Greetings from Singapore, where the Chinese year of the Dragon is off to a rollicking start!
Along with the new year, I am also beginning the final month of my internship with the Asia-Pacific regional office of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Needless to say, even just sitting here surrounded by people working on the ground in both high-level and grassroots peace negotiations across Asia has been a learning experience far exceeding anything I could have ever gotten in a classroom.
Because much of what the HD Centre does must be kept confidential due to the sensitive nature of the ‘live’ peace processes in which we are involved, it is actually a bit hard to talk about what exactly goes on. But for my part, one of my biggest projects during my time has been working with a team of experts from Asia, Australia, the US and Europe on an in-depth report examining Asia-Pacific peace agreements for the degree to which they include women and gender issues. A quick summary: they don’t.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise when you learn that out of 21 major peace processes since 1992, only around 2% of the participants have been women. Women may make up half the population, may be heads of their households, may be the most vocal activists for peace, and sadly, may suffer disproportionately as victims of rape and other war atrocities. However, they continue to be left out of peace processes, which ironically give much more attention to men with guns than women with ideas.
So, my work here at HD has been an effort to change that. With our organization’s deep networks of active conflict negotiators, we are in a good position to exert some influence that just might make a difference. Our report will make some tangible recommendations on how peace agreements can be more inclusive of women and their concerns – which turn out to be concerns that affect everyone in a community, be they about livelihood, safety, access to resources or participation in local government.