From Transition to Transformation
Making peace processes more gender-sensitive
Women were directly affected by the ten-year conflict in Nepal, many as combatants. Yet, they were effectively excluded from the peace negotiations and their access to transitional justice processes remains severely restricted. With our project, we support conflict-affected women in healing their war traumas, building local networks and gaining access to political decision-makers.
In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal started an insurgency with the aim of overthrowing the Nepalese monarchy and establishing a people's republic. The ten-year war came to an end in 2006 with the signing of the peace agreement between the Seven Party Alliance and the then Maoist party. The conflict was marked by numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, including massacres, mass rapes and enforced disappearances. It cost the lives of more than 17,000 people, up to 80,000 were displaced and approximately 1,500 remain disappeared to this day. Sexual violence was used as a weapon of war by both parties to the conflict.
The conflict had a profound impact on gender relations. Many women joined the Maoists, others were driven out of their towns and villages, lost their husbands or became frontline fighters – sometimes by force. The conflict thus blurred traditional gender roles.
The transitional justice processes, which are supposed to address the root causes of the conflict and overcome the consequences, are progressing very slowly. It took eight years for the Truth and Reparations Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Disappeared Persons to be established in 2014. The law creating these commissions has been sharply criticised internationally and by Nepali civil society for several shortcomings.
Nepal's peace process has failed to include women, recognise their contribution to systemic change and provide justice for those affected. For example, women who have been subjected to sexual violence during the conflict are not considered "conflict victims" and therefore do not receive compensation.
Although women in Nepal have been affected in multiple ways by the violent conflict, they were effectively excluded from the peace negotiations. Various obstacles severely restrict their access to transitional justice procedures. In the post-conflict reintegration period, most women combatants resumed their gendered roles and returned to the domestic sphere.
"We demand recognition. We demand that our voices be heard. We demand security. We demand a future for our children. We demand truth. And we demand justice, now!"
These are the words of a participant at a Women's Peace Table in Surkhet, Nepal. More than 1000 women have participated in Women's Peace Tables (WPT) so far. For women in remote areas in particular, these events were often the first opportunity to talk about their traumas and to listen to women from the opposite side of the conflict. At the WPTs, they learned more about the significant role they can play in transitional justice processes and about their rights as war-affected women and as citizens. The WPTs have been conducted annually by our partner, Nagarik Awaaz in the seven provinces of Nepal and in Kathmandu.
At the Women's Peace Tables, participants were also able to talk about their experiences to women who were not directly affected by the conflict, and thus build bridges. The WPTs not only contributed to the healing of the participants, they also increased their self-confidence and strengthened their ability to act. Many organised their own WPTs, established regional networks to give more weight to their demands and put pressure on local government bodies to push for transitional justice.
The goal of the new project phase, which started in 2021, remains the effective participation of women in the processes of transitional justice and conflict transformation. At further WPTs, their role is to be enhanced and expanded in order to address the structural violence that has not been addressed in the official peace process.
An important component of the first project phase that ended in mid-2021 was an exchange of knowledge and experience between the partners in Colombia, Nepal and the Philippines. This exchange process began in 2019 with a first face-to-face meeting and reached an interim conclusion in 2021 with the joint development of the publication "From transition to transformation: strengthening women's effective participation in peacebuilding and transitional justice processes". This exchange will be continued from 2023 in the "From exchange to change" project