancipatory potential. Many contributors working in different spaces queried the gains made in the last two decades of the WPS agenda and the lack of built in enforcement or accountability mechanisms, especially given its state-centred character.
Women peacebuilders across communities and contexts are at the forefront of peacebuilding and challenging the violence of the status quo, yet continue this work with limited funding and resources, despite promises from international organisations. It is these spaces that seem to hold the most hope and political potential for many, especially in a global context riven by environmental destruction and the violence of racism, colonialism, misogyny and neoliberal capitalism. Rather than a ‘new’ vision, these spaces require greater attention from all actors in peace processes, as do the experiences of those affected by violence and conflict. It is from here that an inclusive way forward can be built accordingly and in solidarity, in a way that can challenge global hierarchies of power that sit at the root of both structural and direct violence. Most importantly, in moving forward, do not go alone.