Promoting Women’s Political Participation: A Pathway to Peace

By Tanya Henderson, Amanda Domingues, and Ursala Knudsen-Latta

“It is the sense of Congress that—

  • the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes helps to promote more inclusive and democratic societies and is critical to the longterm stability of countries and regions;
  • the political participation, and leadership of women in fragile environments, particularly during democratic transitions, is critical to sustaining lasting democratic institutions; and
  • the United States should be a global leader in promoting the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.”

                                                                                      —Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017

The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act, which the US Congress passed in October 2017, recognizes that women’s political participation is essential to peace and security. The act mandates

a national strategy on WPS; training of relevant personnel at the Departments of State and Defense and at USAID; stakeholder consultation; and progress reporting. US support and commitment will be essential to overcome the serious barriers women around the world face as they seek increased political participation and leadership in peacebuilding processes.

Women can be powerful actors in achieving and sustaining peace in their communities and nations.1 Advancing or transforming women’s empowerment and increasing gender equality are important levers to move a country forward democratically and have proven, long-lasting effects on countries’ democracy, stability, and peacefulness. A study of 40 peace processes in 35 countries showed that when women substantively influenced a peace process, an agreement was almost always reached, countries experienced higher rates of implementation, and peace was 35 percent more likely to last 15 years or more.3 Similarly, post-conflict peacebuilding has been more successful in societies where women are empowered.4 A cross-national study of postwar contexts with a high risk of conflict recurrence found that peacebuilding efforts are more successful in societies where women have relatively higher social status (box 1).5

An International Peace Institute study of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 found that there is a 35 percent increase in the probability that a peace agreement will last 15 years or more when women are effectively included.44

Peace processes provide historic opportunities to promote women’s participation and high-level decision making and to embed gender equality goals in emerging political settlements.6 Women’s participation in politics tends to increase in post-conflict settings: Across Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, the percentage of women in parliaments is significantly higher in post-conflict countries than in countries without conflict.7 Nonetheless, women  are frequently excluded from critical peace processes,  and as a result, women’s interests and political leadership  are not reflected in resulting agreements.8 For example, between 1992 and 2011, women made up just 2 percent of mediators and 9 percent of negotiators in 30 official peace talks.9 Accordingly, only 7 percent of agreements signed between 1990 and 2010 referenced gender equality or women’s rights.10

The Democratic Republic of Congo peace talks that were  held in Sun City, South Africa, in 2002 illustrated the relationship between women’s exclusion from peace  processes and their continued exclusion from political participation and leadership. The Congolese government  and other warring parties claimed, “Women did not have  any right to participate [in the peace process] because they were not fighters, nor had they enjoyed meaningful representation in national decision-making bodies before  the war.”11 In essence, those who decide the former  continue to decide the latter.

Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere.12Globally, just one  in five parliamentarians is female (23.5 percent), and there are 37 states in which women account for less than 10 percent of legislators in single or lower houses.13 Only 11 countries (out of 195) are led by female heads of state.14 Despite multiple international agreements, regional frameworks, and national laws recognizing and upholding women’s right to participate in politics and reach leadership positions, the widespread absence of women in political and decisionmaking bodies persists. Recent estimates from the World Economic Forum predict that gender parity in politics will not be achieved for another 99 years at the current pace of change (box 2).15

As of July 2017, women made up 23.5 percent of parliaments worldwide, varying widely by region. Nordic countries lead the rankings with 41.7 percent, followed by the Americas with 28.1 percent, Europe (excluding Nordic countries) with 26.5 percent,  Sub-Saharan Africa with 23.6 percent; Asia with 19.4 percent, and Arab States and the Pacific.45 

Even when women are elected or appointed to positions of political leadership, underlying inequality and discrimination limit their political power and influence. For example, female ministers hold 18 percent of cabinet-level positions globally but are disproportionately assigned portfolios such as social affairs, health, and education—roles traditionally considered “more fitting” for women—while men dominate defense and finance, portfolios with larger budgets and “hard” power.16

Nevertheless, growth in women’s political leadership is considered one of the most important trends of this century.17 Over the past two decades, women’s representation in national parliaments has doubled.18 Since 2000, the number of female heads of state or government has increased from 4.7 percent to 8.8 percent. In countries where legislated quotas are in place, women secured twice as many seats as countries without quotas (24 percent versus 12 percent). Even in countries with voluntary quotas, women still obtained 10 percent more seats.

Despite such progress, there is still a long road ahead to achieve gender equality in the political sphere. Structural barriers and socioeconomic inequities continue to hinder gender parity in national governments around the world.

Supporting and increasing women’s participation and political leadership is a well-established goal of US foreign policy. Post-conflict peacebuilding and state-building processes are strategic moments to dismantle the crosscutting structural inequalities, hierarchies, and systemic marginalization that undermine democratic integrity and hinder sustainability and resilience in the transition out of conflict. Executive Order 13595, which instituted the US National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security, along with the WPS Act of 2017 together outline the US commitment to promote the meaningful participation of women in peace processes and their political participation and leadership in fragile and transitional environments.19

Why Advancing Women Matters for  Peace and Security

A 40-year study on international crises found that a state is five times less likely to use violence when faced with an international crisis when the percentage of women in parliament increases by 5 percent.20 Further, higher levels of female participation in parliament reduces a country’s risk of civil war, as well as the risk of relapse into conflict once war has ended.21 When 35 percent of a nation’s legislature is female, the risk of relapse into conflict is near zero (box 3).22

Conflict prevention efforts, including countering violent extremism are found to be more effective when women are involved. Women frequently have critical knowledge of impending conflicts that can help to prevent the escalation of violence before it begins. Interviews with 286 people in 30 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia further suggest that women are the first in their communities to stand up against terrorism.47 

Countries with more women in government also enjoy better standards of living across multiple sectors of society, leading to increased peace and stability.23 For example, in India, women political leaders tend to favor wealth redistribution, support child-related expenditures, and invest more than men in schools, female teachers, primary education, and beds in hospitals and dispensaries.24 In West Bengal, villages with more women in political leadership saw an increase of investment in drinking water, and facilities and roads were almost twice as likely to be in good condition.25 In ethnically diverse countries, “the presence of a female national leader is correlated with a 6.6 percent increase in GDP growth in comparison to having a male leader.”26

When women are elected in sufficient numbers, they tend to introduce norms essential for good governance and progressive democracies.27 A World Bank study of more than 100 countries showed that higher percentages of women in parliament correlated to decreased corruption in government.28 In post-conflict or fragile states, women’s active inclusion in government strengthens transitions to democracy. As elected or appointed officials, they can increase the legitimacy of nascent institutions, broaden the political agenda, and promote consultative policymaking. In the Philippines, women with direct access to high-level peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front advocated for a more inclusive process and led national consultations across 13 regions to ensure that participants represented religious, indigenous, youth, and other groups.29 More inclusive policymaking undergirds a “human security” approach to establishing sustainable peace and reframes security as an individual’s ability to live with dignity, free from fear and want, rather than as state protection (box 4).

In Northern Ireland, women leaders secured language in the Good Friday Agreement on victims’ rights, as well as provisions for reintegration of political prisoners, integrated education, and mixed housing. 49  During the political transition in Afghanistan, women in the constitutional assembly that convened in 2003 and 2004 advocated for the rights of the disabled and supported the Uzbek minority’s efforts to gain official recognition for their language.50  In South Africa, women leaders of all races played a key role in developing a new national security framework based on human security during the country’s transition from apartheid to political democracy.

Political bodies with more female legislators generally introduce a greater number of laws to promote human rights and advance the rights of women and girls. In Argentina, for example, female parliamentarians introduced 78 percent of the bills related to women’s rights.30 After a parliamentary gender quota was introduced in Morocco in 2011, amendments to the Family Code, Penal Code, and labor and property laws substantially advanced women’s rights. In places as diverse as East Timor, Croatia, Rwanda, and South Africa, an increase in the number of female lawmakers is correlated with legislation related to antidiscrimination, domestic violence, family codes, inheritance, and child support and protection.31 While the causal connection is not yet clear, overwhelming evidence shows that when women are more empowered, “countries are less likely to go to war with their neighbors, to be in bad standing with the international community, or to be rife with crime and violence within their society.”32 Gender equality and women’s empowerment is proving to be a better indicator of a country’s peacefulness than commonly used metrics such as democracy, religion, and GDP (box 5).33

Statistical analysis of data from a majority of countries between 1977 and 1996 shows that the higher the proportion of women in parliament, the lower the likelihood that the state carried out human rights abuses such as political imprisonments, torture, killings, and disappearances.51

Barriers to Women’s Increased  Political Participation

The disparity in women’s political representation is a result of social, cultural, and economic barriers. Violence, lack of funding, and corruption stand out as significant barriers  (box 6).

The Honorable Iyabo Obasanjo, former Nigerian senator (2007–11), stated, “As a senator in Nigeria, I experienced violence, media bias, and targeting by various groups, opposition parties and government operatives. My reaction, like that of many women, was to leave politics. In developing countries, women legislators are routinely targeted for intimidation, they are the last to enter politics and the first to leave.”52 


Women political leaders and candidates face psychological, physical, and sexual violence. Women are often targets of intimidation and coercion specifically because they are women, with the goal of pressuring them to leave politics, resign as candidates or political officials, withdraw from their membership in political parties or other political institutions, or to otherwise remain silent on the political issues they care about.34 This violence affects politically active women around the globe, regardless of their roles, whether as activists, civil society leaders, voters, candidates, or elected or appointed officials.

A 2016 Inter-Parliamentary Union global study found that more than 80 percent of the women surveyed experienced psychological violence; nearly 45 percent received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction; and 20 percent of the women legislators had been physically attacked during their electoral term.35 Similarly, in political party assessments by the National Democratic Institute, approximately 55 percent of women surveyed indicated that they had personally experienced violence while carrying out political party functions, with 48 percent saying that they had experienced psychological violence, which is the most widely reported type of violence against women in politics.36 Bias and unequal access to the media further widen the gap between male and female candidates, where women candidates are at best underrepresented and marginalized, and at worst are targeted, ridiculed, and distorted.37

Lack of Financial Resources

Lack of financial resources remains one of the most significant deterrents for women in politics, and women face unique economic and financial challenges in campaigns for political office.38 These restrictions range from women’s exclusion from circles of power and moneyed networks to their often inferior economic status. Across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, women are reluctant to become political candidates for a variety of economic reasons: They do not feel they ought to invest family resources in political campaigns; they are unwilling to ask for credit or risk their own or their family’s capital; they are unable to pay for domestic and care work that they would no longer be able to do; and they are unwilling to leave their jobs to campaign and risk labor market uncertainty if they are not elected.39 Not only do women struggle to raise funds to run a campaign, they often receive little or no financial assistance from their political parties.40 Without means for securing the necessary funds, women candidates either choose not to run, run at significant disadvantages compared with male counterparts, or rely on external funding that may be tied to political favors or suspect agendas. Corruption and Conflict

In conflict-affected contexts and emerging democracies, these barriers to women’s political participation increase exponentially. Increased security concerns add significant physical, psychological, and financial burdens. Corruption widens the gender gap in politics. In post-conflict environments, the use of “black money”—earned during the war or through weapons sales—to fund political campaigns deepens the inequity between male and female candidates, where women generally have less access to such profits and a weak rule of law makes the enforcement of campaign finance regulations unlikely.

A well-known Afghan woman parliamentarian, the Honorable Shinkai Karokhail, shared an example of how inferior economic status, compounded by corrupt campaign practices and weak rule of law, can substantially hinder female candidates. During a campaign for parliament, her male challenger hosted a reception for their constituents on the same day (and same time) as her campaign event. Despite the illegality of “vote buying,” he provided lavish food for attendees and gave everyone new clothing and winter hats. Even though she was the incumbent, only 300 people attended her event while over 2,000 attended his. Karokhail said she could not compete because she did not have the same financial resources that he did.41


The WPS Act of 2017 commits the US government to support and increase women’s political participation as a core principle of its foreign policy. The WPS Act mandates a national WPS strategy that coordinates the efforts of the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security as well as USAID. This mandated strategy gives the current administration an opportunity to recommit to and update the principles of the 2016 NAP while increasing support for gender-primary programs that uphold women’s political participation as a catalyst for peace and stability.

