The following written account is one piece in a collection on our VOICES blog focused on the gendered experience in conflict and how gender differences should factor into the protection of civilians.

 

At CIVIC, our mission is to work with armed actors and civilians in conflict to develop and implement solutions that prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm. Globally, civilians are recognized as “all persons who are not, or are no longer, members of an armed force or organized armed group.”

But beyond that, civilians are so much more.

The civilian experience includes life before, during, and after conflict. Of all of the factors shaping civilians’ experiences, one of the most foundational is their gender identity. As different societal expectations and discriminatory norms exist for men and women in communities across the globe, civilian women, men, boys, and girls experience conflict differently. The UN Security Council formally recognized these different experiences in conflict 20 years ago in adopting Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (UNSCR 1325), which acknowledges that women and girls often experience disproportionate impacts of conflict, but also play a pivotal role in the resolution of conflict and in peacebuilding efforts.

As civilians in conflict, women and girls are too often thought of as “vulnerable,” seen as “victims,” and characterized as “weak.” This limited – and limiting – narrative spans across conflicts around the globe and fails to account for the research-based findings to the contrary. In the two decades since the passage of UNSCR 1325, an impressive and impactful movement led by women’s rights advocates has demonstrated how women bear the brunt of conflict, including by taking on myriad roles in their homes and communities, such as that of protector, negotiator, security provider, and community leader, all on top of being the family caretaker and, in many cases, the breadwinner.

How do all these roles and experiences factor into civilian protection? That is precisely the question we will begin to answer in this series of posts.

Parties to conflict, affected communities, governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society organizations all have a role to play in ensuring the protection of all civilians in conflict. Strategies to respond to and address civilian harm and protection must account for gender differences if they are to be effective. Efforts toward enhancing civilian protection must also recognize that conflict-affected civilian men and women can be – and are – agents of their own protection and therefore should play an active part in developing protection strategies.

Join the conversation in the weeks ahead with #GenderInConflict as we explore the different roles that women play in conflict settings, the changing gender dynamics amongst civilians themselves, and how gender affects protection. We will share civilian stories and expert insights that highlight the roles women play in protecting their families and communities, engaging with security actors to advocate for better protection, and shifting protection priorities based on what happens to those around them.

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