Author: Nicola

by Anne Menzel

A few weeks ago, a friend drew my attention to an open letter published by the Women Peacemaker’s Program (WPP) which announced that the organization was closing its doors. WWP was a Dutch NGO based in The Hague with a history of 20 years and a wealth of connections across the globe. Still, to be honest, I had never consciously heard of WPP before my friend alerted me to their final letter.[1] This was in the context of a conversation about a blog post I was planning to write about my recent field research in Nairobi. My friend advised me that I had to read this letter, ‘It talks exactly about the stuff you want to write about.’ She was right.

The following are quotes from WPPs final letter, which was published on 7 December 2017 − during the annual ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign, no less.

We increasingly find ourselves in a schizophrenic reality, where on the one hand women’s rights and gender equality activists around the world are facing strong opposition from different sides while on the other hand many in government and donor positions loudly commit to supporting women’s rights and gender equality. Yet their grantmaking increasingly fails to provide an effective financial infrastructure catering directly and sustainably for the women frontliners and feminist pioneers in global South, North, East and West.


When women’s flexible, bottom-up driven, long-term, activist and globally connected movement agenda for social, economic, political and environmental transformation becomes subcontracted into short-term, top-down oriented, isolated project agreements, we should start asking ourselves what kind of accountability we are talking about in these times of global turmoil.


We do not believe in perpetuating an accountability idea that draws on a rigid and linear outlook on social change, and which too often ends up transforming activism into a paper tiger. A complex world needs flexible and daring responses. Current notions of accountability are feeding a dangerous practice of risk avoidance, while also taking critical time away from the real work activists need to focus on.[2]

WPP’s letter highlights many of the mind-twisting constraints and absurdities that national/local NGO workers and activists relayed to me during recent field research on the fight against sexual violence in Sierra Leone and Kenya (see also my earlier post ‘Sexual violence in post-Ebola Sierra Leone: Old problems and new policy priorities’).[3] Not only has funding become painfully scarce. Most civil society organizations, especially in the global South, also rarely have a say in the design and conceptualization of projects that do eventually get funded. Core funding has mostly become a thing of the past, meaning that most organizations lack the capacity to develop their own projects. This is despite a plethora of capacity building training projects, which usually emphasize skills and do not even address broader structural and material constraints. Instead of developing their own projects, many national/local organisations end up competing to become subcontractors who implement projects for NGOs based in the global North. The latter tend to have a number of comparative advantages when it comes to raising funds: often closer links to donors, closer knowledge of donor preferences and priorities, better access to resources to write funding applications accordingly – and altogether better chances of meeting application criteria.

The subcontracting of national/local organizations in the global South has vast consequences. Their struggles, ideas and agendas are made to fit into projects that are considered rational, appropriate and timely according to standards defined by people who are far removed from the contexts in which these projects are to take place. Or, even more worryingly, alternatives that do not match predefined standards become unthinkable even within national/local organizations or are pre-emptively thrown out by obedient subcontractors (see also e.g. Anderl 2016; Obradovic-Wochnik 2018). In any case, the outcome is very much the opposite of any emancipatory politics. There are, of course, people and organizations (in ‘global South, North, East and West’, as it is put in WWP’s final letter) who challenge or even resist these powerful dynamics. The domination exerted by tender procedures, application criteria, logframes, reporting duties etc. is not perfect (see Li 2007, 11-12; Jauhola 2013, 23-24). But it certainly is pervasive to the extent that challenging and resisting it is difficult and, more often than not, holds little chances of success in terms of actually getting ideas funded.


Wangu Kanja’s struggle

This blog post is about one of those admirably stubborn people who try to productively subvert predefined project-making logics. Her name is Wangu Kanja and she and the headquarters of her organization, the Wangu Kanja Foundation, are based in Nairobi. Wangu has been working to attract donor money for her goal of building a movement of – not a project for (!) − survivors of sexual violence in Kenya.

Wangu and I met during my recent field research in February and March 2018. It was my first time in Nairobi (and in Kenya) and Wangu was so kind to introduce me to some of Nairobi’s civil society circles. She also invited me to a number of events that I would have missed without her help. In addition, she patiently answered my many questions about the current situation in the fight against sexual violence, the struggle for reparations (which were recommended in the final report of the Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission), relations between government, donors and civil society – and about her own situation, motivation and goals. I suspect that Wangu’s struggle is exemplary of the constraints experienced by many activists across the globe whose visions and ideas do not easily fit into predefined project-making logics. What struck me most is that Wangu deeply shares and commits to the broader principles that are generally considered as characterizing ‘good’ projects (see Krause 2014). She wants to build something that is ‘locally owned’, ‘sustainable’ and delivers tangible results to people in need. But in order to remain true to these principles, she feels that she has to build a movement, not a project. So far, she has not been able to raise donor support for this vision – although she has received some funding to realize fragmented bits of it.