Additionally, through the training mandated in the WPS Act, the administration can support staff across the Departments of State, Defense, and USAID by providing them with knowledge and best practices for addressing barriers to women’s political participation. Such training can truly provide value at all levels of the US government— from equipping USAID staff who design programs around women’s political movements, to State Department diplomats who work with women political leaders internationally, to those who reduce threats of violence against women in politics by providing security assistance. This whole-ofgovernment approach is critical to creating sustainable impact on such complex social and political issues.


Currently, only about 2 percent of American foreign aid dedicated to peace and security efforts goes to activities where gender equality or women’s empowerment is the principal objective.42 Additionally, while USAID supported women’s political leadership in 55 countries across five regions between 2008 and 2013, many of these programs were gender-integrated rather than gender-primary, and as a result the support for women’s political participation was merely a secondary objective in a larger democracy promotion effort.43 During this period, funding for half of the gender-primary program was less than $150,000, and durations of all programs were usually three years or fewer. The current administration therefore can improve on previous administrations’ efforts by allocating more peace and security funding to gender equality or women’s empowerment programs, especially gender-primary programs. Additionally, the administration should prioritize gender-primary programs, or programs with the primary objective of transforming gender norms, in its WPS strategy and departmental implementation plans.

The United States should seize the opportunity that the WPS Act presents to strengthen its support of women globally and ultimately to ensure the security of its own citizens.

To take advantage of this opportunity, the US government should take the following actions:

1. Uphold the NAP, WPS Act, and national strategies to promote women’s increased political participation and leadership.

  • Continue to implement the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and conduct the planned review in 2020 in consultation with civil society.
  • Mandate gender integration in US foreign policy initiatives related to women’s political participation and leadership.
  • Provide training to relevant personnel at DOD, DOS, and USAID on the importance of promoting women’s political participation and decision making in line with the WPS Act, NAP, and other US foreign policy strategies.
  • Continue to support the special envoy for global women’s issues.

2. Increase protection for women in politics and high-level decision making.

  • Fund and mandate gender integration into electoral violence prevention efforts.
  • Promote increased awareness of widespread gender-based political violence and preventative measures.
  • Provide training to relevant personnel at DOD, DOS, and USAID on prevention and protection initiatives to reduce violence against women in politics.

3. Promote increased “upstream” support to increase

women’s political leadership (e.g., education, healthcare, economic empowerment)

  • Continue to support women and girls’ education, access to health, and economic empowerment efforts.
  • Increase funding for gender-primary programs that promote and strengthen women’s political participation, including grants to local civil-society organizations that support women’s leadership.
  • Engage with traditionally marginalized women to build capacity and support networks to increase their access to political participation and leadership.
  • Provide training and mentorship networks for newly elected female politicians.

4. Support women’s equal political participation and remove barriers that limit women’s access to political leadership.

  • Pressure governments with weak or exclusionary election laws that limit women’s equal access to political participation.
  • Support political party reform efforts that focus on reducing barriers to entry and participation by women, especially in party leadership roles.
  • Challenge harmful gender norms and resulting discriminatory practices in all foreign assistance and policy.
  • Pressure repressive governments to open civil society space to ensure women’s organizations can organize and build networks of support for women candidates.
  • Support anticorruption initiatives and free and fair electoral processes in post-conflict countries and new and emerging democracies.
  • Provide gender-sensitive training to relevant personnel at DOD, DOS, and USAID on advancing free and fair elections.

5. Increase US foreign aid funding for gender-primary peace and security initiatives.

  • Increase funding allocations to activities that promote women’s equality and empowerment.
  • Increase funding allocations to activities that promote women’s effective participation in peace and security processes.
  • Increase funding allocations to activities that advance women’s equal political participation and leadership.

About the Authors

Tanya Henderson, Founder and Director, Mina’s List, a program of Peace is Loud. Tanya is an international human rights and gender lawyer whose work has focused on women’s rights and empowerment; the role of women in conflict resolution and peace-building; and women’s political participation through U.S. policy, international multi-lateral agencies and civil society, and coalition building among global women political leaders. She was a Policy Director for Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), the US National Director for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a legal consultant for the Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon on issues of gender based violence and women’s political participation, and part of a research team in Ethiopia working with Harvard Medical School to research and draft policy on gender inequality, economic development, and health. Her work has been published in academic journals as well as various print and social media outlets. She holds a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts Boston, a J.D. from Suffolk University Law

School, and pursued an LL.M. in international law from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She has also earned several certificates in mediation and conflict negotiation.

Amanda Domingues, Program Officer, NDI. Amanda

Domingues is a Program Officer at National Democratic

Institute. While at NDI she has worked both on the Gender, Women and Democracy (GWD) team and the Southern and East Africa team. In her role on the GWD team she served as the lead on work pertaining to Peace, Security, and Democratic Resilience and violence against women in political parties. In her current position on the Southern and East Africa team she works to support NDI’s electoral programs in the region, focusing on gender inclusive elections. Prior to joining NDI, Ms. Domingues attended graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she focused on inclusive peace processes and constitutional reform. While at UCLA, Ms. Domingues was an African Studies Department Fellow and also worked as a Graduate Student Researcher for the Center for the Study of Women.

Ursala Knudsen-Latta, Research and Policy Officer,

Saferworld. Ursala Knudsen-Latta is a Research and Policy

Officer based in Washington DC. Prior to joining Saferworld,

Ursala worked at Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) and

Women in International Security. Ursala works on Saferworld US’ advocacy team and focuses on issues of violent extremism, gender and conflict, and SDG16. Ursala studied Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester, where her research focused on religion and conflict in South Asia. She worked with the Anchorage Interfaith Council, and the North American Interfaith Network before graduating with a Masters International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University.


1.  Valerie Hudson et al., Sex and World Peace (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

  • Marie O’Reilly, Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, and Thania Paffenholz, “Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes” (New York: International Peace Institute, 2015).
  • Marie O’Reilly, “Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies” (Washington, DC: Inclusive Security, 2015), 10. 5.  O’Reilly et al., “Reimagining Peacemaking.”
  • O’Reilly, “Why Women?,” 9, citing Pilar Domingo et al.,

“Assessment of the Evidence of Links between Gender Equality,

Peacebuilding, and Statebuilding” (London: Overseas Development

Institute, December 2013), 16; Aili Mari Tripp, “Women’ s Political

Empowerment in Statebuilding and Peacebuilding : A Baseline Study” (London: Department for International Development, August 2012), cited in Domingo et al., “Assessment of the Evidence,” 19.

  • O’Reilly, “Why Women?”, 9.
  • UN Women, “UN Women Highlights the Voices of Women Building Sustainable Peace and Mobilizing for Justice and Equality” media advisory, New York City, October 23, 2017, http://www.
  • UN Women, “Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence” (New York: October 2012), 3.
  • O’Reilly et al., “Reimagining Peacemaking,” citing Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke, “Peace Agreements or ‘Pieces of Paper’? The Impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Peace Processes and their Agreements,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 59, no. 4 (2010): 941–80.
  • Malathi de Alwis, Julie Mertus, and Tazreena Sajjad, “Women and Peace Processes,” in Carol Cohn, ed., Women and Wars (Cambridge, UK: Wiley, 2013), 174.
  • United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/66/130, Women and Political Participation (2012).
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Women in National Parliaments,” webpage, situation as of Dec. 20th, 2017, i.e., 23.5 percent of all national parliamentarians are women.
  • UN Women, “Facts and Figures: Women’s Political Leadership” webpage, (July 2017), leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures. Calculation is based on information provided by Permanent Missions to the United Nations. Some leaders hold positions of both head of government and head of state.
  • “The Global Gender Gap Report 2017” (Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2017).
  • Eva Barboni, “Getting Impatient: Overcoming Barriers to

Women’s Political Leadership and Accelerating Progress towards Equality” (Atalanta, 2017), 9, static/595411f346c3c48fe75fd39c/t/5a198d188165f542d67

9b618/1511623962875/Getting-Impatient-Atalanta-Report_FINAL. pdf, citing Katherine Kidder et al., “From College to Cabinet: Women in National Security. Military, Veterans & Society” (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2017).

  1. Pamela Paxton and Melanie Hughes, Women, Politics and Power: A Global Perspective (Washington, DC: Sage Publications, 2017).
  2. Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Women in Parliament: 20 Years in Review,” (Geneva: IPU, 2015), WIP20Y-en.pdf.
  3. The White House, “Executive Order: Instituting a National

Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security,” press release, December 19, 2011,

  • Mary Caprioli and Mark Boyer, “Gender, Violence, and International Crisis,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (2001): 514.
  • Erik Melander, “Gender Equality and Intrastate Armed Conflict,” International Studies International Studies Quarterly 49, no. 4 (2005): 695–714.
  • Jacqueline Demeritt et al., “Female Participation and Civil War Relapse,” Civil Wars 16, no. 3 (2014): 362.
  • Susan Markham, “Strengthening Women’s Roles in Parliament,” Oxford Journal of Parliamentary Affairs (2012), doi:10.1093/pa/ gss024.
  • Irma Clots-Figueras, “Women in Politics: Evidence from the Indian States,” Journal of Public Economics 95, nos.7–8 (2011): 664–90.
  • Lori Beaman et al., “Women Politicians, Gender Bias, and

Policy-making in Rural India,” Background Paper for UNICEF, “The State of the World’s Children Report 2007,” p. 11, 15 and 16.

  • Barboni, “Getting Impatient,” p.17.
  • Markham, “Women’s Roles in Parliament.”
  • Susan Perkins et al., “Ethnic Diversity, Gender, and National Leaders,” Journal for International Affairs 67, no. 1 (2017): 85–103.
  • Patty Chang et al., “Women Leading Peace” (Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, 2015), 109–13.
  • Mark Jones, “Legislator Gender and Legislator Policy Priorities in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and the United States House of Representatives,” Policy Studies Journal 25 (1997): 618.
  • National Democratic Institute, “Why Women in Politics?” Gender, Women & Politics webpage, Washington, DC.
  • O’Reilly, “Why Women?”
  • Ibid.
  • National Democratic Institute, “#NotTheCost: Stopping Violence against Women in Politics: A Call to Action,” (Washington, DC: NDI, 2016); Gabrielle Bardall, “Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence,” white paper series (Washington, DC: IFES, December 2011).
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Sexism, Harassment and Violence against Women Parliamentarians” issues brief (Geneva: IPU, October 2016),
  • National Democratic Institute, “No Party to Violence: Analyzing Violence against Women in Political Parties: Preliminary Findings from Pilots in Cote d’Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania, and Tunisia” (Washington, DC: NDI, 2018), files/NDI_No_Party_to_Violence_ReportFinal.pdf.
  • Diana B. Carlin and Kelly L. Winfrey, “Have You Come a Long Way, Baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008

Campaign Coverage,” Communication Studies 60, no. 4 (2009): 326–43.

  • “Women Candidates and Campaign Finance” (New York:

Women’s Environment and Development Organization, December 2007),

  • Julie Ballington, “Empowering Women for Stronger Political

Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women’s Political

Participation” (New York and Washington, DC: United Nations Development Programme and National Democratic Institute, 2011), gender%20and%20governance/EmpoweringWomenFor%20

StrongerPoliticalParties.pdf; see also “Women Candidates and

Campaign Finance.”

  • NDI, “No Party to Violence.”
  • Sana Johnson, “Listening Session for the Afghan Pilot Project,” Peace Is Loud blog (New York: Mina’s List, June 24, 2015).
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,

DAC Network on Gender Equality, “Aid Projects Targeting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (CRS),” OECD.Stat dataset,

  • USAID, “Women’s Leadership as a Route to Greater

Empowerment: Desktop Study” (Arlington, VA: Management Systems International, 2014), pa00k87m.pdf.

  • O’Reilly et al., “Reimagining Peacemaking,” 12–13.
  • Barboni, “Getting Impatient.”

47.  Karima Bennoune, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold

Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism (New York: 

W. W. Norton & Company, 2014); see also “Bennoune: Support

Muslims Resisting Fundamentalism,” International Peace Institute, October 2, 2013, speakers/details/486benn.

