08.03.2021, International Women’s Day: Feminist peace policies

On 8th March women’s organisations around the world celebrate International Women’s Day and make their demands for peace and gender equality public. On this occasion, PeaceWomen Across the Globe (PWAG) – together with its worldwide network of peace activists – launched a workshop series on feminist peace politics, disarmament and demilitarisation. PWAG organises this workshop series with the support of Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

„We have two central tasks to assume: disarmament and ensuring long-lasting and sustainable peace.” With these words, PWAG’s founder and co-president Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold opened the first online workshop in the webinar series "Disarmament – Feminist Perspectives on Peace Policies and Security". About 50 people from across the world participated in the webinar that took place on 7 March 2021. This workshop focussed on the responsibilities of European states. Experts from civil society, politics and academia discussed the background, the logic and the consequences of selected European states’ pursuit of a militarised security policy from an intergenerational postcolonial perspective.

Understanding gender aspects

For a gender-responsive peace policy, good conditions for care work and investment in social security are needed. „The money flows elsewhere though: into the production and trade of military material,” PWAG network manager and co-facilitator Annemarie Sancar said in her introduction. COVID-19 has made apparent, as never before, which activities are vital and that it is mainly women who provide them. Katrin Geyer from the WILPF disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will looked at the multilateral disarmament processes and the increased understanding of gender aspects in disarmament fora. She also spoke about the resistance to structural analyses from a feminist perspective that are indispensable for peace.

„Whose voices are unheard? Who is excluded from the discourse?“ asked Marieke Fröhlich, PhD candidate at the University of Rhine-Waal. International security policy as well as the arms trade and efforts to control it are intrinsically linked to asymmetrical power relations between the "global north" and the "global south". Intersectionality needs to be taken seriously and the voices from most marginalised groups integrated. Together with a genuine feminist analysis, an analysis from a postcolonial perspective is needed.

Europe's responsibility

Three speakers from three selected European countries looked at their countries’ roles and responsibilities. All countries invest in peacebuilding while at the same time exporting weapons to countries involved in armed conflict. Even though Sweden has a feminist foreign policy, the country is among the largest weapons producers and traders in the world, Gabriella Irsten from WILPF Sweden pointed out. Patrizia Sterpetti from WILPF Italy shared a feminist campaign to convert a large weapon’s factory in Italy, which produced weapons that were used in Yemen, into a dairy production centre.

Spain, which has been in a process of securitisation for more than a decade and dangerously broadened the meaning of terrorism, has increased its defence and security spending. COVID-19 has hardened the militaristic approach to security, according to Nora Mirailles from the Centre Delàs d’Estudis per la Pau in Barcelona. Migrant women are among the most exposed to securitisation.

Does the Swiss army need more women?

And what about Switzerland’s responsibility? Marionna Schlatter and Priska Seiler Graf, both members of the Swiss Parliament and its Security Policy Commission, ask if gender equality is necessary in all spheres. Do we need more women in the Swiss army to promote a cultural change from within or do we need to mobilise more women against the strong arms lobby, so they can make a difference in voting against militaristic issues?

Many more questions remain! After analysing and sharing the results of this first workshop, the second workshop scheduled for June 2021 will feature women from beyond Europe, who will talk about the daily effect military interventions have on their lives. A third – hopefully physical – workshop will follow later in 2021.

Earlier and later events

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