Women and conflict resolution” was published in 2004 in The Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture. She puts forward women’s role in political negotiations and societal decision-making, stating that, in a world where the absence of war does not necessarily imply the presence of peace, women can be important contributors to a reconciliation approach “through education and civil society — the two areas where women are the most active and have the most experience.” (Golan, 2012) Golan’s article is an invitation to revise general attitudes in political circles toward women’s presence at negotiating tables. It is an invitation to include women and accept their capability to negotiate and cooperate despite national identities and cultural differences that may sometimes prevent men who are in official positions to reach a beneficial, reconciliatory agreement between parties.
We live in a world that is apparently bound to be affected by violent conflict at all times. Even during some of the most peaceful times in human history, there were rebellions and violence. Historians regard Pax Romana (the “Roman peace” period), which was a 200 years-long peace set by Julius Caesar’s nephew, Octavian, as the moment in history when the world was able to catch its breath. However, violence often prevailed because of rivalries over the border between Rome and Germany. In addition, Rome itself invaded and annexed Britain. A hundred years later, the peaceful empire of Genghis Khan was established along the course of many violent conflicts that gave the Mongolian leader his fearful reputation, for which he is most known today. Finally, two of the most important wars of all time occurred in our era, the two World Wars. In fact, World War II is regarded as one of the most devastating wars in the history, which produced more human casualties than any other war before it. Armed conflicts continued to exist all over the world even after 1945, most of them resulting in human deaths and difficult economic and social disparities. In 2012, 32 conflicts were recorded in 26 locations, and 25% of these were internationalized, troops from outside supporting either one of the parties involved (Themner & Wallensteen, 2013). Yes, violent conflicts such as the war in Afghanistan and the conflict in Syria nowadays represent further evidence that our world, for much of its longing for peace, cannot seem to find the solution to it.
Throughout these turbulent times in our history, women have been both victims and combatants. Feminist activists have spoken publicly about violence and women’s ethic of care that, in their opinion, stands as a model for conflict resolution. “Given the role of women regarding the very basic, personal needs of the family, “Golan argues, “it is possible that women would tend to approach peace from a human rights perspective.” (2012) She further states that this perspective “would emphasize fairness, tolerance, respect for difference, for minorities, for “the other,” because women live as “the other,” as the minority — not in numbers but in the attitude toward them in society.” (Golan 2012) As such, the article reflects the idea that, because women have shared experiences of stereotyping, they are able to understand violence differently, they are more capable of nurturing positive feelings when in contact with cultural beliefs, perceptions and attitudes that are different. Therefore, Golan’s article is as much about women’s role concerning the achievement of peace, as it is about this passive-aggressive violence directed at women in developing countries and worldwide. This is suggested by the fact that women still have to make incredible efforts to be included in negotiations concerning the well-being of their society. The mere fact that we are sitting here today speaking about this very issue is an indicator that women’s political participation is not where it should be.
Women in countries all over the world, focusing on reconciliation and a new model for peace, form peace agencies. Members of these international agencies meet to discuss the current state of affairs that affects countries and all of its citizens, women and children including. However, as long as women are only allowed to discuss such matters among themselves and do not have any actual socio-political roles within their society, peace remains nothing but a conceptualization of ideas without any real achievement. In order words, peace remains just another utopia. However, if women were allowed participation, Golan believes, “they could change negotiations from a discourse of stopping the war to one of creating the conditions for sustainable peace and reconciliation.” (2012) She thus puts forth the different perspective that women have regarding the idea of ending wars and violence, which is mediation. Mediation is a form of conflict resolution that takes into account all the factors that may have given rise to the violence. It regards any legal aspects, as well as political, social, economical, cultural, and religious factors, any factor that may have caused the conflict. It relies on a conciliatory environment in which warring parties are able to reach a mutual understanding by compromise and acceptance. Mediation requires a conflict management style that can see past any personal affiliations, of whatever nature thy may be, in order to make peace. Differences between the conflict management styles of both genders have been found in studies. These studies focused on the domination of male or feminine characteristics present in both gender personalities. Women can sometimes present more male-oriented behaviorist patterns while men can sometimes have a very powerful feminine side. The studies indicated that “feminine individuals disapproved of conflict more than masculine individuals,” (as qtd. In Brewer, Mitchell, & Weber, 2002) while “masculine individuals were more likely to report a dominating style.” If anything, these proven statistics do indeed show that feminine characteristics, whether in male or women, generate more peace-oriented behaviors. In women, these characteristics are even more influential given their innate qualities. In her article, Golan observes that, even though not all women posses these qualities, “they have been found to operate on a win-win basis.” (2012) When women mediate, they are thus able to recognize and collaborate on issues concerning cultural sensitivities, religious sensitivities and so on. And when they do this, they do not only approach the matters from an ending-the-war type of perspective but from a sustainable-peace point-of-view.
Golan pinpointed that women’s inclusion in the peacemaking process should actually be a natural happening, something that should result from the simple fact that they too have experienced war and have in fact been “the major victims,” next to children. However, 14 years after the UN Security Council passed the 1325 resolution that sought this inclusion, the number of women occupying peacemaking positions is still small, which is why, Golan uses this particular event to introduce the article. Some even believe that the resolution’s measures have since come in contradiction with what it initially meant to bring forth: “These so-called empowerment measures ironically define power in terms delineated by the very social structures that fostered the inequalities policies are designed to address.” (Mount 2014) Societies are thus yet to respond to Golan’s invitation of active inclusion of women as important peacemakers in the world and the world, as a whole, has a long road ahead of it.
Brewer, N., Mitchell, P., & Weber, N. (2002). Gender role, organizational status, and conflict management styles. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 13(1), 78-94. Retrieved from https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~libby/manage/conflict.pdf
Golan, G. (2012). Women and conflict resolution. The Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, 11(2). Retrieved from http://www.pij.org/authors.php?id=104
Mount, E. (2014). Well-intended measures: Conceptualizing gender as a social structure in post-conflict policy development. In M.T. Segal & V. Demos (Eds.), Gendered perspectives on conflict and violence (pp. 45-72). Emerson Group Publishing Limited.
Themner, L., & Wallensteen, P. (2013). Armed conflicts, 1946-2012. Journal of Peace Research, 50(4), 509-521. doi: 10.1177/0022343313494396
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