  • Chang et al., “Women Leading Peace,” 46–47.
  • Tobie Whitman and Jessica Gomez, “Strategies for

Policymakers: Bringing Women into Government” (Washington, DC: The Institute for Inclusive Security, March 2009).

  • Erik Melander, “Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse,” Journal of Peace Research 42, no. 2 (March 2005): 149-166.
  • Obasanjo was quoted in a 2017 prospectus of nonprofit Mina’s List.

By Rachel Clement, Neetu John, and Lyric Thompson

Each year, an estimated 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthdays.1 Child or early marriage is defined as any formal or informal union that occurs when one or both parties are under 18 years

of age. Forced marriage is a marriage or union at any age that occurs without the free and full consent of one or both parties and includes child and early marriage, as people under 18 are not able to give informed consent.2 Although boys are also married before age 18, it is girls who are both more likely to marry early and who bear the greatest burdens on their health and well-being as a result of the practice. According to UNICEF, “Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.”3

An internationally recognized human rights violation, child marriage occurs across all regions of the world, and can be exacerbated in times of crisis and conflict.4,5 In fact, nine of the ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are considered fragile states, demonstrating the impact insecurity has on decisions to induce children to marry.6 Three of the ten countries leading the Fund for Peace’s Failed States Index had child marriage rates well above 50 percent, according to a 2013 analysis.7 While there are many drivers of child marriage, the practice is deeply rooted in gender inequality and poverty, conditions which are also exacerbated by instability.8

Yet the practice has been largely overlooked in United States peace and security efforts. The Women, Peace, and Security Act (WPS) of 2017 is an opportunity to address this gap by including efforts to end child marriage within the mandated strategy to promote women’s protection and full participation in peace and security efforts. As the statement of policy within the Act notes, “It shall be the policy of the United States to promote the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of overseas conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts, reinforced through diplomatic efforts and programs that … promote the physical safety, economic security, and dignity  of women and girls.”9

Impact On Girls’ Education and Health

One of the best ways to delay marriage and to promote the physical safety, economic security and dignity of girls is to ensure that girls have access to a safe, quality education.

When major conflicts and crises arise, children often do  not go to school or even have a school to attend. At present, 62 million children and youth are out of school in 32 crisisaffected countries.10,11 and girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.12 For children who are further marginalized, such as those with disabilities, the numbers are worse: in developing countries, more than 90 percent of children with disabilities do not attend school.13 These challenges are exacerbated as girls hit puberty.

Yet even in peacetime, girls between the ages of 10 and 19 are 23 times more likely than boys to be kept out of school.14 There are 15 million girls of primary-school age who will never even enter a classroom, half of whom live in subSaharan Africa.15 Not coincidentally, nearly 40 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18.16

Similarly, early marriage compounds girls’ challenges: Girls who marry early are more likely than unmarried peers to drop out of school and to have increased health risks and lower socioeconomic outcomes. In fact, child marriage reduces girls’ lifetime earnings by 9 percent.17 The longer that girls can stay in school and receive a quality education, the more likely they are to delay marriage. And the longer girls are able to stay in school, the more likely they are to contribute to their own futures, those of their families and  to their communities, too.

In addition, early marriage has long-lasting health consequences: A child bride’s children are more likely  to die before they turn five and to experience stunted  growth than those born to mothers above 18. This impacts familial health but also health systems. If all child marriage had ended by 2015, countries would have seen tens of billions of dollars in benefits by 2030 due to a reduction in stunting and child mortality alone.18 Thus, investment in girls’ education is an investment in the health of a country’s workforce, economic growth and lasting peace.

According to USAID, “During major conflicts and crises, children do not go to school—and the longer they’re out, the less likely they are to ever go back. Not only is school necessary for their continued education, but it also provides them with emotional and physical protection while their worlds are in chaos.”19 Lack of access to quality education in such settings undermines the social and economic development that is necessary to promote gender equality, peace and prosperity—the intended outcomes of the  WPS agenda.

Adolescent Girls in Conflict and  Post-Conflict Settings

Adolescent girls face unique challenges in any crisis setting, as they are marginalized both as females and as youth. They are often responsible for greater degrees of unpaid family care work, such as fetching firewood or water or attending older and/or younger relatives. Consequently, they have less time to pursue education or income-generating activities, with longterm impact on their futures.20 The threat and/or experience of violence in conflict, post-conflict, or displacement settings is exacerbated both inside and outside of the home. In times of crisis, families marry off girls to make them less vulnerable to gender-based violence by combatants. However, evidence does not support the belief that husbands protect girls they marry. In fact, girls who are married early are more likely to experience intimate partner violence, contract HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and remain poorer relative to their unmarried peers.

For example, since the start of the Syrian civil war, rates of child and forced marriage among Syrian refugees tripled  in Jordan.21 A 2014 Council on Foreign Relations paper found that nine of the eleven least developed countries on UNDP’s Human Development Index have child marriage rates above 40 percent and most of the countries with a high prevalence of the practice have also experienced natural disasters, which compound the perils the girls face.22 Girls in conflict settings are at risk for early, child and forced marriage, whether with good intentions by their family or through nefarious ones at the hands of the militants. The horrifying accounts of abduction, sexual enslavement and forced marriage of girls by the so-called Islamic State in  Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban  in Pakistan attest to the urgent need for interventions  tailored to the needs of girls in these settings.

Policies and Strategies to Protect Girls

Given the direct links between girls’ experience of conflict and crisis — including but not limited to child, early and forced marriage — and the women, peace and security agenda, U.S. policy on peace and security should not exclude girls. An immediate opportunity to address this comes in the form of the forthcoming strategy mandated by the Women, Peace and Security Act, which was passed and signed into law by President Trump in October 2017. The Act commits the United States to “promote meaningful participation of women in all aspects of conflict prevention, management and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.”23 While the legislation does mention girls twice, these references are cursory and do not include specific objectives relevant to girls’ experience of conflict and crisis—nor does it explicitly mention child marriage or girls’ education. Its focus, rightfully, is on women’s participation in preventing and resolving conflict. Yet girls also have a powerful role to play in preventing and responding to conflict, and are too often the victim of targeted violence.

Therefore, the forthcoming Strategy can and should address the unique needs of girls as well as women, with a specific focus on child marriage given its prevalence in conflict and crisis. Building on the 2016 National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, the Strategy should include a specific objective to protect and empower girls in conflict and crisis settings, with an explicit commitment to prevent child, early and forced marriage.24

The United States does not have to start from scratch when integrating the WPS Strategy into issues like child marriage and girls’ education. Indeed, the U.S. Department of State and USAID’s implementation plans for other legislative efforts already focus on these very topics. Furthermore, the recently passed Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act of 2017, or READ Act, promotes education and includes language on overcoming barriers to girls’ education. The corresponding U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls is forthcoming and requires reports to Congress.25 The strategy includes implementation plans from USAID, the U.S. Department of State, Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, including coordination with one another in crisis and conflict settings. Through this strategy, the United States has pledged to work toward ending child marriage, keeping girls in school and eliminating violence against girls around the world.26 The WPS Strategy presents a new opportunity to unify the two agendas and address the common problem of child marriage and violence against girls.

The recently updated U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally also makes explicit linkages between education, violence prevention and response broadly and child marriage specifically.27 USAID has a Vision for Action on Child Marriage28 and a related Child, Early and Forced Marriage Resource Guide.29 Both contain relevant guidance and sector-specific recommendations, indicators and programmatic recommendations for conflict, postconflict and other work closely aligned with the WPS agenda.

Recommendations for Action

As the United States develops its WPS Strategy, it must intentionally include girls — particularly efforts to prevent child, early and forced marriage and to keep girls in school. Specifically, the U.S. government should do the following:

  • increase peacebuilding efforts that take into account the needs and voices of girls at risk for child marriage;
  • ensure that new and increasing efforts to provide girls with education in conflict and crisis settings includes efforts to prevent child, early and forced marriage;
  • link increasing attention to girls’ education in conflict and crisis settings and ending child marriage to the WPS agenda by including a specific objective to end child marriage and empower adolescent girls in the forthcoming strategy on WPS, building on the limited provision in the National Action Plan on Women,  Peace and Security;
  • fully implement the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls;
  • train relevant personnel in the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID and elsewhere on the issue of child marriage and support regular consultation with civil society organizations and women experts on this issue in areas most affected by conflict and instability, as well as in Washington, DC; and
  • increase funding for the WPS agenda, linking with efforts to end gender-based violence, child marriage and other relevant funded priorities. Current U.S. funding and programming have failed to address the barriers that are keeping girls out of school. The forthcoming READ Act strategy from USAID should include robust guidance on how to overcome these barriers and measure efforts to  do so, particularly in conflict and crisis settings. It should also include these metrics in the required annual report  to Congress.

About the Authors

Rachel Clement, Policy Advocate, International Center for

Research on Women

Neetu John, Social and Health Scientist, International Center for Research on Women

Lyric Thompson, Director, Policy & Advocacy, International

Center for Research on Women


  1. UNICEF, “Child Marriage Is a Violation of Human Rights but Is All Too Common” (March 2018), child-protection/child-marriage/.
  2. Allison M. Glinski et al., “The Child, Early and Forced Marriage Resource Guide” (Washington, DC: Banyan Global, 2015).
  3. UNICEF, “Child Marriage Is a Violation of Human Rights.”
  4. UNICEF, “A Study on Early Marriage in Jordan”

(2014), EarlyMarriageStudy2014-E_COPY_.pdf; 

  • Human Rights Watch, “Marry before Your House Gets Swept Away: Child Marriage in Bangladesh” (2015), report/2015/06/09/marry-your-house-swept-away/child-marriagebangladesh.
  • “Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa: Executive

Summary” (New York and Washington, DC: UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Office and the International Center forResearch on Women, 2017).

  • J. J. Messner & Kendall Lawrence, “The Failed States Index 2013: The Troubled Ten” (Washington, DC: Fund for Peace, 2013).
  • World Bank, “Conflict and Fragility: What We Know” webpage

(2018),; Girls Not Brides, “Human Rights and Justice,” webpage (2017), https://

  • Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, S.1141, Cong. 115th,
  1. UNESCO, “Leaving No One Behind.”
  2. Education Cannot Wait, website, (accessed December 2017).
  3. Ibid., p. 10.
  4. Susan Nicolai et al., “Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises” (London: Overseas Development Institute, July 2015).
  5. UNESCO, “One in Five Children, Adolescents and Youth Is Out of School,” Fact Sheet No. 48 (February 2018), sites/default/files/documents/fs48-one-five-children-adolescentsyouth-out-school-2018-en.pdf.
  6. UNESCO, “Leaving No One Behind: How Far on the

Way to Universal Primary and Secondary Education?” Policy Paper 27/Fact Sheet 37 (July 2016), images/0024/002452/245238E.pdf

  1. Girls Not Brides, “Child Marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa” (2017),
  2. Quentin T. Wodon et al., “Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report” (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017).
  3. Ibid.
  4. USAID, “What We Do: Education in Crisis and Conflict” webpage (April 18, 2018), education/crisis-conflict.
  5. Gaëlle Ferrant et al., “Unpaid Care Work: The Missing Link in the Analysis of Gender Gaps in Labor Outcomes” Issues Paper (Geneva: OECD Development Centre, December 2014).
  6. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, “Fragile States, Fragile Lives: Child Marriage amid Disaster and Conflict” report (Washington, DC: Council on Foreign Relations, 2014).
  7. Women, Peace, and Security Act.
  8. USAID, National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (August 5, 2016),
  9. Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, H.R. 601, 115th Cong., senate-bill/623.
  10. U.S. Department of State, “United States Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls” (March 2016), documents/organization/254904.pdf.
  11. USAID, “United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to

Gender-Based Violence Globally,” updated 2016, https://pdf.usaid. gov/pdf_docs/PDACT888.pdf.

  • USAID, “Ending Child Marriage and Meeting the Needs of Married Children: The USAID Vision for Action” (October 2012), .
  • Glinski et al., “The Child, Early and Forced Marriage 

Resource Guide.”

