International Women’s Day
Today marks 108 years since the inaugural International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is ‘balance for better’ underscoring the need for gender parity. Women’s roles in resolving conflict and peacebuilding are becoming more widely acknowledged and encouraged (see UN Security Council Resolution 1325 S/RES/1325 on women, peace, and security). Yet there is much to be done to increase parity and ensure legislation, peace processes and conflict resolutions are not gender blind, we must do more than pay lip-service to gender parity if sustainable peace and inclusive conflict resolution are to be achieved.
The role women play in the international community is of fundamental importance, especially during armed conflicts. In the context of Yemen, a country very much in focus in Global Right’s Compliance and The World Peace Foundation’s Mass Starvation Project, we have been privileged to see this first-hand by engaging with a range of extraordinary women: journalists covertly traversing the country to reveal the real face of starvation; human rights defenders documenting and collecting crimes; international political and peacebuilding experts pushing for accountability; rallying female diplomats placing pressure on states and multilateral institutions to end the violence and recognise the man-made nature of starvation in conflict.
Yet the struggle for equality can often mean a struggle for survival. Women are disproportionality affected by conflict, particularly conflicts that include the deliberate use of starvation such as Yemen, South Sudan or Syria and others. In Yemen the effects permeate multiple layers of society: from the physical consequences such as an inability to breast feed due to mothers suffering from severe and acute malnutrition, a right protected in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; to mass displacement with women and children comprising 75 per cent of Yemen’s displaced population, to increased child marriage to address the poverty gap and deprivation of economic livelihoods; to the excruciating daily task often delegated to the female heads of family, to choose between which child to feed and which child to starve.
Starvation today is man-made, the causes derive not from overpopulation or climate or a lack of resources, but from the men in positions of power to perpetrate or perpetuate the conduct.
Let us take stock today on those women and girls who bear the brunt of starvation crimes across a range of countries and conflicts, let us champion those women engaged in shedding light on these atrocities and working towards their end. Let us do more to better the balance.