In the following, before I turn to Wangu’s vision, I first locate her struggle within most recent Kenyan history after the 2007/08 post-election violence and also give some background on Wangu’s personal history and her commitment to her cause. It is also noteworthy that her activism bridges the (artificial) divide between conflict-related or ‘exceptional’ sexual violence and ‘everyday’ sexual violence in peacetime: while the former is deemed highly political, the latter is usually treated as non-political deviance. This distinction has its origins in feminist activists’ and academics’ efforts at de-naturalising and politicising sexual violence in war, while at the same time stressing its exceptional harmfulness. These efforts have shaped today’s (nominally ‘global’) Women, Peace and Security agenda and tend to structure donor and government action, civil society engagements and also research on sexual violence – not only in Kenya (see e.g. Eriksson Baaz/Stern 2018). But Wangu’s activism makes no such distinctions; she addresses all ‘types’ of sexual violence as equally harmful and political. Next, I describe Wangu’s vision for a country-wide movement of survivors of sexual violence, based on our conversations and a strategic document with which Wangu hopes to attract and persuade donors.


Political violence, crime and domestic abuse – the private is political

Most readers will at least have heard of the 2007/08 post-election violence that put an international spotlight on sexual violence in Kenya. In late 2007, Kenya’s multiparty elections turned into widespread violence after skewed election results in favour of incumbent President Kibaki. Ensuing protests, riots as well as violent police and militia backlashes followed ethnic patterns as the two major competing political parties, and their presidential candidates were generally held to represent different major ethnic groups and their numerically smaller ethnic allies. Sexual violence against women and men was conducted in opportunistic as well as in systematic and planned manners. Women predominantly suffered rapes while men were subjected to forced ‘circumcisions’, which often resulted in partial amputations of the penis; there were also cases of women who were forcibly ‘circumcised’ (see e.g. Wanyeki 2009; Materu 2015, 48-57). Subsequent national inquires suggested that crimes against humanity had been committed and that ‘those bearing the greatest responsibility’ should be prosecuted by a domestic special tribunal (Waki Commission Report 2008, 472).

Such a tribunal was never established, probably for the simple reason that those in government and high administrative positions who would have had to push towards its establishment were also likely candidates to be prosecuted by it (see Brown and Sriram 2012). Instead, the International Criminal Court initiated investigations which resulted in two cases. The accused were the current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto (both in office since 2013), who had stood on opposing sides during the 2007/8 post-election violence. But the ICC eventually withdrew its charges due to lack of evidence, as witnesses had been intimidated and murdered.[4]

This means that survivors of the 2007/8 post-election violence, including survivors of sexual violence, have been left to hope for reparations as the only remaining option for some measure of justice. Reparations were recommended by the controversial Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), which had been established in 2008 and delivered its final report in 2013 (see also Bosire and Lynch 2014). So far, the TJRC’s recommendations have been of little consequence. Some members of some victim groups have been able to successfully pursue litigation cases in Kenyan courts, while others (especially from among the internally displaced) have received politically motivated handouts. But there is no official reparations policy in place and survivors of sexual violence have so far received nothing (skype interview with a member of the National Victims and Survivors Network, 24 April 2018; see also Human Rights Watch 2016).

Civil society organized exhibition at Kenyatta International Conference Centre on the occasion of the International Day of the Right to Truth 2018, © Anne Menzel

In addition, and as is the case across the globe, sexual violence in Kenya has not been confined to political crises and times of coordinated mayhem. Wangu Kanja’s own story attests to this. She was raped during a carjacking in 2002, at a time when this type of assault was rampant in Nairobi. The situation seems to have improved somewhat, but armed robberies and rape are still everyday news items in the capital city. Moreover, sexual and other gender-based forms of violence within families and relationships are extremely pervasive, with women and girls bearing the brunt of this violence. There are no reliable numbers, but local civil society organizations offering donor-funded counselling and referral services to survivors of sexual violence report that they see new cases almost every day (various interviews, March 2018 in Nairobi). It appears that this type of violence cuts across all social strata in all parts of the country, even though poorer and uneducated women and girls are even more vulnerable and prone to suffer prolonged periods of domestic abuse (see e.g. Kimuna and Djamba 2008).[5]

In one of our conversations, Wangu explained to me that she only became an activist after her ordeal  but that she had always wanted to do something that would help people in need. When I asked her where she thought this desire came from, she told me that her father had encouraged her to be an empowered person and always to care and have an opinion about what happened in society. I had suspected that Wangu came from a wealthy background and had probably attended university, maybe in Kenya or even abroad. When I revealed my assumptions, Wangu laughed and told me that she only went to high school and that her family was pretty average, not suffering but also not particularly wealthy. In other words, according to her account, Wangu’s desire to ‘do something’ was inspired through personal encouragement within her family; it did not arise from a privileged background and/or from a university degree. After Wangu survived rape, she knew that this was it: she needed to do something for people who had suffered through similar experiences.