21.  UNICEF, “Early Marriage in Jordan.”                                                    


By Ashley Bandura and Mercedes Blackwood

Women continue to be sidelined in ongoing efforts to end the Syrian civil war, which so far has cost more than 400,000 lives and displaced as many as 13 million people.1 Yet they share fully in the suffering: Syrian women have been targeted for kidnapping, arbitrary arrests, and sexual violence, and they are often used as collateral for negotiations and extortion. The group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently has documented hundreds of cases of women being forced into marriage with ISIS fighters, with about a third of them under age 18.2 The issues Syrian women face cannot be separated from the considerable challenge of resolving the Syrian conflict.

Since 2012, attempts at peace talks have failed to achieve meaningful ceasefires or deescalate the conflict. Ensuring women’s meaningful participation in stabilization and peace efforts in Syria is thus a strategic security imperative. Such participation will promote a more inclusive, enduring, and stable democratic society. Women’s participation in peace agreements has been shown to critically affect their sustainability, with 64 percent of agreements being less likely to fail if women are at the negotiating table. Additionally, agreements such as ceasefires are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in their negotiation.3

Female leaders have been consistently underrepresented in Syrian delegations to high-level international meetings and ceasefire negotiations.4 Peace talks in Geneva and the initial round in Astana lacked women’s participation entirely (box 1). The failure of these talks resulted from many factors: competing global interests, geopolitical maneuvering, regional instability, and obstruction by parties to the negotiations. But the absence of women is surely an important factor as well.

In early 2017, Syrian civil society organizations called upon the Syrian opposition and the international community to ensure that the delegation to any future talks include at least 30 percent women.5 In the last round of Astana talks in October 2017, women made up 16 percent of the negotiators. They raised critical issues in areas where women have been at the forefront of action on the ground. Syrian women have negotiated local ceasefires, deescalated fighting so aid could pass through, organized nonviolent protests, monitored and documented war crimes, led humanitarian efforts for displaced Syrians, and worked in schools and hospitals while the conflict raged.6 By finding consensus on controversial issues related to aid delivery and the release of detainees, for example, the Women’s Advisory Board has demonstrated what women can do.7

This policy brief outlines barriers to women’s participation in Syrian peace and stabilization, major challenges they face regarding protection in the war, the lack of aid and resources for recovery, and steps the United States can take to ensure they are included in future efforts.

Barriers to Women’s Participation

Despite the efforts of the Syrian Women’s Network and the Women’s Advisory Board, Syrian women remain largely absent from the negotiating table. Even when women have been part of high-level peace talks, they are silenced or pushed into supporting roles.

Timeline of Negotiations
Geneva I Conference, June 2012 – US and Russian officials, and other major powers met to agree on a road map for peace. No women present at the peace table or on the margins of talks. Geneva II Conference, January 2014 – The UN fails to break deadlock between opposition and the government and blames the Syrian government’s refusal to entertain the opposition’s demands. Few women, with limited roles at the negotiating table. Vienna Process, 2015 – All 20 members of the International Syria Support Group met to outline a transitional plan and timetable for formal talks. No women were involved. Geneva III, January 2016 – The Syrian government and opposition refused to sit in the same room, talks were suspended. No women were involved.

Their absence from high-level talks belies the realities on the ground, where many women have taken on informal leadership roles in the wake Syrian Arab Spring in 2011 and subsequently because of the absence of men.8 Eightyfive percent of those killed inside Syria have been men.9 According to reports by CARE International, females head 12 to 17 percent of households in Syria and up to one-third of households in refugee-hosting countries.10 With high rates of male casualties, women must be breadwinners and caregivers in a broken system that is ill equipped to provide basic services they need for survival.

Although women have additional responsibilities, cultural, physical, and structural barriers often prevent them from assuming formal leadership roles. These include social stigma, lack of education or specialized training, economic deficiencies, safety hazards, and limited mobility. Culturally, most Syrian women are raised with stereotypical gender roles and expectations. They thus may be apprehensive of leadership roles that have traditionally belonged to men. According to a 2017 study by Bareeq Education and Development, 81 percent of women surveyed said that “the social norms in Syria truly impede women’s success.”11

They may also find it difficult to obtain work that does not jeopardize their safety or their sense of what is honorable for a woman.12 Syrian women living outside the country— particularly Turkey, Lebanon, or Jordan—may not have the right to work in their host country.13 With the added economic pressure for both men and women, many women face increased stress.14 In cases where female heads of households find jobs, their income is less than that of male heads of households. Dedicated resources for services, protection, security, and training for women inside and outside Syria are critical, given the new roles, dearth of job opportunities, and safety hazards they face.

Timeline of Women’s Participation
Syrian Women’s Network, May 2013 – 200 individuals and 29 NGO’s formed the Network to develop a new Syrian constitution and a set of laws with full equality of women.   Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace, 2013 – 50 women representing civil society, including 8 members of the Syrian Women’s Network established the Initiative to promote the peace process, and bring women directly into the negotiations. They demanded a 30% quota of female participants in the Geneva II Sessions. Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, February 2016 – Politically unaffiliated group of 12 women. The Board does not participate directly in talks, but advises mediators on proceedings. SWN withdrew based on critiques of transparency. Syrian Women Peacemakers Conference, May 2016 – 130 Syrian women met in Beirut, Lebanon and forged a statement of unity to further the work of Syrian women.

Their lack of physical security and restricted mobility also keep women from engaging meaningfully in political roles. The destruction of infrastructure and the economy have constrained women’s ability to move freely, and heightened security concerns make travel dangerous for them. Cultural limitations for women’s travel alone outside the home exacerbate the mobility and security barriers. Limited movement makes it more difficult for women to participate in local initiatives and heightens economic barriers.

Structural barriers include economic, legal, and educational limitations. Discriminatory laws and lack of education or skills discourage women from standing for elected office or other leadership positions.15 The selection process for local councilors highlights these structural challenges. Local councils are often not elected but rather selected based on familial ties or community standing, which women have not had the opportunity to develop.

Shifting governance structures in a fragile environment also make it difficult for women to grasp or maintain a foothold for meaningful change and to realize their full potential. Where councils are elected, they are often limited in capacity and plagued by turnover. Active women would therefore rather get involved in civil society than government, which they may see as lacking legitimacy and effectiveness. When women are elected to government positions, it is often for superficial roles. In government-controlled areas women are included to showcase modernization; in opposition-controlled areas they are included to attract attention from international donors.16 Despite public support for quotas for women in public administration, women thus remain underutilized, as real power stays in the hands of a few male elites.

According to the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the next priority should be a political process for Syria that includes drafting a new constitution as well as developing an election process.17 Thus women’s role in peacebuilding must go beyond peace negotiations. Women should be involved in all political decision making. The international community should continue to provide tools and training for women so that they can meaningfully engage in elections and constitution building when the time comes. Conflicts can sometimes provide an opportunity to fast track progress for women in political spheres. Opening formal and informal channels for women’s participation that were previously restricted to Syrian men would be one way for such progress to emerge out of the Syrian conflict.

UN and international organizations’ efforts to boost women’s collective voice have created demands and opportunities for women’s inclusion that could contribute meaningfully to Syria’s transition to peace. Their local successes demonstrate the value and credibility they can bring to the negotiating table and in reconstruction.

Protection from Harm and Abuse

Women are particularly vulnerable to harm and abuse. An understanding of preconflict gender dynamics in Syria is essential for assessing how the conflict has increased the vulnerability of Syrian women. Including women in negotiations to end the conflict will enable them to advocate for women and to prioritize solutions to harms and abuses that disproportionally affect women. Many of these are related to forced migration and decreased security: genderbased violence, abuse by security forces, and economic marginalization.

More than five million refugees have fled Syria, 48.4 percent of whom are female.18 They are increasingly vulnerable to assault, kidnapping, and gender-based violence. On some routes, as many as half of women surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault during their journey, and many take birth control to avoid getting pregnant from rape.19 An initial assessment report conducted in 2015 revealed that women were sometimes forced to engage in transactional sex as to pay for travel.20

The lack of security and the breakdown of the rule of law make women targets. Terrorist groups, security forces, and border guards alike harass and assault them. These abuses increase distrust of state security providers and force women to rely on informal or extralegal familial and communal ties for protection.21 Yet even these networks are failing them as their communities are shattered and they lose male allies.

Armed groups kidnap women in transit and use them as hostages in prisoner exchanges.22 Reuter’s news service has documented how ISIS kidnapped women refugees in transit to Europe to provide their fighters with sex slaves.23 CNN reported that women in ISIS-held territory in Syria were forced into marriage with fighters.24 Women refugees who manage to arrive in camps find that they are often unsecured and poorly resourced.25

Lack of Resources for Relief and Recovery

As the conflict endures, women have gained a measure of agency as they undertake relief and recovery efforts. Despite the overwhelming challenges, Syrian women are filling gaps in society and providing basic needs to their families and communities. As women play a larger role in relief and recovery, it is fundamental that they be included in strategies for peacebuilding and long-term stability. Otherwise, transitions to democracy and peace will not be successful.

Relief efforts in Syria continue regardless of the status of humanitarian assistance from abroad. Women in traditional roles such as health professionals, educators, and mothers are well placed to rebuild, educate, and sustain their communities postconflict. Where health and rehabilitation services are no longer available, women step in to care for the elderly, injured, and others in need of specialized care. Where schools have closed, it is often mothers who fill the void and educate children.26 In refugee camps, women have started to engage in home-based entrepreneurial activities. As women take on these roles, they will need specialized training to carry them out more effectively.

Recovery efforts are not waiting for the resolution of the conflict either, and women are central. Syrian women’s involvement can help close strategic gaps in the fight against ISIS. But for recovery efforts to move forward, women’s substantive roles must be recognized and their needs must be addressed.


The development and security sectors should continue to address barriers that hinder women’s participation in peacebuilding efforts. Likewise, it is important to keep studying the conditions that facilitate women’s involvement so that these conditions can be leveraged to increase women’s roles and representation in peacebuilding.

As part of the implementation of the Women, Peace, and

Security (WPS) Act, which was signed into law in October 2017, the U.S. government will develop a governmentwide strategy to integrate gender perspectives across its diplomatic, development, and defense-related work in conflict-affected environments. The U.S. national strategy required by the WPS Act must emphasize the importance of understanding the barriers and facilitating conditions for women’s representation in mediation, negotiation, humanitarian efforts, and political development.

Applying this strategy to Syrian women will enable the U.S. government to meet the goal, articulated in January 2017 by the secretary of state, of a stable, unified, and independent Syria, free of terrorist threats and free of weapons of mass destruction.27 Implementing this plan with Syrian women is in the best economic and security interest of the entire region, as the Syrian conflict continues to overwhelm neighboring countries. As negotiations begin and recovery efforts ensue, it is imperative that the inclusion of women in decision making is a top priority for achieving and then maintaining peace.

As the U.S. government engages, the following recommendations should inform an inclusive Syrian peace process:

Breaking down Barriers for Leadership and Participation

  • Promote women in negotiations and build their credibility as essential partners at the negotiating table. Increasing awareness of the importance of women in peacebuilding and encouraging their participation are important. However, it must be clear what the women who are brought to the table are there to represent. Women cannot be brought to the negotiating table just to represent women but must be credible leaders for their causes, whether it be a political party or an organization representing a certain sector of civil society. Women’s participation at the negotiating table must be mainstreamed from the grassroots level for women to be viewed as credible actors once they are appointed to participate in negotiations or peacebuilding efforts. Training for women on building coalitions and on mediation and negotiation skills can boost women’s credibility.
  • Support activities that provide women with the necessary tools and training they need to increase their political participation. As women’s roles continue to evolve amid the Syrian conflict, programming supported by the international community will need to enhance women leaders’ capacity for governing, as the UN and other external actors will focus on a political solution and Syrian opposition will need to be ready to work toward a solid democratic framework.
  • Connect politically active women outside the country with women who are formal or informal leaders inside Syria, and build upon existing networks. By strengthening the work of existing networks through better coordination, the efforts of these women can be enhanced and used to highlight examples for other reconstruction and reconciliation efforts. The Women’s Advisory Board should play a larger role in coordinating efforts internally with negotiations and advocacy externally. When women leaders work together, regardless of their roles or stances, they can serve as unified advocates for more inclusive institutions as Syria rebuilds.
  • Use the negotiation process to develop more inclusive governing institutions in Syria. The trauma and destruction created by conflicts seems insurmountable at times, yet transitions can also provide unique opportunities for change. The parties to negotiations should recognize this and push for more inclusive policies that will govern the Syrian elections and the writing of a new constitution. Any outcomes of negotiations should take advantage of the opening to facilitate a new culture of citizenship.

