Feminism is, put into the simplest terms, actively establishing gender equality, achieved by elevating the role of women in a society. Typically this is usually fought for in the areas of media portrayal of women and gender equality in the workplace. In a post-conflict situation, however, women and girls may be placed in a more vulnerable situation, leaving them susceptible to income disparity and economic handicaps at best, and rape, violence and forced prostitution at worst. A post-conflict reconstruction project that keeps feminism and gender equality a priority will not only prevent human rights violations from occurring in the chaotic post-war haze, but also help establish a state that is more economically viable than those with great income disparity and more politically stable than those with inequality and a lack of female voices in government.
Even under relatively normal circumstances, women worldwide are subject to further physical and sexual violence and are in further danger of being trafficked or sold. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 120 million girls – representing over 10% of the global population of girls worldwide -- are forced into sexual encounters prior to adulthood. This number is reversely correlated with GDP, and occurs more often in poorer states (“Hidden in Plain Sight” 4). According to the International Labor Organization, over 4.275 million women are forced into sexual exploitation (“Forced Labor” 14). Once again, this form of sexual exploitation is negatively correlated with GDP, and occurs over twice as often in poorer states as it does in developed countries (15). Additionally, 35% of all women worldwide experience violence in some form at some point in their lives (“Violence” 2). This number again increases as institutions and the economy weakens (16). We see that the rate is highest in Africa (over 36%) and lowest in high income countries (17). Finally, women are uniquely subjugated to genital mutilation, which may cause a number of dangerous effects on one’s health. Currently, 39,000 girls each day are mutilated genitally, taking place almost entirely in poor countries (“Female Genital Mutilation” 2). From this, it is clear that women are disproportionately targeted worldwide, but are especially vulnerable in areas that have weaker economies and less stable governments. More alarmingly, we know that these numbers are also lower than they really are. In the EU alone, only 13-14% of the most serious cases were reported (“Violence Against Women” 3). It is likely that the number of cases unreported also increases with a lack of strong governments and adequate law enforcement.
Sadly, the United Nations has not done enough with feminism or for women in the post-conflict or peace-making sectors. As of 2011, there were no female head negotiators at United Nations sponsored peace processes, and in a study of 24 peace processes, women only served as representatives 8% of the time. Further, in a study of 585 peace agreements, only 16% even mentioned women and 3% mentioned sexual or gender-based violence. Also, women are given only 8% of all jobs in the post-conflict environment, leaving them economically weaker than their male counterparts (Bachelet). Not only are women in a worse position worldwide, but it is evident that they are underrepresented in the peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction processes. A country at its weakest point should strive to empower all of its citizens for the greater good of the country overall. Leaving certain members of a state weaker and more vulnerable than others only worsens the economic and political environment, and starts a post-conflict reconstruction state off on the wrong foot.
Bachelet, Michelle. “2011 Phyllis Kossoff Policy Lecture”. 3 Mar 2011. Web. 2 Nov 2014.
“Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: What Might the Future Hold?”. UNICEF. 2014. Web. 2
“Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects
of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence”. World Health
Organization. 2013. Web. 2 Nov 2014.
“Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children”. UNICEF.
2014. Web. 2 Nov 2014.
“ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: Results and Methodology”. International Labour
Office. 2012. Web. 2 Nov 2014.
“Violence Against Women: an EU-wide Survey”. European Union. 2014. Web. 2 Nov 2014.