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2.1 Rethinking Conflict from a Gender Perspective

Learning objectives for this week:
Participants have a closer look at the gendered impact of conflict. At the end of Week II participants are able to explain to other actors in a conflict situation what a gendered approach to conflict entails. During this week you will
  • discuss and analyse the way conflict impacts on men and women, and on the relations between them.
  • be introduced to what some theorists have said about gender
  • exchange views with other participants on two big questions: are women natural peacemakers? And what difference would it make if women had a stronger role in politics and peace negotiations?
Introduction: Gender inequality and the wider picture
Before we look in more detail at gender inequality, we need to set it in a broad context. First, the context of social exclusion. Social exclusion means systematic discrimination. Gender inequality is one aspect of social exclusion. Many of the examples we will use in week 2 come from the work of ACORD (Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development), an international development agency based in Nairobi. ACORD has carried out quite a lot of grass-roots research on conflict in Africa.

Social exclusion Gender Inequality

It may not be the only form of discrimination that needs to be addressed, nor the most important or urgent one. However, discrimination against women tends to cut across, and contribute to, other types of exclusion.

Conflict has an impact on all forms of exclusion. Just as conflict provides opportunities for gender relations to get either worse or better, it can also either reduce or strengthen relations between generations or between groups.

Levels of analysis
Secondly, conflict should be considered at several levels of analysis. Mainstream conflict analysis often focuses on the 'big players' - the politicians, generals, and warlords for example - and ignores what happens at the local level. Conflicts that happen within the household may seem to have nothing in common with international politics, but in fact the local does influence the global, and vice-versa. It is important to understand how the local, national, regional and international levels are interlinked.
In the next sections you can further explore gender perspectives on conflict by means of a circle which contains five questions which will help us see conflict through a gender 'lens'.

Gender perspective
As mentioned above we will be looking at conflict using a gender 'lens'. This means that we will try to understand conflict situations more fully, by asking a series of questions about the impact which conflict has on men and women - on their roles, their identities, their social position and rights, and about what sort of 'peace' they want to see.

We have identified five main questions that will help us see conflict through a gender 'lens', and we have divided this week's work into five sections accordingly, as shown in the circle below. You can see that the questions are linked together, but they form a logical chain. You can start working on them wherever you like in the circle. It is better to continue round the circle in a clockwise direction.