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Women: Security and Peacebuilding

Program Mission

To promote awareness and action through education and advocacy in two key areas:


Security and Peacebuilding

Women increasingly bear a major portion of the burden of armed conflict. Sexual violence against women is on the rise in conflict areas. Armed conflict and post-conflict environments exacerbate pre-conflict gender inequalities. Women comprise the majority of civilian casualties during armed conflict and suffer exceedingly from forced displacement, gender-based violence and loss of social structure. Supposed peacekeepers, law enforcement and military are often the perpetrators of such violence during the chaos of armed conflict. There is a widespread lack of recognition and will to address these problems and they continue in the aftermath where women’s protection is not made a priority. In response to this lack of security, on March 1 2010, the United Nations Secretary General appointed Margot Wallstrom as special representative to oversee sexual violence in conflict zones.

Women play a unique role in peacebuilding as the core of the community and role models for future generations. We call for the inclusion of women in peacekeeping missions on the community level as well as military and police membership. Women often do not report instances of abuse and violence because they must report to men. We want to stress that “women and children affected by armed conflict may feel more secure working with and reporting abuse to women in peacekeeping missions, and that the presence of women peacekeepers may encourage local women to participate in the national armed and security forces, thereby helping to build a security sector that is accessible and responsive to all, especially women” (Resolution 1888).

Women in Syria

The UU-UNO recently submitted a report to the Committee on the Status of Women about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Syria. Evidence from the conflict has indicated that government-run detention centers are sites of rape and sexual torture. These atrocities are overwhelmingly committed by the Assad government and pro-government paramilitaries (their actions account for 80% of the total). These facts, supplemented by the knowledge that raids are often accompanied by violent rape perpetrated in a “culture of impunity" lead to the conclusion that rape is being used as a weapon of war against rebels and innocent civilians in Syria. The threat of sexual assault is not alleviated by survivor relocation to refugee camps in Syria’s neighboring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq). A lack of reproductive health services and terrible economic conditions force women to engage in “survival sex,” prostitution, and forced marriages. The “culture of honor” prevalent in these encampments prevents women from seeking psychosocial support; women who have been sexually violated are often regarded as impure, and killed or maimed for any sexual contact, including sexual victimization and rape. In its report, the office recommends furthering aid to refugee camps and the communities hosting the refugees, increasing economic opportunities for the people living in the camps, increasing camp security, empowering women by incorporating them into the community structure, providing specialized health services to marginalized women, and training peacekeepers, volunteers, and service providers not to impose counseling on sexual and gender-based violence survivors, because it may actually put them at risk of further emotional and bodily harm.

Read “The Underreported Crisis of Gender-Based and Sexual Violence in the Syrian War.” Please note that this report was written by UU-UNO intern, Russell Hathaway, and that the opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the UU-UNO or the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). 

Donate to the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) so that it can continue to work to end human rights abuses against women in conflict areas and promote their voices as peacebuilders.

United Nations Women

On July 2nd, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. This new entity, known as “un women,” combines four former UN gender agencies: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).

What will UN Women Do?

UN Women is focused on five thematic priorities:

  1. Expand women's voice, leadership and participation.
  2. End Violence against women.
  3. Strengthen women's participation in conflict resolution and peace process.
  4. Enhance women's economic empowerment.
  5. Ensure gender priorities are reflected in national plans and budgets, including capacity to support CEDAW reporting.

UN Women will continue to promote:

  1. Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the GA in 1979. The USA still fails to adopt the treaty along with Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga.
  2. UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 which address women's role in conflict prevention, specifically in 1325 and 1820 which addresses women's role in conflict prevention, specifically in 1325 sexual-gender based violence and in 1820 sexual violence in conflict situations;
  3. Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) which all 191 Member States have pledged to meet by 2015, UN WOMEN will advocate for gender equality in each of 8 goals.

For more information contact

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.

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