Women, Peace & Power

Women, Peace & Power


Between 1990 and 2017, 92% of peace negotiators were men. Women, Peace & Power follows the stories of female activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens in Afghanistan, Liberia, and Northern Ireland as they try to influence peace talks against all odds.

While some of these peacebuilders use sit-ins and mass rallies to push for change, others win elections to negotiate at the peace table. All face challenges to their authority and legitimacy as they attempt to steer their countries away from war.

This 23-minute film can be used as a training tool for diplomats, policymakers, peacebuilders, and students of international affairs, to spark a discussion on the nexus of gender and security. Request a link to this free film here.

Download the accompanying discussion guide to learn more about women’s roles in peace processes, including a primer on women, peace, and security; ideas for taking action; and resources for learning more.  


Traditional approaches to resolving conflict are falling short in the face of increases in war, terrorism, and displacement over the past decade. But mounting evidence suggests that including women in peace and security processes could significantly reduce violence and advance peace.

From Northern Ireland to Liberia and beyond, where women influence peace negotiations, peace prevails against the odds. When women participate in creating a peace agreement, there is a 70% chance that peace will hold for 20 years, compared to a 25% chance otherwise. In addition, the agreement’s provisions prove more robust and are more likely to be implemented.

And yet, women still struggle to get a seat at the peace table, where the future of their societies is decided.

Women remain under-represented in peace talks. Source: Council on Foreign Relations, 2015-2018

Women—like men—play myriad roles in war and peace: from soldiers and politicians to peace activists and bystanders. But they are typically under-represented among the warring parties and disproportionately affected by conflicts they rarely begin.

As such, when women mobilize for peace, they frequently bring perspectives and priorities that may otherwise be lacking in the halls of power. In Northern Ireland, for example, the Women’s Coalition expanded the peace negotiations beyond narrow sectarian agendas to include reconciliation and victims’ rights—helping to address the root causes of the conflict.

Women also repeatedly build broad coalitions to push for peace across divides. In Liberia, Christian and Muslim women successfully united to demand an end to decades of war through a strategic sequence of protests, petitions, and a Lysistrata-inspired sex strike.

War affects men and women differently. Even though most men do not join armed groups, the vast majority of war’s perpetrators—and direct victims of violence—are men. Women are more likely to die from war’s indirect effects and experience conflict-related sexual violence. Unpacking gender’s influence helps us to uncover the causes and consequences of conflict.

Moreover, the goals of gender equality and peace go hand in hand. Using the largest dataset on the welfare of women in the world, American scholars have shown that gender equality is a greater predictor of peace than a country’s wealth, religion, or level of democracy. Yet, just 5% of bilateral funding to fragile states has gender equality or women’s empowerment as its principal objective.

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed a landmark resolution on Women, Peace, and Security, creating a global framework for increasing women’s inclusion in peace and security processes.

In 2011, the United States created its own National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and in 2017, the US Congress passed the Women, Peace, and Security Act, signed into law by President Trump. This bipartisan legislation acknowledges how much progress has yet to be made, seeking to ensure that US personnel advance women’s meaningful participation in the prevention, mitigation, and resolution of conflict.


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