Women and Armed Conflict

In Focus: Women and Armed Conflict

Topic    Fast facts     In the words of...     Editor's picks     Resources

Take our quiz!

Women usually don’t start wars, but they do suffer heavily from the consequences. Conflict spurs much higher rates of sexual violence. It renders women acutely vulnerable to poverty, the loss of jobs and the destruction of assets such as homes. Essential health services crumble, underlined by a maternal mortality rate that is 2.5 times higher on average, in conflict and post-conflict countries.

Often the only recourse is to flee within countries or across borders. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, women comprise 49 per cent of the refugees worldwide (based on available data) mostly as a result of conflict, and are often put at greater hardship than men in these situations based upon their gender.

In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted the groundbreaking resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. It recognizes that war, impacts women differently, and reaffirms the need to increase women’s role in decision-making related to conflict prevention and resolution. Progress is being made—in 2013, more than half of all peace agreements signed included references to women, peace and security. But the pace of change is too slow. From 1992 to 2011, women comprised fewer than four per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than ten per cent of negotiators at peace tables.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted in 1995 by 189 UN Member States, made women and armed conflict one of 12 critical areas of concern. It stated unequivocally that peace is inextricably linked to equality between men and women and to development.

The Beijing Platform for Action spelled out a series of essential measures to advance both peace and equality through reducing military expenditures and controlling the availability of armaments. It stated that women must participate in decision-making around conflict resolution, and recognized that women have been powerful drivers of peace movements. It stressed that those who have fled conflict are entitled to fully participate in all aspects of programmes to help them recover and rebuild their lives.

Since then, fierce fighting has engulfed some areas of the world, dragging back development and women’s gains by decades. The Beijing commitments remain mostly unfulfilled, even as their urgency has never been more apparent.

Back to top

Fast facts

Infographic: Armed Conflict


Back to top

In the words of...

Fatou Bensouda – To temper war and conflict, empower women

Fatou Bensouda
Photo credit: Photoline.nl/Carolien Sikkenk

Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia was elected by consensus as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICCC) in December 2011. She has received numerous accolades, including the International Jurists Award from the World Jurists’ Association, and was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012 and by Jeune Afrique as one of 50 African women who, by their actions and initiatives in their respective roles, advance the African continent (2014 & 2015). The former Head of the Legal Advisory Unit of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, she has played a key role in many far-reaching international cases over the last three decades.

Read her article »

Back to top

Editor's picks

Speaking out on gender-based violence in conflict: An interview with Patrick Cammaert

Photo: UN Women/Sarabjeet Singh Dhillon

Where: Global

A leading international expert in peacekeeping, the impact of sexual violence in conflict situations and security sector reform, Major General Patrick Cammaert won the prestigious Carnegie-Wateler Peace Prize from the Peace Palace in The Hague in 2008. In this video interview, the now-retired Maj. Gen. Cammaert speaks to UN Women about why it is so crucial to involve more women in peacekeeping roles and why all UN peacekeepers need to be trained to identify and act to confront sexual and gender-based violence in conflict.

Watch video »

Women take the reins to build peace in Colombia

Photo: UN Women/Mauricio Cardona

Where: Colombia
Organization: UN Women

The voices of women as experts, survivors and negotiators have been included in a peace process with an unprecedented gender perspective, with the support of UN Women and other partners. The talks aim to end one of the longest internal armed conflicts in the world.

Read more »

Woman Alone

Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell

Where: Syria
Organization: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

More than four years since Syria's civil war began in March 2011, over 3.9 million people have fled – approximately 79 per cent women and children. With so many men lost or left behind, women have had to take charge, making all the decisions, earning all the money, and providing all the care. UNHCR illustrates their plight and details the way forward.

Read more »

Related link: Syria Regional Refugee Response

The invisibility of women and girls affected by humanitarian crises

Photo: OCHA/Iason Athanasiadis

Where: Global
Organization: UN OCHA

When there is a disaster or a conflict, women and girls are often excluded, marginalized or ignored by the humanitarian operations that are launched to help them. UN OCHA's Senior Gender Advisor Njoki Kinyanjui provides her take on why.

Read more »

Female peacekeepers take the helm, to end gender-based violence

Photo: UN Women/Sarabjeet Singh Dhillon

Where: India
Organization: UN Women

A training course piloted in India aims to equip female military officers in peacekeeping missions to tackle sexual and gender-based violence.

Read more »

Hundreds freed from Boko Haram require medical care, counseling

Photo: © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0636/Rich

Where: Nigeria
Organization: UNFPA

In April 2015, the Nigerian army rescued hundreds of women and children held by the militia group Boko Haram. UNFPA has since been providing support to the freed women and girls in Borno and Adamawa states, and as the military steps up the offensive against the insurgents, UNFPA is strengthening its' services in anticipation of additional freed hostages.

Read more »

A Hell Like No Other

Photo: UNHCR/D.Nahr

Where: Iraq
Organization: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

Every day, hundreds of kidnapped women and girls in Iraq and Syria suffer violence and abuse at the hands of militants. Those lucky enough to escape or be released often have no home or family to which they can return. Countless Yazidi women and girls have been abducted in recent months. Three survivors speak of the horror that haunts them still with UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie.

Read more »

Women & Peacekeeping: A growing force

Where: Global
Organization: UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO)

Female peacekeepers act as role models inspiring women and girls in often male-dominated societies to push for their own rights and for participation in peace processes. In order to best help countries torn by conflict to create conditions for lasting peace, more women are needed to join UN Peacekeeping.

Watch video »

Balkan women make inroads in peace and politics

Photo: UN Women/Art Murtezai

Where: Balkans
Organization: UN Women

With support from UN Women, women leaders in the Balkans are putting gender issues at the centre of politics and fueling women's empowerment in order to bring peace and stability to the region.

Read more »

Back to top