Building peace in post-conflict societies: An exploration of the role of women in Liberia's peacebuilding architecture.
Shulika, Lukong Stella.
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Post-conflict situations raise questions about the level to which the notion and practice of peacebuilding can contribute to sustainable peace, reconstruction, and development through transformative gender-responsive and inclusive processes. Embedded in these inquiries are the different standpoints and accentuation that the role and contributions of women in peacebuilding are an important contextual component for (post-)conflict agendas and are very much interlinked to their human and civil rights to participation and representation in public and official decision-making processes. This notwithstanding, the question regarding women’s participation, representation, and the consideration of their interests in the array of post-conflict approaches and processes still remain subject to a complexity of institutional, structural, socio-economic injustices and challenges, even at the grassroots levels. This study recognizes the manner and extent to which the importance of demystifying misconceptions about women and integrating their lived experiences into peacebuilding is imperative for the effectiveness and sustainability of post-conflict drives and its environment. Therefore, to understand the processes of peacebuilding in post-conflict transitions and address the question regarding the role of women therein, this study capitalizes on the Liberian experience as a macrocosm that embodies these themes. It provides a nuanced perspective and context of the role of women and women's organizations in Liberia’s peacebuilding architecture using a qualitative research methodology that comprises the review of relevant secondary info and primary data generated from focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with selected women organizations, institutions, and individuals in Liberia. The study identifies the absence of comprehensive scholarship that specifically examines women’s role in relation to each defined pillar of what constitutes post-conflict transition processes. Likewise, it uncovers dearth in literature inherent in the areas of policy implementation and domestication as well as the tendency to homogenize women and women’s organizational roles and significance. In response to these gaps, the study adopts a post-conflict peacebuilding, reconstruction and development theoretical framework, and Maxine Molyneux’s organizational theory. These theories serve as the lens through which the study expounds on the underlying importance of women’s peacebuilding agencies as being practically and strategically diverse as their experiences of conflict and the approaches that inform the different post-conflict processes. Hence, the study generates critical insights on women’s opportunities and challenges of engagement as well as the importance of using transformative stances to peacebuilding programmes; cognizant of the proactive rolewomen are playing and their underplayed contributions in Liberia. It arrives at several findings, including that Liberian women through their distinctive and shared experiences of conflict provide a gendered specific and transformative perspective to peace and security agendas both at the structural and practical levels. It also establishes that diverse women initiatives remain(ed) the core interventionist platform for women’s efforts in peace and decision-making processes during and in (post-) conflict Liberia and that there are numerous barriers to women’s peacebuilding efforts. The study concludes with several recommendations and the contention that women’s initiatives and agency for peace if genuinely supported would represent and serve as a strategy to progressively advance their different gender interests, participation, and representation in decision-making. It would equally increase the effective implementation as well as eventual sustainability of peacebuilding and development processes in Liberia.