Female Ex-Combatants, Empowerment, and Reintegration
By Michanne Steenbergen
Literature on ladies and conflict doesn’t present straightforward solutions concerning the relationship between post-conflict transitions and girls’s empowerment. Battle opens new financial and political alternatives for girls (Webster et al. 2019), however can reinscribe dangerous norms in its wake (Pankhurst 2012). Peace settlements might usher in new rights and protections for girls, however few achieve this holistically and all face implementation challenges (Bell & McNicholl 2019). Publish-war international locations are inclined to see extra ladies in elected workplace (Hughes & Tripp 2015), however usually ladies combatants are excluded (Henshaw 2019; Gilmartin 2019). Michanne Steenbergen’s analysis doesn’t resolve these tensions, however her e book Female Ex-Combatants, Empowerment, and Reintegration joins the dialog with an eminently helpful framework for untangling the ambiguities of girls, conflict, and post-conflict reconstruction by way of the angle of disarmament, disengagement and reintegration (DDR) processes. Understanding how ladies’s empowerment is affected by DDR packages is essential as a result of the stakes are excessive. Ignoring the grievances of feminine ex-combatants—and even diminishing their standing in a post-conflict period—dangers a return to violence. It additionally squanders the immense transformative potential of post-conflict transitions, returning as an alternative to a established order by which ladies stay excluded and topic to the dangerous practices that pushed a few of them to take up arms within the first place.
Based mostly on interviews with feminine ex-combatants and employees and officers of UN-led DDR processes, the e book explores how taking part in these reintegration packages in Liberia and Nepal affected ladies’s empowerment, and in the end prospects for emancipatory peace. The Liberian Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Rehabilitation Programme (LDDRR) was the primary to have a selected mandate for feminine ex-combatants, about 24% of the full members. Nepal’s United Nations Interagency Rehabilitation Programme (UNRIP) additionally adopted a gender-sensitive strategy, although with a extra restricted scope of participation because the Maoist social gathering rejected the DDR course of. Each these packages claimed to “empower” feminine combatants, however in apply “stripped feminine ex-combatants of their company and have reproduced gendered inequalities.” (p.3) Steenbergen attracts on feminist essential peacebuilding scholarship assessing the weaknesses within the ‘liberal peacebuilding’ strategy endorsed by most worldwide actors: its concentrate on financial liberalization, its copy of Western fashions, and its restricted goals that cease wanting reworking inequalities. This mannequin typically assumes ladies ex-combatants are ‘apolitical,’ that financial reintegration routinely results in social reintegration, and that there’s a static atmosphere for girls to return to (p.58-67). Quite than accepting liberal peacebuilding’s buzzword “empowerment” as a synonym for feminine ex-combatants’ market participation, Steenbergen gives a extra nuanced understanding of what empowerment means and the way it acts within the lives of girls earlier than, throughout, and after conflict (p.101). Her definition focuses on empowerment as a course of, affected by temporality and context, and adapts Rowlands’ conceptualization of the 4 varieties of energy—energy over, energy to, energy inside, and energy with (Rowlands 1997).
Steenbergen grounds these completely different ideas of energy within the experiences of her interviewees, mapping them onto a person’s journey from fight to reintegration. ‘Energy to,’ as an example, can translate to the abilities ladies study by way of participation in armed teams, from weaponry to medical care to management. However battle additionally precludes different types of ‘energy to,’ equivalent to an uninterrupted training (p.130). Whereas DDR processes profess to supply this similar form of energy to ladies by way of job trainings, structural or express gendered exclusion from sure sorts of expertise can undermine ‘energy to’ gained throughout battle. To take the instance of medical care—which ex-combatants in Liberia and Nepal expressed curiosity in professionalizing—the LDDRR supplied no alternative to construct on midwifery expertise feminine combatants gained throughout battle, and the UNIRP required a faculty leaving certificates to entry well being coaching, one thing few ladies had as they’d been recruited as youngsters (p.158). ‘Energy inside,’ however can manifest within the varieties of self-confidence and elevated esteem that some interviewees reported got here from their participation in an armed group, in addition to better political consciousness. Nevertheless, this type of energy may cause issues for feminine ex-combatants who then reintegrate right into a society with restrictive gender norms. The self-confidence or consciousness that pushed ladies to transgress gender roles throughout battle can mark ladies as outsiders in post-conflict settings and trigger friction in earlier relationships. Many selected as an alternative to not disclose their backgrounds, to “‘overlook concerning the conflict’ so communities ‘will settle for us again.’” (p.66) Social reintegration comes on the expense of ‘energy inside.’ Others selected to resettle away from their households, or in communities with different feminine ex-combatants to keep away from the disconnect between their very own self-realization and an unchanged house life. The e book discusses the 4 types of energy at size, in addition to exploring how they modify over time and area. This framework for evaluation sheds gentle on the advanced workings of gender and energy in transitions from battle to peace. By separating every type of energy, it illustrates the interconnectedness and contradictions between them: the place ladies have company and the place decisions are constrained, when ladies are victims, perpetrators, or each concurrently, and when DDR interventions assist or undermine their reintegration. Finally, Steenbergen concludes that “for the overwhelming majority of feminine ex-combatants, the empowerment gained as combatant has been misplaced by way of reintegration.” (p.174)
Steenbergen’s work provides one other highly effective critique to a physique of scholarship declaring the gendered failings of UN processes that goes again greater than twenty years (Mazurana et al. 2002). Steenbergen locations her personal work on this custom of feminist essential peacebuilding research, however her findings have a lot to supply literature on ladies and political violence as nicely. Current work on feminine combatants has emphasised their company and variety, pushing again in opposition to deeply-held gender stereotypes (Gowrinathan 2021; Loken & Matfess 2022; Alexander & Turkington 2018; Giri 2020). Female Ex-Combatants, Empowerment, and Reintegration bolsters this work, exhibiting how such gendered tropes can undermine each particular person ladies’s reintegration and the potential of emancipatory peace, questions that needs to be of great concern whether or not within the context of transitions out of civil conflict, or in demobilizing ladies related to terrorist teams. Assessing interviews with feminine ex-combatants alongside officers of UN-led DDR processes throws into sharp focus the disjuncture between the experiences and wishes of girls who fought with the narratives that form the alternatives and assist they’ll entry by way of DDR. DDR officers routinely reproduced narratives of feminine ex-combatants as both victims, threats, wives, moms, daughters, or peacebuilders—every one-dimensional portrayal with its personal attendant penalties for the types of assist ladies acquired (p.179). For that reason, the analysis has vital implications for policymakers and practitioners. The extremely theoretical framing of the e book makes it unlikely to finish up within the arms of the practitioners who might implement these modifications, however the instruments it gives ought to. The framework Steenbergen introduces calls for a gender evaluation that’s attentive to completely different experiences and manifestations of energy—the form of evaluation that would guarantee future programming builds on, fairly than diminishes, the types of empowerment ladies achieve by way of fight.
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