Moreover, Wangu is indiscriminate in her activism in that she has not ‘specialized’ in one ‘type’ of sexual violence only. Instead, she pursues something of a holistic approach. In practice, this means that Wangu has been involved in both: in human rights related advocacy which mostly deals with ‘political’ sexual violence and in technical assistance for survivors of ‘everyday’ sexual violence (this is if one wants to apply the widely practiced distinction I mentioned above).[6] Together with other human rights activists and civil society organizations, Wangu has been calling for reparations and she was involved in documenting cases of sexual violence after Kenya’s last general elections in 2017 (see Human Rights Watch 2017). These activities have made her unpopular with the Kenyan government and a target for intimidation. She knows that she is being observed and has become extremely careful, sitting with her eyes fixed on the entrance whenever we met in a busy coffee bar in Hurlingham (a part of Nairobi where many NGO offices are located).

Wangu’s work with survivors of ‘everyday’ sexual violence and domestic abuse is what she is currently getting funding for, mostly from the UK-based international NGO ActionAid.[7] Wangu runs a project in Mukuru, a slum area in eastern Nairobi. Together with a co-worker and several volunteers, she operates an ActionAid supported SMS hotline for reporting violations. Wangu and her team follow up on these reports, accompany survivors to the police station (to make sure that officers do not send them away or demand bribes) and connect survivors with organizations that provide counselling and/or medical aid services. Wangu and her team receive survivors in an office space in Mukuru, which is provided to them free of charge and located within a larger social project, the Ruben Centre run by a Christian organization.

Wangu’s Kanja’s office in Mukuru, © Anne Menzel

There is no doubt that this is important work. But, as Wangu repeatedly stressed, it is a drop in the ocean. So many survivors are not reached and never receive any assistance, let alone justice. This is true within Nairobi and even more so outside Nairobi where there is still less of a support structure. What is needed, according to Wangu, is building a structure that is not or, at least, not completely dependent on donor money and that also has an advocacy component, pushing local and national government authorities to pay attention to the needs of survivors of sexual violence and work towards preventing sexual violence. Fragmented projects are not likely to achieve these broader goals. Instead, Wangu’s vision is that of building a movement of empowered survivors who are committed to helping and training other survivors as well as to working towards broader social change.


Building a survivors’ movement versus piecemeal projects

Wangu’s vision for a survivors’ movement is without a doubt ambitious. She envisions a movement that spreads across the country with connected survivor-activists in each of Kenya’s 47 counties and even in each larger town, maybe one day in each village. These survivors will mostly be people (women and men) who do not do activism as a paid job but as a passion. Very often, they will already be organized in some way. Instead of re-organizing them, they will be encouraged to use their existing networks to assist other survivors in reporting violations to the police and accessing available services, possibly medical aid and/or counselling. They will also be encouraged to mobilize and train fellow survivors so that the movement can spread and more people receive access to knowledge and services. In addition, these activists-survivors will engage local government authorities and civil society and advocate for improved service delivery, access to justice and broader social change. In this way, the movement will make the best of a situation in which most of the scarcely available services for survivors of sexual violence are provided via donor-funded NGO projects – without losing sight of the goal of having permanent and fully domestic structures in place. And even though the movement will be deeply involved in the ‘everyday’ work of assisting survivors in need, it will also keep its eyes on working towards a society that no longer tolerates sexual violence.

This is roughly how Wangu described her vision to me in our various conversations throughout February and March 2018. Wangu has also put a lot of effort into a document that spells out this vision in more standardized ‘donor-friendly’ terms, defining priorities, principles, outcomes, strategic objectives and a ‘theory of change’. This Strategic Plan 2018-2022 was authored by a conglomerate of individuals, networks and organizations under the stewardship of the Wangu Kanja Foundation (Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya, 2017: 8).