Protection from Harm

  • Examine preconflict gender dynamics, and collect disaggregated data on the standards, issues, and roles that women live with as a result of the turmoil in Syria. A thorough understanding of Syrian women’s historical and traditional roles is required to fully appreciate how women have been affected by war. Disaggregated data on within-country and refugee conditions can provide implementing organizations with key information needed to design responsive interventions. It is important to consistently track and measure gender and diversity dynamics throughout the conflict in order to draw key lessons for the diplomatic and humanitarian communities.
  • Provide resources and support to protect women from harm. Including more women in security forces and creating a more responsive security sector can empower women and ensure that law enforcement considers female perspectives. This is important for police, military, and peacekeeping forces inside Syria and in refugee hosting countries. By training more women to contribute to security and policing, women’s perspectives can be incorporated and unique challenges can be given the attention they need. Women trained to serve in the security sector may be more receptive to claims of genderbased violence and other gender-specific problems. Women may also be more inclined to report offenses such as assault to female security agents than to male counterparts.
  • Increase awareness of the unique issues women face in conflict and their unique roles in mitigating difficulties and reconciling conflicts. The barriers to political participation and safety that women face globally are exacerbated in conflict. By spreading awareness, the security and humanitarian sectors can provide more targeted support to address the challenges women face in conflict zones. The media can play an important role in building this awareness and in showcasing women’s resilience and strength in overcoming challenges, thus increasing the recognition they deserve as powerful forces for change.

Resources for Relief and Recovery

  • Provide technical and career training for Syrian women so that they can build skills that will allow them to obtain work and contribute to rebuilding the economy. It is imperative to equip Syrian women with skills they can use long term in conjunction with financial resources. Training on topics such as business development, financial management, and negotiation should be included to ensure that women can effectively fill the gaps in the economy that typically result from high numbers of male casualties during the war.
  • Include more women in strategic planning for rehabilitating infrastructure now rather than waiting until the conflict is resolved. This will prepare women to move recovery efforts forward when opportunities are presented. It will also allow women to develop realistic expectations and knowledge on how to troubleshoot issues when the time comes for reconstruction efforts.
  • Increase educational opportunities for specialized skills. As women continue to serve informally in relief roles such as medical and special care, the international donor community can build on their skills by providing them opportunities to gain formal education in these roles. Such opportunities could take the form of scholarships for technical schooling or educational exchange programs.

About the Authors

Ashley Bandura works as a Governance Specialist at the International Republican Institute’s Center for Global Impact. Ashley joined IRI in 2016 where she has focused on citizen-centered governance, electoral transitions, political party capacity building, and conflict management. She has conducted trainings and managed programs with elected officials in MENA, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. She holds a Master’s of Arts in International Development from The George Washington University.

Mercedes Blackwood has been working at the International Republican Institute (IRI) since June of 2016 where she is a

Senior Program Associate in the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN.) Currently, she is working alongside IRI’s Syria team to support moderate, democratic activists standing in opposition to both the Assad regime and Islamist extremists. Mercedes also oversees WDN’s Women, Peace, and Security programming, which focuses on women’s political inclusion during conflict, transition of power, and reconciliation efforts and the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute. Previously, Mercedes worked for

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and for the Republican National Committee on several state and federal level campaigns. Prior to these positions, Mercedes was an athlete for the U.S.A. Bobsled and Skeleton team where she was training for the 2018 winter Olympics. She received her Bachelors in Political Science from the University of Idaho.


  1. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “About the Crisis.”
  2. Arwa Damon and Gul Tuysuz, “Syrian Woman: I Had to Marry an ISIS Police Chief to Save My Father’s Life,” CNN (February 4, 2015).
  3. Michelle Barsa et al., “Inclusive Ceasefires: Women, Gender, and a Sustainable End to Violence,” (Washington, DC: Inclusive Security, March 2016).
  4. Women’s participation is often measured by how many women are included as mediators and negotiators. Mediators are defined as third-party affiliates who work with belligerent parties to regulate negotiations, while negotiators are considered individuals directly participating in Track 1 negotiations.
  5. Council on Foreign Relations, “Syrian Women at the Table,” Case Studyies:Syria, web page,
  6. Rafif Jouejati, “Women Are Invisible at the Syria Peace Talks,” PassBlue (February 23, 2017).
  7. CFR, “Syrian Women at the Table.”
  8. Daniel Hilton, “Syrian Women at Risk of Losing New Economic Power to Tradition,” Worldcrunch (January 23, 2018).
  9. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Updated Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in the Syrian Arab Republic, (OHCHR, 2014).
  1. Beatrix Buecher and James Rwampigi Aniyamuzaala, “Women, Work & War: Syrian Women and the Struggle to Survive Five Years of Conflict,” (Amman: CARE International, 2016).
  2. “Syrian Women’s Perceptions of Women’s Rights, Work, Education, and Vocational Skills, Bareeq Education and Development,” (Amman: Bareeq Education and Development, May 2017), 12. Buecher and Aniyamuzaala, “Women, Work & War.”
    1. Anthony Tirado Chase, Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2016), p. 202.
    1. Buecher and Aniyamuzaala, “Women, Work & War.”
    1. Razan Ghazzawi et al., “Peacebuilding Defines Our Future Now: A Study of Women’s Peace Activism in Syria” (Istanbul: Badael Foundation, 2015), uploads/2015/10/Syria_october22.pdf.
    1. Rana Khalaf et al., “Women Participation in Syrian Cities Today,” Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation, 2017, https://docs. npartcipationinsyriancitiestoday-emergingrolesandopportunities.pdf.

  1. Ibid.
    1. UNHCR, “Registered Syrian Refugees,” interagency information sharing portal, last updated 19 April 2018, 2017, syrianrefugees/regional.php.
  1. Anja Parish, “Gender-Based Violence against Women: Both Cause for Migration and Risk along the Journey” (Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2017).
    1. Rebecca Eapen et al., “Initial Assessment Report: Protection

Risks for Women and Girls in the European Refugee and Migrant Crisis” (Washington, DC: UNHCR, UNFPA, Women’s Refugee Commission, 2015).

  • Joshua Rogers et al., “Security Barriers to Women’s Public Participation in the Middle East,” (London: Saferworld, November 11, 2013).
    • OHCHR, “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” (n.d.), retrieved November 8, 2017, IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx.
    • “Dozens of Eritrean and Nigerian for Islamic State Captives Freed in Libya,” Reuters (April 5, 2017).
    • Damon, “I Had to Marry an ISIS Police Chief.”
    • OHCHR, “Independent International Commission of Inquiry.”
    • Buecher and Aniyamuzaala, “Women, Work & War.”
    • Rex Tillerson, “Remarks for the Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria,” US State Department, January 17, 2018.

By Gabrielle Bardall, Ph.D. and Emily Myers

Although the American policy community views the Women, Peace, and Security Act and the  International Violence against Women Act of 2017 as addressing all the myriad problems women face in conflict, these laws do not adequately deal with the particular and pervasive problem of violence against women in politics, nor has the legislation been interpreted as covering it.


hose who commit violence against women in politics (VAWP) seek to control and restrict women’s participation in political processes and institutions on the basis of their gender through emotional,

social, or economic force; coercion; pressure; or physical and sexual harm.1 This violence exists worldwide and is a significant barrier to women’s political participation.

During the 2017 Kenyan elections, Human Rights Watch found that dozens of women were raped by police officers and men in uniform, and still others experienced sexual violence at the hands of civilians.2 Female protesters have been raped or subjected to sexual aggression in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, and other places.3 Zimbabwean women have reported being forced into genital mutilation in response to their political involvement.4

In 2015, women in some provinces of Pakistan were barred from voting by traditional councils and “baton-wielding men” at polling stations.5 In Afghanistan in 2004, a busload of female poll workers was blown up.6 From Kosovo to Canada to Rwanda and the United Kingdom, women report receiving direct threats of physical harm via social media.7 Social media is used to attack women around the world, causing fear and deep shame. In Haiti, Tunisia, Canada, and elsewhere, female parliamentarians and staffers report that other elected MPs and their staff have sexually assaulted them.

Violence against women in politics is integrally connected to the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda because it inhibits women from participating in democratic transitions and consolidation, and lack of women’s participation undermines electoral integrity, sustainable democracy, and peace. Women’s leadership in conflict prevention, management, and resolution and in postconflict relief and recovery efforts does not end with the signing of a peace treaty. Democratization processes are equally vital for achieving WPS objectives.

While international actors, including the United States, increasingly recognize VAWP as a serious impediment to women’s political participation, US lawmakers have yet to formally recognize the issue or respond with policy commensurate with the scope of the issue. Preventing and responding to VAWP will require resources, policies, legislation, and training that address the factors that underpin this violence and prioritize it as a threat to human rights, peace, and security.

Barriers to Women’s Participation

Systematic, persistent gender-based violence in politics precludes peace. VAWP impedes women’s full participation in civic life, undercuts the credibility of political systems, and cements and aggravates existing gender inequities. As such, it threatens the security of the state by contributing to a less democratic, less equal, less peaceful society.

VAWP does not occur in a vacuum; it reflects existing gender inequalities and power dynamics in a society. Where women fear or experience violent retribution for exercising their political agency, there is no equal access to rights and opportunities. Disparity between the treatment of men and women is a marker of a political climate ripe for further conflict. Conversely, inter- and intrastate conflict is likely to fall as gender equality rises.8 Furthermore, the likelihood of civil war decreases when a greater proportion of a country’s politicians are female, as does use of violence in the face of an international crisis and state-perpetrated human rights abuses. Inclusive political institutions are foundational to peace and security.

In the aftermath of conflict, elections can play a critical role in building such institutions.9 Elections often mark the transition from war to peace and a step toward demilitarizing politics and fostering participatory governance.10  Yet they also can aggravate divides and trigger political violence in fragile postconflict societies.

In fundamentally patriarchal political systems threatened with change, women become targets of violence because of their commitment to vote, their position as electoral officials, or their ambitions for political office. Women running for office, or otherwise exercising their political rights, question established power norms and claim influence men believe to be theirs.

Such violence poses an immense barrier to women’s involvement: Over 60 percent of women in India, Nepal, and Pakistan reported that fear of violence precludes them from participating in politics.11 Across 29 countries, women indicated “cultural beliefs/social attitudes/patriarchal mentality” as the chief impediment to their political participation.12

In their legislative and policy responses to gender-based violence in conflict, international bodies and national governments have so far focused on women’s participation in peace negotiations and political processes during conflict and in the immediate aftermath of conflict. Ignoring the reality of ongoing violence in the political sphere is a dangerous oversight. As the memory and international scrutiny of conflict fades, men often reassert control over democratic institutions, reinstituting the policies and practices that triggered conflict and frequently achieving and maintaining dominance through VAWP.

Long-term peace encompassing postconflict transformation necessitates an inclusive, participatory political space. Such a space cannot exist without women’s ability to enter, contribute to, and help shape it.

Violence against women in political and public life (including electoral violence) exists around the world, although it varies significantly in severity and form across and within regions. It may take place in the public sphere or in private, including within the family and the general community, it may occur online or through the media, and it government actors may perpetrate or condone it.13

Women are often singled out for political violence and systematic harassment when they seek to vote independent of male influence. 14 Likewise, data show that elected female civic leaders and other women in public life face severe and varied forms of violent repression that may be ignored or viewed as “politics as usual” instead of as gender-specific violence.15 Such violence impedes the ability of women to exercise their rights as voters, candidates, and citizens.

Victims and Forms of Violence

The victims of gender-based violence in elections and politics include the following:16

  • political actors such as candidates, elected officials, political aspirants (i.e., those seeking nomination), party members, supporters, and staffers;
  • electoral management body staff and poll workers, police and security forces, state administrators, and civil servants;
  • professionals such as journalists, civic educators, civil and labor activists, and community leaders; and
  • private citizens and voters, including minors.

