Women. Power. Peace.

Launch of Women, Peace, and Security Toolkit

Panel from the launch. From left to right: Kathleen Kuehnast, USIP; Julie Arostegui, WAND Women, Peace, and Security Policy Director; Stephenie Foster, State Department; Susan Markham, USAID; Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, ICAN

Panel from the launch. From left to right: Kathleen Kuehnast, USIP; Julie Arostegui, WAND Women, Peace, and Security Policy Director; Stephenie Foster, State Department; Susan Markham, USAID; Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, ICAN

by Pia Furkan, WAND DC Intern

On August 27, WAND, Women in International Security (WIIS), and the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) held an event to officially launch the toolkit entitled Women, Peace, and Security: Practical Guidance on Using Law to Empower Women in Post-Conflict Systems, authored by Julie Arostegui, WAND’s Women, Peace, and Security Policy Director.

The room was packed with a diverse audience including advocates, academics, federal agency representatives, military personnel, lawyers, and even an ambassador, all eager to hear from the panel that included Julie Arostegui;  Stephenie Foster, Senior Advisor of Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State; Susan Markham, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, Executive Director and co-founder of International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN); and moderator Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP).

I was interested as a young woman dedicated to the rights of women in her home country of Bangladesh, which was recently formed after a large-scale conflict. The toolkit is personal in nature because even though it focuses on the Great Lakes region in Africa, its recommendations are broadly applicable, and no matter our background or location, women can turn to it to use in their activism and daily lives.

Julie discussed the ideas behind the toolkit and what it covers, including case studies and work done on the ground in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan, and some of the recommendations that have come out of it to successfully incorporate principles of gender equality and women’s rights into constitutions, laws, and justice systems, and how to implement them on the ground.

One of the many inspiring points of the toolkit is its inception story. The idea started in Kathleen Kuehnast’s office at USIP with a conversation between Julie and Kathleen about how to put all of the international frameworks and principles in terms that everyone can understand and use in their work. We have the tools available, now we need to know how to use them. This conversation led to a project that produced this comprehensive toolkit on using law to empower women.

The panelists talked about their experiences and how the toolkit can be useful in their work. The State Department’s Stephenie Foster said that the toolkit helps us root the women, peace, and security agenda in people’s daily lives. ICAN’s Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, one of the drafters of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, emphasized that the resolution is based in the lived realities of women in conflict situations. As Sanam noted, activists do not work in a vacuum; they face real threats. Their work is critical because they create the social movements that are necessary to push for political action. The toolkit helps break down the 1325 framework for them and make it real. Susan Markham discussed working with women at the political level. She pointed out the need to involve women from the beginning in political and peace building processes so that they are embedded throughout the building and governing a nation. Otherwise, they will continue to be marginalized. The toolkit provides recommendations for doing that.

Another way that the toolkit works on the ground is by giving recommendations on working with communities, taking a holistic approach to the law by ensuring that principles are understood, supported, and implemented at local levels. It gives guidance on engaging communities in a way that allows for religious and cultural leaders and activists to work together. It also offers ways to integrate principles of gender equality and women’s rights into customs; in other words, it provides a way for communities to promote human rights in their own ways, in terms that they can understand.

At the end of the panel event, men and women stood in lines to speak to the panelists about their interests in the same type of work. Because of her dedication and hard work, Julie is directly contributing to improving the lives of women in the Great Lakes region of Africa and elsewhere. WAND is proud of Julie and her toolkit on using law to empower women.

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