At the moment, Wangu is looking for funding to get this vision kick-started and to support the envisioned movement during an initial period of learning and connecting. Despite having formulated the donor-friendly professional strategy document, she has not been successful so far. The problem is not only that funding opportunities are generally extremely scarce. Also, despite the streamlined version presented in the strategy document, it is still clear that the vision hardly matches usual project requirements, namely a fixed set of predefined activities over a limited time frame with clearly definable outputs. Instead, the movement is envisioned as an open-ended process that requires a rather substantial initial investment, demands a degree of budgetary flexibility and may still fail to emerge in the envisioned form. But if it succeeds, it will not be a small step but rather a leap forward.

The idea is to begin the process by identifying 30 survivors per each county who are already engaged in doing something for other survivors. These people – with an already established record of commitment to the cause – will then be contacted, familiarized with the idea of a larger movement and offered training in various areas, including legal matters, advocacy and the like (relevant areas for training and other forms of assistance may only emerge and become conceivable during early contacts with prospective movement-activists). These identified survivors will then be encouraged to share their training, experiences and networks with at least ten other potential survivor-activists, e.g. regarding where to get services and which local government authorities may be willing to listen to and support the movement’s cause. In addition, survivor-activists from different parts of the country will have to be brought together for networking and knowledge/experience exchange purposes, ideally not just once but several times so that sustainable contacts can be forged.

But the crux is this: after a possibly costly and not fully calculable/controllable initial period, the movement itself should not require donor funding anymore. Once channels of communication are in place and some common practices as well as a shared identity have been established, the movement should continue and grow on its own. Survivor-activists and organizations within the movement may still partner with international NGOs or decide to apply for outside-funding for specific projects, and they may refer to the movement as an asset when they do so.  But – if it works out as envisioned − the movement itself will no longer be donor-dependant.

Wangu repeatedly stressed the importance of freeing activism from donor-dependence. She emphasized that projects were rarely sustainable in Kenya, in the sense that networks and activities usually ended and disappeared as soon as the funding dried up (this was repeated and confirmed in several interviews with activists and professionals in Nairobi’s civil society circles). The professionalization of civil society along with the scarcity of well-paid job opportunities for qualified professionals have created a situation in which many in civil society (not only in Kenya!) move from one job to the next and pursue careers instead of or, at least, equally alongside cherished causes. This is why Wangu wants to rely on survivor-activists who volunteer their time because they deeply believe in the cause of helping other survivors and ending sexual violence. This is a drastic approach in a context where many of those who will be potential movement-activists are desperately struggling to find jobs and can hardly make ends meet or take care of their own survivor needs. But Wangu was adamant that genuine commitment is absolutely necessary to make the movement work.

This drastic approach has also informed Wangu’s own choices. She does not pay herself a salary from the funding she receives for the project in Mukuru and instead survives on consultancies while she tries to push her vision. And, in fact, she has managed to get some funding for fragmented bits in pieces of it – but nothing that would even come close to the initial investment that is needed to make a meaningful start. For example, the writing of the Strategic Plan 2018-2022 was supported by the Urgent Action Fund. And the UN Women office in Kenya recently signalled its interest in possibly funding a single workshop with one survivor from each county.

Wangu explicitly told me that she was very grateful for this support. But she also did not quite manage to hide that these bits and pieces did not make much sense to her. We discussed this for a while but I was not sure if I was really getting her point. To understand her perspective fully, I proposed that I would try to draw an analogy from a different context that I was more familiar with − and then she would tell me if had understood her correctly. Wangu agreed. So I began to tell her a story from my recent fieldwork in Sierra Leone, where I had often encountered women who complained about microcredits being ‘no help’ and doing more harm than good. For one, the amount of money they were able to access was always too small to really make a meaningful investment (usually in trade, sometimes in agriculture). In addition, if things went really badly, they ended up not benefitting from their small investment (because goods got stolen or spoiled or harvests did not turn out as expected) and were unable to repay their debts so that they had to go into hiding. But even in the best case scenario, if they were able to reap some benefits, microcredits never enabled them to achieve something that actually changed their lives and put them on an upward socio-economic trajectory. I had not quite finished my story when Wangu started nodding. This is it exactly, she confirmed. The common denominator in Wangu’s and my Sierra Leonean interlocutors’ struggles was that they were not given the chance to build something truly meaningful and sustainable.

In other words, Wangu experienced that the piecemeal project approach did not even come with the possibility of making tangible change happen. What it does do is keep people extremely busy: writing strategies, organizing workshops or other activities, documenting them, hoping that donors are happy with them and fearing to make mistakes. From a donor perspective, this may appear as the safe choice. At least, too much money won’t be wasted on a single project in case it fails. But this approach does little to pave the way for the kind of movement that would actually have the potential of bringing positive changes to the lives of survivors of sexual violence in Kenya.