This violence takes many forms, including physical, sexual, social-psychological, and economic. Physical attacks and rape against politically and civically engaged women are recorded on all continents. Yet the vast majority of documented incidents are nonphysical threats such as intimidation and sexual harassment that can sometimes leading to physical assault and death. Repeated online expression targeted at a woman because of her political or public role that causes her substantial emotional distress or fear of bodily harm is also a form of VAWP, and it can include mobilizing social media to terrorize, disseminate defamatory or pornographic images or videos, impersonate, invade privacy, or engage in distributeddenial-of-service attacks.17

Locations and Prevalence

VAWP occurs in the street, at political party headquarters, and churches, as well as in homes and offices. It occurs in between intimate partners and family members as well as in public virtual spaces such as television, blogs, internet media, chatrooms, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.18 It may appear in private virtual spaces such as personal email, messaging, texting, WhatsApp, Viber, and in cellular and landline connections. Violence occurring online includes aggressive, abusive and harassing psychological violence as well as incitation to commit physical or sexual violence. A 2016 survey of 55 women parliamentarians from 39 countries found that 81.8 percent of respondents had been subjected to one or more acts of psychological violence, 21.8 percent had been subjected to one or more acts of sexual violence, 25.5 percent had experienced one or more acts of physical violence, and 32.7 percent had experienced one or more acts of economic violence (e.g., being denied funds that an individual is entitled to during their term of office or political campaign; being denied other resources an individual is entitled to in connection with their political office or campaign (offices, computers, staff, salary); harm or threats to harm a business, termination, or threat of termination of employment; or other threats or theft related to one’s livelihood).19

Perpetrators and Motivations

Perpetrators of this violence include both men and women from various groups:20

  • institutional actors (state security, police, armed forces), government institutions (executive, judicial and legislative actors), electoral agents (poll workers, electoral management staff, electoral security agents), and state proxies (militia, gangs, insurgents, mercenaries, private security) who may employ gendered forms of violence (rape, virginity tests, sexual assault) in cases where they engage in repressive tactics in the course of an electoral process or in a political scope;
  • nonstate political actors (candidates, party leaders, interparty and intraparty members, paramilitary, party militia, nonstate armed actors) who frequently target politically active women in order to gain electoral advantage, reduce competition, or simply punish women for venturing into a male-dominated space; and
  • societal actors (journalists/media, voters, community members or groups, religious leaders, traditional leaders, employers, criminal actors, intimate partners or spouses, family members, electoral observers, youth groups) who commit both physical attacks and severe psychological censure, humiliation, and affronts against all classes of women who seek to exert independent, free will in the exercise of their civic and political rights.

International Efforts to Protect Women in Politics

Many international donors, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations have worked specifically on VAWP in recent years: UN Women, UNDP, International

IDEA, ParlAmericas, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Organization of American States, the InterParliamentary Union, and the Commonwealth.

At the international level, the rights of women to participate in political and public office, as well as live a life free from violence, are established in comprehensive normative frameworks established by UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council resolutions. The adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015 (A/RES/70/1) provides further impetus for states to address and combat gender discrimination and violence against women and to ensure women can fully realize their political rights. In 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, will prepare and submit a thematic report to the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in September 2018 on VAWP.

Women’s activism has spurred global awareness of the problem. Civil society women’s groups have proposed and helped implement four key actions: targeted legislation, policy responses such as training for electoral security providers, service provision, and awareness raising.

  1. Legislation. Some countries have passed or drafted legislation to address violence against women in political and public life, including Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. With the backing of the Union of Parliamentary Women of Bolivia (UMPABOL) and women’s nongovernmental advocacy groups, Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly approved the groundbreaking Law against

Harassment and Political Violence against Women on 14 May 2012 to protect women and their political participation. The law seeks to “defend and guarantee the enjoyment of political rights by female candidates—incumbent and elected—and to guarantee a legal framework and set penalties for individual and collective harassment and political violence.”21 The Bolivian law establishes penalties for perpetrators of acts of political harassment and violence against women candidates and elected and acting officials, including administrative, civil, and criminal measures, and may temporarily or permanently bar offenders from public office.

  • Policy Responses. Civic activism and awareness has, for example, contributed to specific training for electoral security providers on VAWP in Sri Lanka and the creation of women’s situation rooms in multiple African countries.

These situation rooms bring together women, youths, media, political and governmental stakeholders, professionals, and religious and traditional personalities to ensure transparent, peaceful electoral processes through peace advocacy, intervention, coordination, political analysis, observation, and documentation.

  • Service Provision. Shelters and emergency hospital support have been offered in some extreme cases, as in Kenya.22 However, the needs of female targets of political violence typically differ from those that are common to survivors of domestic violence. Programs to support access to justice, including overcoming the challenges of documenting evidence and bringing perpetrators to justice, are under way in Zimbabwe.23 Other forms of service include direct assistance and bystander intervention for cases of VAWP (including online threats).
  • Awareness Raising. Women have made long strides toward awareness of the issue worldwide, including through national and global campaigns driven by domestic civil society groups on every continent and international nonprofits and organizations. The issue has been raised through decentralized, organic movements as well, most notably the #MeToo movement, which stimulated discussion in national and subnational legislatures in the US, France, and Canada. Some awareness-raising activities focus on men and boys.24

US Engagement

The United States has highlighted VAWP in policy spaces and dialogues and has supported programs to provide services and technical support, but it has failed to implement policy or legislative responses that recognize, mitigate, and prevent this violence.

Members of Congress have addressed the issue explicitly in a bipartisan briefing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in 2017 and in remarks at international fora. 25

The State Department’s Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations’ Election Violence Assessment Framework situates gendered analysis of electoral violence into their actor analysis of potential perpetrators and victims. The State Department’s Future Leaders Exchange Program hosted a dialogue with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative on the topic. 26

The Carter Center’s USAID-funded international observation mission to Kenya in 2017 collected relevant data. USAID has also funded  research by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to produce “Violence against Women in Elections: A Framework for Assessment, Monitoring, and Response” and research on the effects of electoral violence on women, including a case study of Bangladesh.27 USAID’s Best Practices in Electoral Security recognizes the special vulnerabilities to violence faced by women in elections, acknowledges women’s protection and equality legislation as a best practice for preventing electoral conflict, and encourages gendered monitoring of elections.28 The National Democratic Institute has received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy to work on VAWP.

Since 2011, USAID has funded research and activities to prevent and mitigate violence against women in politics and specifically in elections through country-level democracy and governance programs. Such projects included work in Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Sri  Lanka and Zimbabwe as well as global research.29 In 2017, USAID allocated a global technical leadership award to explore violence against women in elections online in social media.

Despite this US government engagement, violence against women in political and public life has not been formally recognized or defined in US policy. To ensure US foreign policy is best equipped to promote peace and security, the government must implement VAWP-specific policy and interpret existing legislation to cover women’s engagement in politics.

Links to Existing US Legislation

The United States has long championed the notion that peace requires the full engagement, participation, and equality of women. In 2017, Congress affirmed US leadership on this issue by passing the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, a piece of bipartisan legislation requiring the US government to increase and strengthen women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention. The act builds on the principles of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (US NAP), put forth in 2011 and revised in 2016.

Prevention of and response to VAWP is integral to continued US leadership on women, peace, and security, to the resolutions made under the NAP, and to the current administration’s legal obligations under the 2017 legislation.

The NAP enshrines the US government’s firm commitment to undertake the following actions:

  • promote and strengthen women’s rights, leadership, and meaningful participation in all aspects of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, including transitional processes and decision-making institutions;
  • protect women from all forms of violence, in recognition that gender-based violence not only violates the rights of its victims, but also jeopardizes the security and prosperity of nations by subverting women’s participation in civic

and political life; and

  • promote women’s roles in preventing conflict, mass atrocities, and violent extremism.

The WPS Act reaffirms, deepens, and legally requires action on the principles expressed in the NAP. It states that “the political participation and leadership of women in fragile environments, particularly during democratic transitions, is critical to sustaining lasting democratic institutions.” Furthermore, the act sets out concrete policy objectives for the realization of the WPS agenda, obligating the US government to do the following:

  • encourage partner governments to adopt strategies for ensuring the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and decision-making institutions;
  • promote the physical safety, economic security, and dignity of women and girls;
  • adapt policies and programs to achieve better outcomes in gender equality and women’s empowerment; and
  • undertake gendered data collection and analysis to improve early warning systems of conflict and violence.


The WPS Act calls for a national strategy on WPS and legally obligates the current administration to satisfy the policy objectives outlined within it. The United States should establish itself as a global leader in promoting the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of democratic participation, including by seeking the elimination of VAWP. In view of WPS Act obligations and to ensure that VAWP is fully addressed, we recommend five key actions:

  1. Prioritize the prevention of and response to VAWP in US foreign policy by integrating it into key policies:
    1. recognize and develop a strategy to mitigate the distinct impact of postconflict/peacetime political violence on women and the harmful consequences of such violence for democracy and development in key documents informing US foreign policy, including the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy;
    1. outline specific provisions on prevention and response to VAWP in the national strategy on WPS required by the WPS Act of 2017;
    1. integrate VAWP into any existing, relevant strategic plans of the Department of State or USAID;
    1. institute a policy to support monitoring all aspects of women’s participation in public and political life, including rates of VAWP;
    1. encourage all US-funded programs in the areas of democracy and governance, peace and security, and women’s empowerment to establish guidelines for addressing VAWP, identify country-specific risks, and adopt effective measures to prevent and mitigate it; and
    1. ensure that appropriate personnel of the Department of State and USAID receive training and awareness of VAWP that encompasses the nature and impact of VAWP and policy responses to it.
  2. Introduce targeted legislation that would do the following:
    1. guarantee the ability of women to participate on equal terms in public functions and at all levels of government and public decision-making processes in order to ensure the full realization of women’s political rights;
    1. recognize and define VAWP as a violation of human rights, and establish as a policy of the United States the promotion of women’s meaningful participation in all aspects of democratic life by taking effective action to prevent and mitigate VAWP, including through diplomatic efforts and programs;
    1. ensure that Department of State and USAID adopt coordinated global and mission-level plans of action to prevent and mitigate VAWP, and establish guidelines and reporting requirements for relevant contractors and aid recipients;
    1. implement a government action plan through technical assistance, training, or data support for relevant actors;
    1. report to Congress on progress against program-specific objectives of the national strategy in electoral management, political party support, good governance, associative life, and the media.
  3. Dedicate adequate resources to preventing VAWP and protecting women against it:
    1. Fully fund actions to prevent and mitigate VAWP across US government activity areas and under targeted legislation, as described above;
    1. allocate additional funding to monitor and collect data on women’s participation in public and political life, including data on VAWP;
    1. adopt the UN target of committing 15 percent of peacekeeping and security assistance to promoting women’s participation and protection. Protect existing funds for gender-focused foreign assistance and seek opportunities to fund programs that address the causes underpinning VAWP, including legal provisions that limit women’s political participation and access to justice, societal norms that create hostility toward women’s voices, structural barriers that make it more difficult for women to exercise their political rights, and the lack of women’s inclusion in designing and negotiating postconflict transformation processes, including elections.
  4. Systematically integrate and coordinate VAWP prevention and mitigation efforts into foreign assistance programs, including diplomatic efforts and development programs that do the following:
    1. recognize the distinct impact of postconflict/peacetime political violence on women and the harmful consequences of such violence for democracy and development;
    1. address the causes underpinning VAWP through multisectoral, country-specific, culturally adapted approaches, including legal provisions that limit women’s political participation and access to justice, societal norms that create hostility to women, structural barriers that hinder women from exercising their political rights, and the lack of women’s inclusion in designing and negotiating postconflict transformation processes, including elections;
    1. promote the safety of women in political and public life and end impunity for criminal forms of VAWP, including systematic harassment, discrimination, and online abuse;
    1. encourage governments to enhance gender equality through measures to prevent and mitigate VAWP, including national legislation with clear designations of responsibility for implementation and compliance;
    1. consult and collaborate with a wide variety of local nongovernmental partners with experience in promoting inclusive democracy and in preventing or mitigating violence against women, including women-led organizations and faith-based organizations;
    1. engage with men and boys as partners in the effort to reduce VAWP on a sustainable basis; and
    1. exert sustained international leadership to prevent or mitigate VAWP, including in bilateral and multilateral fora.
  5. Ensure gendered monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of US foreign policy and legislation:
    1. outline and define gender-disaggregated M&E indicators on prevention and response to VAWP in the national strategy on WPS, in targeted legislation, and in foreign assistance programs;
    1. collect and analyze gender-disaggregated data on the prevalence and impacts of VAWP for the purpose of developing and enhancing responses to prevent or mitigate it;
    1. provide and advocate for adequate resources for monitoring all aspects of women’s electoral and political participation, including VAWP, in US-funded international and domestic election observation missions;
    1. monitor, analyze, and evaluate social institutions that will actualize these programs—governments, social sectors, education, labor—for gender bias;

About the Authors

Dr. Gabrielle Bardall is the Senior Gender Specialist at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and a Research Fellow with the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS). She holds degrees from McGill University (B.A), the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (M.A.) and the Université de Montréal (Ph.D.).

