FEATURE | 4 Mar 2021

International Women's Day 2021

How we choose to challenge

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A reflection from our staff on this year's International Women’s Day theme, #ChooseToChallenge.


This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. The day is an occasion for us to celebrate women’s key contributions to peace. While many are familiar with the influences men have had on the peacebuilding field – in its 120-year history, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 91 men and 17 women – women’s efforts are too often overlooked.

To mark the day, we want to highlight some of our experiences and those of our partner organisations, in the hope that soon the work women do for peace will be equally acknowledged on the other 364 days of the year. Whether in Yemen, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Cameroon, Lebanon, Germany or Colombia, we work with many inspiring women who take on gendered power dynamics and push boundaries to get their concerns heard, often at great personal risk. International Women’s Day for us is first and foremost about them and their fight for their rights.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which is the basis for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. It recognises that war and conflict affect men and women differently, and calls for women to be represented in peace negotiations and post-conflict processes.

Berghof has contributed towards this agenda by working with female (ex-)combatants from (former) resistance and liberation movements. Their testimonies are compiled in our “I Have To Speak” publication and videos. We support female (ex-)combatants in making their voices heard in peace processes, with a view towards gradually transforming political cultures that centre on male perspectives in peace negotiations and post-conflict transition processes.

We are also aiming to empower women’s mediation networks, and strengthen a gendered understanding of conflict mediation. This includes supporting women as mediators in conflict, as well as raising awareness of the gendered dynamics in conflict and conflict mediation, and the importance of making negotiations and agreements gender- and diversity-sensitive.

It is time for us to take additional steps as an organisation to challenge ourselves...

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How we #ChooseToChallenge

Based on our work and this year’s IWD theme, we have decided it is time for us to take additional steps as an organisation to challenge ourselves: Internally, we want to strengthen gender and diversity mainstreaming in our practices and operations. We will review our processes to ensure gender and diversity considerations are systematically integrated in all relevant areas of our work, from HR and finance to communications and project design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

Externally, we want to push boundaries and investigate the gendered assumptions underlying much of the work in our field to challenge the concepts we are working with. The WPS agenda largely rests on a binary understanding of gender, for instance, and including the perspectives of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (SOGIE) into this work is an important and necessary extension.

It is equally important to recognise how central ideas in peacebuilding, migration and state building are based on normative ideas about gender roles, family structures and even nation-state boundaries. They exclude the perspectives and concerns of people of specific ethnicities, nationalities, castes, diverse physical abilities, and other markers of difference. Uncovering these underlying assumptions and critically questioning their use will not only improve our understanding of the contexts we work in, but also lead us to engage in more meaningful and effective project work.

In this spirit, we #ChooseToChallenge our own practices and ideas along with those of the various contexts we work in. We will continue our efforts towards gender equality and diversity, and to collaborate with – and learn from – people of all genders who partner with us on this important journey.

More reflections from our staff

Media contact

Florian Lüdtke
Media and Communications Manager
+49 (0) 177 7052758
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