10.21.2010

State of the World's Women

State of Women
10 years ago, the UN Security Council passed a resolution aimed at protecting women against rape and gender-based violence during war and to begin to use women in the peace-building process. 10 years have now gone by and the report of the initiative has finally came out, which examines the state of today's women. 

Conflicts today are not the same as 10 years ago - Rape as a systematic weapon of war has become increasingly popular among armed militant groups around the world, human trafficking is resulting in the abduction of millions of young girls and women every year, and even men and boys are beginning to be the victims of sexual violence and forced into war at young ages. Have things really gotten better?

Refugees and IDPs
Conflict almost always inevitably results in the forced fleeing of civilians from their homes and many times of the country entirely. Estimates say that there are currently around 40 million people who are considered Internally Displaced People (IDPs) or refugees in another country. Women account for 50% of the IDP population that is being protected by the UNHCR (more info...). Shockingly enough, 41% of refugees and asylum-seekers are children under 18 years of age. The areas around the world with the highest refugee population are South America and Africa's Great Lakes region (read more refugee statistics).

The report does show, however, that the prevalence of women in peacekeeping forces and involved in peacekeeping processes has grown steadily since resolution 1325 has passed.  At the end of 2006, there were 1,034 women in the uniformed ranks. In 2008 the number was 1,794, which isn't a huge growth, but at least it is a steady one. In 2009, women only comprised 7% of the UN police officers; however, a new global effort is trying to recruit more women into police forces so the number is 20% in five more years.
The report goes on to examine the role of women in armed conflicts, the use of child soldiers and the programs and steps that are needed to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society after the conflict, as well as examining the situation for women who live under occupation, like in the Palestinian territories. 

Women Now
10 years has passed now and, at least to me, the situation doesn't appear too much better for women in conflict zones - especially when not even two months ago, 300 women were raped just 20 miles outside of a  U.N. compound in the "Rape Capital of the World" - Democratic Republic of Congo. When events like that are occurring, I have a hard time believing this resolution is doing much good (read alertnet's analysis of the situation). 

The Future
So what about the next 10 years? A five-point agenda (how original!) was created in order to reach the goals for the next ten years:
1. End impunity
2. Protect and empower war-affected women and girls
3. Strengthen political commitment and leadership
4. Re-think rape as a tactic of war and terror (finally!)
5. Harmonize and amplify the response of the international community

The UN is also going to begin acting against sexual violence in conflict through country-level action, advocacy, and "learning by doing". Finally, they wish to still increase the number of women police officers and utilize women in the peace-keeping processes.
The next ten years will be interesting to watch and see how the effect on women in conflict changes. I really hope that rape will stop being used as a women of war, young girls will stop being abducted for sex slavery, and that children will cease to be dragged into armed conflicts at such young ages. But in order for all that to occur, the international community needs to be aware of whats going on and every nation needs to work towards peace through the initiatives that the UN has laid out. I look forward to being a part of this project when I graduate in four years - I hope I can do my small part with everyone else.
Source: UNFPA

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