Feminist leadership in disarmament: official recognition

women; disarmament; feminism

Feminist research has revealed significant relationships between militarization, patriarchy, and gender inequality, and that higher militarization being significantly correlated with higher gender inequality and lower level of female labor force participation rate, and as a result, women are most often viewed as victims and/or bystanders. Women have also always been on the forefront of disarmament efforts. However,  that is not reflected in decision making and policy making spaces. While there are numerous women-led organisations working towards peace and disarmament globally, this article will focus on the advancements that have been made in official resolutions and documents. 

It wasn’t until 1995 that women’s efforts for advancement in society was recognised officially in the UN system, where women from the Global South were at the frontline in the Fourth World Conference on Women, and integrated the perspective of women from the Global South in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), ensuring that the needs, potential and issues of women globally were duly incorporated. The Beijing declaration is known till today as the most progressive global blueprint for advancing women’s rights. 

On the 8th of December in the year 2010, the UN General Assembly formally dealt with the links between women and disarmament for the first time. It was during the general debate that the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad Bissessar, submitted the resolution on “Women, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation” (A/RES/65/69), which was adopted by the assembly. 

In January this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force, following the 50th state rectifying it in October last year. In support of the obvious but powerful assertion – that nuclear weapons are illegal and therefore states that possess them are in breach of international norm –  it re-emphasises the fundamental humanitarian threat that these weapons represent. For women, the Treaty is of special relevance as it sheds light on the disproportionate impact nuclear weapons have on women and girls. Moreover, it recognises that the equal, full and effective participation of both women and men is an essential factor for the promotion and attainment of sustainable peace and security and commits to supporting and strengthening the effective participation of women in nuclear disarmament.

The African Union’s theme for 2020 was “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”. Along the theme of the year, 2020 also coincided with the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which established a powerful normative framework to ensure women’s needs, voices and perspectives to prevent, resolve and recover from conflict and build sustainable peace. 

With the recent launch of the multi-generational advocacy campaign of “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future” by UN Women, this year marks inevitably an opportunity to bring at the fore-front women’s contribution on matters related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. 

While recognising the impact of militarisation on women, it’s important to note how women are active actors in disarmament efforts. Women’s participation needs to be seen beyond the original approach to gender-responsive arms control and disarmament measures that is structured around the four Women, Peace and Security (WPS) pillars of participation, prevention, protection, and relief and recovery. Looking at the advancements that have been made in the past decade, we now have a chance to assess the implications of the Resolutions in the Disarmament world and women’s representation in decision-making processes on matters related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. It also provides a chance to highlight the place of women in the disarmament narrative, especially with regards to the historical role of women from the Global South, recentering the debate and providing a new perspective on feminism and disarmament, and the work that they have been selflessly doing for decades. 

SCRAP Weapons will be hosting webinar series focusing on feminist leadership in disarmament. The panellists will be speaking about, for example, their experiences in entering and/or working in the field, their role in promoting, negotiating or implementing key treaties or movements, and their insight into the importance of enhancing women and feminist perspectives in global disarmament and peace-building discourses. The kick-off webinar will be taking place on 17th February at 2pm GMT, followed by biweekly webinars until 12th May.

Register here to attend the webinars. 

Rut Einarsdóttir is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and Operations Manager for SCRAP Weapons, a project for global disarmament in the CISD Department at SOAS, currently pursuing a MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development.

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