Despite dealing directly with women's issues, humanitarian projects have often not included many women in leadership and participatory roles. Data from the United Nations cites that between 1992 and 2019, “women were, on average, just 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories in major peace processes worldwide.” Furthermore, seven out of ten peace processes did not include any women. This leaves a large number of major peace processes occurring in the modern world without any input from women—thus not acknowledging the perspective of a large part of the world’s population. Even more recently, the United Nations found that in 36 countries worldwide, only one-fourth of the members of COVID-19 task forces were women. In addressing a pandemic that continues to create the need for humanitarian aid, women were not appropriately represented in the decision-making processes. However, there are measures being taken on a global scale to rectify the lack of female representation in peace and humanitarian processes.
So, what are they, and why do they matter?
In July of 2021, the Paris Generation Equality Forum announced the official establishment of the Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian (WPS-HA) Compact. The compact’s ideas and mission have been decades in the making as the attention to diversifying the voices of those in peace and security began gaining traction. Now the compact aims to hold people more accountable for including the voices of women of all ages, ethnicities, and those who are forcibly displaced from their homes. In order to accomplish these goals, the compact currently includes 153 parties, including governments, UN entities, women’s organizations, research and academic institutions, philanthropic organizations, and other parties committed to the mission. With organizations around the globe signing on to encourage women in roles of leadership for peace efforts from local to national levels, it brings so many new perspectives to the conversation surrounding security efforts, especially those affecting mostly women.
While this compact begins the efforts to redesign the peace and security sectors for girls and women, there is still a long way to go in enabling ourselves and future generations of female leaders towards these humanitarian efforts. On the local level, that means electing more female leaders into positions of power—whether it’s enabling more women to govern an area or electing more women leadership within humanitarian organizations or movements. Through collective organizations that empower women, we can produce and connect female leaders across the globe. This collective action can be seen through smaller organizations like the local chapters of the Women’s Network at your college, which connect potential young female leaders. When these smaller organizations assemble at a higher level, like the Women’s Network at a national level, suddenly so many more connections are formed. The same is and can be true in solidifying peace efforts.
Female perspectives in peace and security efforts are vital to exploring ideas of safety and growth for women all around the world. The WPS-HA Compact looks to further women’s economic security, leadership and agency, protection in crisis, and leadership in peace processes. Through starting smaller collectives of female leadership, we can each begin working towards the development of these same initiatives on a smaller scale. From that point, we can impact our local communities and build upwards from there as more women connect and exchange perspectives. While global initiatives begin to change how leadership may include women in the humanitarian sector, we can each contribute to empowering women we know towards security and agency in our own communities.