Since December 2013 Syrian women have addressed delegations, UN representatives and NGOs denouncing the absence of women from the international forums and processes where the future of Syria is being discussed. At the meeting held Monday it expressed that for some reason, war is not considered a women`s issue and thus women are not invited to peace negotiations. Writer on gender and militarism Cynthia Enloe stressed that all issues that have an impact on women are women’s issues and women must therefore be included.
Women from different conflict and post-conflict countries, including Guatemala, Western-Sahara, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, expressed that it is the parties participating in negotiations that determine the premises of the peace, and consequently define the shape of society after the war has ended. They emphasized the contradiction that a fighting minority will decide the future of the civilian majority.
The Syrian women pointed out how broader representation at the negotiation table would benefit foreign- and international actors, as well the Syrian civil population. In their opinion it can increase public support for the negotiations and thereby strengthen its legitimacy. New, alternative approaches can help move forward stalled processes, and inclusion of civil society can strengthen the accountability of belligerent parties to their own societies and to each other.
The message given is of relevance for the “Genève II Conference on Syria” that is being held this week. At Genève II the inclusion of women was a main point in Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Børge Brende’s statement. He emphasized that Norway stands ready to assist in the process of ending violence, ensure immediate humanitarian access and reaching a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement – a process which should ensure “the full and effective participation of women and civil society”.