Emily Myers is a Research Associate and former Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Alliance for Peacebuilding. She holds a BA in Political Science from Union College.


  1. Gabrielle Bardall, “Violence, Politics, and Gender,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  2. “ ‘They Were Men in Uniform’: Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Kenya’s 2017 Elections,” (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2017).
  3. Guinea: September 28 Massacre Was Premeditated,” (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2009); “Côte d’Ivoire: Crimes against Humanity by Gbagbo Forces” (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2011); Zimbabwe Research and Advocacy Unit, “Politically Motivated Violence against Women in Zimbabwe,” blog, May 18, 2017; Amnesty International, “ ‘Virginity Tests’ for Egyptian Women Protesters,” webpage,
  4. Research and Advocacy Unit. Zimbabwe.
  5. Jon Boone, “Women Barred from Voting in Parts of Pakistan,” The Guardian (May 29, 2015).
  6. Carlotta Gall, “Blast Kills 2 Afghan Women on Election Workers’ Bus,” New York Times (June 27, 2004).
  7. Gabrielle Bardall, “The Role of Information and Communication Technologies in Facilitating and Resisting Gendered Forms of Political Violence,” in Marie Segrave and Laura Vitis, eds., Gender, Technology and Violence 31 (Milton Park, UK: Taylor & Francis, 2017); Gabrielle Bardall, “Gender Specific Election Violence: The Role of Information and Communication Technologies,” Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2, no. 3 (2013): 1–11.
  8. Marie O’Reilly, “Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies” (Washington, DC: Institute for Inclusive Security, 2015).
  9. Kristine Hoglund, “Electoral Violence in Conflict-Ridden Societies: Concepts, Causes, and Consequences,” Uppsala University, 2010.
  10. Annette M. Fath-Lihic and Dawn Brancati, “Elections & Peacebuilding,” Electoral Integrity Initiative (Geneva: Kofi Annan Foundation, 2017).
  11. “Violence against Women in Politics: A Study Conducted in India, Nepal, and Pakistan” (New York: UN Women, 2014).
  1. “Global Survey of Women’s Organizations” (Arlington, VA: International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 2012).
  2. Ibid., and Gabrielle Bardall, “Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence,” IFES White Paper (Arlington, VA: International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 2011).
  3. Bardall, “Breaking the Mold”; Bardall, “Violence, Politics, and

Gender”; Mona Lena Krook, “Violence against Women in Politics,” Journal of Democracy 28, no. 1 (2017): 74–88; “Sexism, Harassment, and Violence against Women Parliamentarians,” IPU Issues Brief (Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2016); “#NottheCost: Stopping

Violence against Women in Politics,” webpage (Washington, DC: Na-

  1. IPU, “Sexism, Harassment, and Violence.” Bardall 2011.
  2. Ibid IPU.
  3. Elizabeth Salguero Carrillo, “Political Violence Against Women.” The World of Parliaments.
  4. “Kenyans Say ‘We Are #BetterThanThis’: Aiming to Support Women’s Participation in Elections” (Arlington, VA : International Foundation for Electoral Systems, July 19, 2017).
  5. Contact the authors for further information on these programs.
tional Democratic Institute, 2016); Violence against Women in Election
  • Tazreen Hussain, “Male Allies for Leadership Equality: Learning from Nigeria’s Experience,” (Arlington, VA: IFES , March 15, 2016).

Framework (Arlington, VA: International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 2017); “Preventing Violence against Women in Elections: A Programming Guide” (New York: UN Women, UNDP,  2017).

  1. IPU, “Sexism, Harassment, and Violence”; NDI, “#NottheCost; UN Women, “Violence against Women in Politics.”
  2. Bardall, “Breaking the Mold”; Bardall, “Violence, Politics, and Gender”; Krook, “Violence against Women in Politics,”; NDI, “#NottheCost; IFES, “Framework.”
  3. Bardall, “Information and Communication Technologies”; Bardall, “Gender-Specific Election Violence.” 18. Bardall, “Gender-Specific Election Violence.”
  4. Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Ending Violence against Women in Politics, March 21, 2017, in Washington, DC.
  5. Woodrow Wilson Center, “The Role of Women in Political Leadership and the Violence That Hinders Progress,” YouTube video, May 30, 2014.
  6. IFES, “Framework.”
  7. Creative Associates and USAID, “Best Practices in Electoral Security: A Guide for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Programming” (Washington, DC: 2013).
  8. Bardall, “Breaking the Mold.” 2011.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this policy brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. CSWG as a whole or its individual members.

By Angelic Young

Passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 represents an important opportunity for the United States to make Women, Peace, and Security a vital part of its foreign policy strategy. The act mandates creation

of a government wide strategy to increase participation of women in U.S. peacekeeping and security operations, within one year of the enactment of the law.  A key part of these operations are programs to train foreign military and other security forces in law enforcement, rule of law, and professional military education. Most of these programs are considered security assistance.

U.S. security assistance, which includes military aid, amounts to nearly $17 billion annually. This constitutes approximately one-third of the total U.S. foreign assistance budget, which constitutes about 1.3 percent of the overall budget.1The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (DOS) share responsibility for security assistance through a complex web of authorities and associated accounts that cover training and equipping foreign militaries, conducting counterterrorism and counter-narcotics operations, and strengthening the capacity of foreign law enforcement agencies to provide internal security and combat crime.

Over the last 17 years, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda emerged out of a series of UN Security Council resolutions, beginning with UNSCR 1325. This landmark resolution marked the first time the Security Council recognized that women and men experience conflict differently and that women have an integral role to play in conflict prevention, resolution, and recovery. It urged international actors to increase women’s participation in peace and

security processes and incorporate gender perspectives into all conflict-related efforts. Nearly 70 countries have adopted national strategies to implement UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions considered to be part of the WPS “suite”. Despite progress, however, governments have devoted scant resources to the WPS agenda, including in the United States.

This policy brief examines U.S. security assistance accounts aimed at security sector capacity building in order to determine whether the current U.S. strategy for security assistance aligns with U.S. obligations outlined in its National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. NAP).2 It finds that the biggest gaps the U.S. faces in meeting its obligations under the NAP occur in countries receiving the largest amounts of security assistance.

National Action Plan Commitments

The U.S. NAP commits the U.S. government, including DOS and DOD, to more than a dozen distinct strategic- and operational-level actions intended to promote the inclusion of women in U.S. foreign policy, security, and military programs.3

This brief looks at four (emphasis added)4:

  1. Assist partner governments in improving the recruitment and retention of women, including minorities and other historically marginalized women, into government ministries and the incorporation of women’s perspectives in peace and security policy.
  2. Provide common guidelines and training to help partner nations integrate women and their perspectives into the security sectors and increase partner nation women’s participation in U.S.-funded training programs.
  3. Assist partner nations in building capacity to develop, implement, and enforce policies and military justice systems that promote and protect women’s rights.
  4. Support women’s participation in efforts to deradicalize men and women who have supported violent extremism, promote tolerance and pluralism in their communities, and advance stabilization and reconstruction activities.

Security Assistance and Cooperation

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, security assistance and security cooperation are not the same thing. Typically, security cooperation refers to all DOD interactions with foreign defense establishments (such as the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense) aimed at building relationships to promote U.S. interests, develop partner capacity, and increase U.S. ties to its allies.5 Generally speaking, DOD considers all activities listed under Title 10 of the U.S.

Code to be security cooperation. The Congressional Research Service estimates that DOD has more than 80 authorities to engage in security cooperation.6

Security assistance refers to a specific set of programs, some of which are appropriated to DOD, some to DOS, and both play roles administering:7 such as the following8:

  • Through the International Military Education and

Training program (IMET), DOD provides professional education to foreign officials (typically military, but sometimes other security officials).

  • Because peacekeeping operations (PKO) are provided as voluntary support for peacekeeping activities, they are considered as separate and distinct from regular U.S. contributions to the United Nations. Funds for PKO are used for security, though not necessarily for military purposes. For example, DOS has deployed police advisors to the UN Mission in South Sudan to support training  and advisory operations.
  • DOS uses International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Control (INCLE) to build the capacity of foreign law enforcement organizations.
  • The 1206 Global Train and Equip fund is a relatively new account, established in the aftermath of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to build partner capacity for timesensitive “new and emerging” counterterrorist operations or to enable partners to support military and stability operations in which U.S. armed forces are a participant.
  • Special military authorities include the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF), Iraq Security Forces

Fund (ISFF), Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF), and other country-specific train and equip authorities. These funds convey broad powers to DOD to build the capacity of nonmilitary security entities such as the Afghanistan Ministry of Interior, which includes the Afghanistan National Police.9

Security Assistance and the WPS Agenda

Evidence tells us that women can prevent violence, provide security, moderate extremism, bridge divides, strengthen peacekeeping, broaden societal participation, promote dialogue, and build trust.10 Gender equality is a better indicator of a state’s peacefulness than democracy, religion, or GDP.11 As the percentage of women in parliament increases, a state becomes less likely to use violence when faced with an international crisis.12 A peace agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in its creation.13 WPS is not only an agenda—Women, Peace, and Security are inextricably linked.

Excluding women, ethnic or religious minorities, and other disadvantaged groups from access and providing input to the security sector creates distance between security actors and local populations. But where women, ethnic or religious minorities, and other disadvantaged groups do have access and do provide input to the security sector, countries can strengthen relationships within communities that are vital to the long-term success of peace and stability operations. 

Establishing a more inclusive security sector breaks down into three objectives:

  1. Increasing the number of women participating directly (e.g., overcoming recruitment, selection, and advancement biases in security institutions);
  2. Expanding women’s access to mechanisms through which they can provide meaningful input to security sector decisions (e.g., overcoming barriers to access and combatting actual or perceived bias in the value of information provided by women); and
  3. Increasing the responsiveness of the security sector to women (e.g., ensuring security actors meet the needs of women by overcoming gaps in awareness, information,  and training).

Security assistance–related programs provide significant opportunities to engage women more fully. For example, capacity-building programs can overcome barriers to recruitment, selection, and advancement for women in security institutions. Professional training (e.g., advanced military education) can overcome actual or perceived biases about the value and contributions of women or the lack of information and awareness about the needs of women.  Broader reform programs can be leveraged to expand and improve mechanisms that would give women (and other disadvantaged populations) access and input to decisions  about security in their communities. Relationships can be leveraged to promote the inclusion of women.

Security assistance is a substantial component of the foreign aid the U.S. government provides and an essential element of influence in its relationships with many countries around the world. It is thus a vital tool for strategically advancing the women, peace, and security agenda.

Gaps in Women’s Participation

Security Assistance by Account (in billions)

ASFF 3.4

CSF 1.4

••••••• •       FMF 5.7


CTP 1.4 $1

CN (DOD) $1

Iraq T&E $0.63

NADR $0.67

Security Assistance by Country (in billions)

••••••      Afghanistan $3.0

Iraq $0.8

Pakistan $0.3

Syria $0.3

Colombia $0.2

Lebanon $0.1

Most of the money the U.S. government spends on security assistance goes to just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq,

Pakistan, Syria, Colombia, and Lebanon. 14 

Unfortunately, there is little data publicly available on the degree to which IMET, PKO, 1206 Global Train and Equip, or other security assistance programs support women’s participation in the security sector. Nor is there genderdisaggregated data to show how many of these programs’ beneficiaries are male versus female. None of the publicly available reports on 1206 Global Train and Equip, for example, even mention women or gender.

Afghanistan is the one significant exception: The ASFF supports U.S. NAP objectives. Both the FY2016 and 2017 National Defense Authorization Acts included up to $25 million to be used to support the recruitment, integration, retention, training, and fair treatment of women in the Afghan national defense and security forces. Further, DOD states that “the development of credible, legitimate, and professional Afghan security forces requires the promotion and implementation of equal human rights for men and women.”15

In contrast, there is no indication that U.S. programs in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, or Colombia targeted women’s participation in the security sector in the last three fiscal years. In Lebanon, just three activities in 2015 and one in 2014 supported women’s participation.16 In fact, aside from Afghanistan and Lebanon, there are only a handful of countries where more than three WPS activities took place in the last three years: Brazil, Bulgaria, Kenya, Mozambique, and South Sudan.

It is not a matter of finding space within a country budget. Bulgaria and Kenya receive less than $10 million in security assistance; Brazil and Mozambique receive less than $1 million. Only South Sudan, which receives $40 million, even comes close to the level of security assistance provided to the top six countries listed above. The United States has clearly managed to prioritize WPS within relatively small budgets.17

What the existing data reveal is that in countries where the U.S. government spends the most on security assistance it spends the least on training and capacity building to promote the participation of women or the integration of gender perspectives into security sector institutions (excepting Afghanistan and Lebanon).

Five out of six of the countries that receive the most U.S. security assistance have some of the world’s worst gender gaps. The World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap report ranks Pakistan and Syria as the second and third most unequal countries in the world, with Lebanon trailing not far behind.18 The OECD Social and Gender Institutions Index lists Afghanistan and Iraq as high offenders (on a scale of very low to very high) in gender-based social discrimination. All six countries suffer from a lack of women’s participation in the security sector. Women constitute less than 1 percent of security forces (military and police) in each country save Colombia, where women constitute 9 percent of the military and only 1 percent of police.

Often, the argument is made that it is too difficult to implement programs in places where the gender gap is so large. Yet successes in Lebanon and Afghanistan demonstrate the contrary. It is hard, but not impossible, and the significant progress made in both countries exemplifies the impact that the United States could make globally.

What Leadership in WPS Requires

The United States has tremendous leverage to bring to bear in raising the profile of women in security decisions and activities. When it fails to implement the NAP in countries at the forefront of its national security agenda, it signals to the world that it is not truly committed to the WPS agenda.

The U.S. is missing an enormous opportunity. Taking its obligations under the NAP and the WPS Act seriously and integrating its objectives in all aspects of its security assistance will not necessarily require more funding, but it does require making wiser use of existing resources and the leverage they buy.

Addressing ongoing challenges with data collection—or lack thereof—is a key part of the wise use of security assistance dollars. The website is meant to be a repository of budget and performance for all agencies that implement foreign aid. Unfortunately, the vast majority of gender-disaggregated indicators were added only in the last two years, so data on these activities are not yet available. Better tracking of performance data will help us better understand the actual depth of the gap and how best to address it. There may be hidden successes—or additional challenges that analysts have yet to uncover.

For example, there are known activities related to WPS that have taken place but are not yet tracked in the database. Of these, the most promising is the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity catalog, which lists available courses on topics related to various aspects of Women, Peace, and Security—meaning they could be part of an IMET, PKO, or another similar program. For example:

  • The “Women’s Integration in the Armed Forces” course was delivered in Lebanon in 2015 and 2016. The catalog says the course aims to “assist countries all over the world to develop and implement gender policies, in particular, policies aimed at improving or enhancing the representation of and the prospects for women in the military—including women in defense, women in uniform, women in combat.”19
  • PKO funds were used to provide gender protection courses at the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units in FY2015. DOS’s Political-Military Bureau highlighted women, peace, and security as an essential component of their Global Peace Operations Initiative, which has trained more than 6,500 female peacekeepers and resulted in increasing deployment of female military peacekeepers by

62 percent and police peacekeepers by 75 percent.20

  • In Lebanon, DOS’s Bureau of International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement provides basic and specialized training for the Lebanese internal security forces, supporting an increase in the number of women on the force from 2 to 610.

Nonetheless, it is clear that for countries receiving the bulk of U.S. security assistance, few if any such activities exist.


How can the United States close the gap between what the NAP and the WPS Act promise and what actual spending and programming say about U.S. priorities?

  1. Data: Improve data collection and information sharing. It should be easier than it currently is to determine the number of women who have received U.S.-funded training or other assistance. Otherwise, a goal to “increase the number of women” means little. Gender-disaggregated data should be available, at a minimum, for all courses conducted using IMET, PKO, INCLE, and train and equip (e.g., ASFF, ISFF) funds. That data would help further shape the following recommendations.
  2. Strategy: Include language illustrating direct connections between security assistance and U.S. NAP goals in all strategic planning documents, including the following:
  3. Integrated country strategies connect U.S. foreign assistance activities for individual partner nations to U.S. national security priorities and security sector assistance objectives.21 These strategy documents already include language on gender considerations as a matter of practice. But they should also include specific references to U.S. NAP objectives and targets as they relate to country priorities.
  4. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s strategic plans

(currently Vision 2020), as well as its Security Assistance Management Manual (SAMM), guides DOD components on how to implement security cooperation programs. The SAMM should explicitly reference the U.S. NAP and guide users through conducting a gender analysis before implementing a security cooperation program.

  • Such an analysis need not be complicated. It can be as simple as asking whether there are women in the security forces, how the security of local women could be affected positively or negatively by the assistance, and whether the country would benefit from a targeted gender initiative.
  • Theater Security Cooperation Plans and Country Security Cooperation Plans, when developed by geographic combatant commanders should be in consultation with the State Department’s country teams and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Strategic Planning and Integration Division.
    • Together with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Joint Staff should review commanders’ campaign plans to ensure security cooperation planning guidance on women’s integration has been followed.
  • All strategic planning documents (including but not limited to those referenced above) should emphasize consulting women in the target countries—particularly those in civil society organizations—to ensure that activities reflect unique priorities, are not duplicative, and are optimally designed so they may be implemented effectively.

3. Training and Education: Expand the use of training programs that provide “how to” guidance on recruiting, retaining, and integrating women into government ministries and incorporating women’s perspectives in peace and security policy. Specifically, DOS and DOD should work together on the following:

  • Take stock of existing security assistance training and education curriculum, and evaluate successful interventions to develop or refine courses on women’s integration.
  • Compile a list of best practices, lessons learned, and resources for implementers/practitioners. Include contributions from civil society.
  • Require any partner nation that receives U.S. security assistance (including but not limited to IMET, PKO, INCLE, ASFF, and 1206) to participate in at least one course on women’s integration into security policy and sectors. (Level and type of participation matters. These courses should be delivered to entry-, mid-, and senior-level staff—and not solely to representatives of units explicitly focused on  gender issues.)
  • Require the composition of partner nation training delegations to reflect, at a minimum, the gender balance of the partner nation’s security force. Given that the objective of the U.S. NAP is to increase women’s participation, this requirement should be clearly treated as a minimum. For example, if women constitute 7 percent of police in one country, they should constitute at least 7 percent of all  U.S.-sponsored police trainings, conferences, or workshops. If women constitute 9 percent of military forces, they should make up at least 9 percent of all beneficiaries of military training. If a partner nation nominates an all-male delegation, the operating guidance should be to reject the nomination.
  • Elucidate commitments to increasing women’s participation in formal agreements with partner nations, such as letters of agreements, memorandums of understanding, or similar mechanisms. Handbooks including guidelines for the use of foreign assistance or DOD counterparts (e.g., the Defense Security Cooperation Agency manual series, for example) should explicitly reference the U.S. NAP and make clear that security assistance can and should be used to fulfill those commitments.

4. Authorization bill language and funding: Collaborate to develop integrated language in the appropriations bills for State, Foreign Operations, and Regulated Programs (SFOPS) and DOD that explicitly describes how NAP commitments will be resourced and implemented in key programs:

  • FMF, IMET, and PKO;
  • INCLE, NADR and ESF;
  • Global train and equip; and
  • Programs that fall under defense trade and arms transfers; humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and mine action; international education and training, and defense institution building.


  1. Curt Tarnoff and Marian L. Lawson, Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy, (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, June 17, 2016), R40213.pdf.
  2. Rather than on accounts primarily for equipment and services. For example, the U.S. provides Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to partner nations as a grant (non-repayable) or direct loan (repayable) to purchase U.S. manufactured goods and services—this brief will not explore FMF.
  3. The first action is to integrate NAP objectives into appropriate strategic guidance and planning documents and to provide training for its US government personnel on WPS issues. This policy brief does not address the integration of NAP objectives since DOD is currently creating (or updating, where appropriate) DOD-specific guidance. (And DOS and USAID have already taken steps to fulfill this obligation.)
  4. This is not to suggest that any lines of action not covered in this brief are of lesser importance. There is a significant need for additional research and reporting on activities related to the provision of disaster relief and other humanitarian services, for example, but one policy brief cannot cover the breadth of all activities related to U.S. security assistance.
  5. DOD Directive 5132.03.
  6. Nina Serafino, Security Assistance and Cooperation: Shared Responsibility of the Departments of State and Defense, (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, August 23, 2016), https://fas. org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44444.pdf.
  7. For a more detailed discussion of the difference between security cooperation and assistance, see Management of Security Cooperation, chapter 1 (Defense Institute of Security Cooperation Studies, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 2017), http://www.iscs. 
  8. This is not an exhaustive list of authorities related to security assistance. See also Serafino, “Security Assistance and Cooperation.”
  9. DOD has on occasion transferred ASFF, ISFF and PCCF to DOS to enable DOS to implement specific activities.
  10. Marie O’Reilly, Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Society (Washington, DC: the Institute for Inclusive Security, October 2015).
  11. Valerie Hudson et al., Sex and World Peace (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); Mary Caprioli, “Gendered Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research 37, no. 1 (2000): 53–68; Mary Caprioli and Mark Boyer, “Gender, Violence, and International Crisis,” Journal of

Conflict Resolution 45 (August 2001): 503–18; Patrick M. Regan and

Aida Paskeviciute, “Women’s Access to Politics and Peaceful States,” Journal of Peace Research 40, no. 3 (2003): 287–302, cited in O’Reilly, Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Society, 4.

  1. Caprioli and Boyer, “Gender, Violence, and International Crisis,” 514, cited in O’Reilly, Why Women?, Inclusive Security and Peaceful Society, 4.
  2. Statistical analysis by Laurel Stone, in Marie O’Reilly, Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, and Thania Paffenholz, Reimagining Peacemaking:

Women’s Roles in Peace Processes, (New York: International Peace Institute, 2015,), 12–13, cited in O’Reilly, Why Women?, Inclusive Security and Peaceful Society, 6.

  1. This excludes countries that receive mostly or solely FMF.  Egypt, Israel, and Jordan all receive large amounts of support exclusively through FMF (though Jordan has historically received other kinds of support). Since FMF is used mostly to purchase equipment and services such as logistical support, it has been omitted from this brief.
  2. Unclassified Justification for FY2017 Overseas Contingency Operations Afghanistan Security Sector Forces Fund, http:// FY17_J-Book.
  3. The indicators now being tracked on related to women, peace, and security are relatively new. It is possible that additional activities have taken place but have not been tracked or have yet to be reported. Comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of NAP implementation and results is one of the gaps that still needs to address, though the addition of WPS-specific indicators, as well as several vital gender-disaggregated indicators, is a welcome signal of progress.
  4. More than half of the countries where the U.S. emphasizes women’s inclusion have a smaller gender gap than the U.S. does, and all except Lebanon rank in the middle or top third of countries. Women constitute 7 percent of police in Brazil, 6 percent in Bulgaria, 8 percent in Kenya, and 5 percent in Mozambique. Although there is insufficient evidence to establish a causal link between