Building movements in a projectized world – some further thoughts instead of a conclusion

During my time in Nairobi, I often had the feeling that I was hearing about and encountering struggles that had implications even far beyond my research focus on the fight against sexual violence in Kenya. In this blog post, I chose to focus on Wangu’s struggle because her fierce determination and commitment deeply impressed me. But I also could have chosen encounters with other interlocutors to tell stories that all touched on the same set of issues: there is something seriously twisted about the way ‘proper’ possibilities for social change and progress are imagined in contemporary professional aid and development discourses and practices.

This twistedness, in turn, is related to developments and dynamics that are by no means confined to the global South. Among them are the professionalization of activism; the precarious job situations of an increasing number of (university-educated) professionals who – by virtue and/or default − are attracted to projectized forms of ‘doing good’; and an ever-increasing emphasis on rationalization of anything to do with public spending especially on ‘social issues’, which is meant to avoid wastage and/or corruption of public money at all costs − while unimaginable amounts of public money flow into financial bail-outs, and tax evasion by the richest continues to go unpunished across the globe.

In the end, it comes down to the question of accountability that was also raised in WWP’s final letter. As already quoted above, the letter demands that, ‘[W]e should start asking ourselves what kind of accountability we are talking about in these times of global turmoil.’ Apparently, activists pushing for social change are the ones who are held accountable for every cent and who are considered a highly risky investment. Their visions are deemed too expensive to take the risk or, if they do not meet predefined criteria, considered too unprofessional to warrant attention. These prioritizations and judgements are always already implied in contemporary professional aid and development discourses and practices. And it is certainly time to question them.




Anderl, Felix 2016, ‘The myth of the local: How international organizations localize norms rhetorically’, in: The Review of International Organizations 11:2, pp. 197-218.

Eriksson Baaz, Maria and Maria Stern 2018, ‘Curious erasures: the sexual in wartime sexual violence’, in: International Feminist Journal of Politics,

Bosire, Lydiah K. and Gabrielle Lynch 2014, ‘Kenya’s Search for Truth and Justice: The Role of Civil Society’, in: International Journal of Transitional Justice 8:2, pp. 256–276.

Brown, Stephen and Chandra L. Sriram 2012, ‘The Big Fish won’t Fry themselves: Criminal Accountability for Post-Election Violence in Kenya’, in: African Affairs 111/443, pp. 244–260.

Human Rights Watch 2016, ‘They Were Men in Uniform’: Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Kenya’s 2017 Elections. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch

Kimuna, Sitawa R. and Yanyi K. Djamba 2008, ‘Gender Based Violence: Correlates of Physical and Sexual Wife Abuse in Kenya’, in: Journal of Family Violence 23:5, pp.333-342.

Krause, Monika 2014, The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason. Chicago, IL, and London: University of Chicago Press.

Li, Tania M. 2007, The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press.

Materu, Sosteness F. 2015, The Post-Election Violence in Kenya: Domestic and International Legal Responses. The Hague: Asser Press.

Obradovic-Wochnik, Jelena 2018, ‘Hidden politics of power and governmentality in transitional justice and peacebuilding: The problem of ‘bringing the local back in’, in: Journal of International Relations and Development,

Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya 2017, strategic Plan 2018-2022: Shattering Stigma and Discrimination – from Victim to Survivor. Nairobi: Wangu Kanja Foundation.

Wanyeki, Muthoni 2009, ‘Lessons from Kenya: Women and the Post-Election Violence’, in: Feminist Africa 10/2008, 91-98.

[1] I am grateful to Nico Popovic.

[2] WWP’s letter is available at (last accessed 6 June 2018).

[3] This field research was conducted in the context of the DFG-funded project ‘Redressing Sexual Violence in Truth Commissions: The Labelling of Women as Victims and its Social Repercussions’. See (last accessed 12 June 2018).

[4] See e.g. Human Rights Watch News, 5 April 2016, ‘ICC: Kenya Deputy President’s Case Ends Witness Interference Undermined Trial`, (last accessed 7 June 2018).

[5] For example, in an interview with counsellors at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) who work with abused women in Nairobi’s largest and most notorious slum Kibera, they relayed the story of a woman who was severely beaten by her husband every time he caught her eating something in his house. When she finally made it to the CREAW office, this woman, a breastfeeding mother, had not eaten for three days. The counsellors provided her with a meal out of their own pockets but could not offer her a place to go (the lack of shelters for abused women and girls is much lamented among those working in the field). The woman tried to hide at her neighbour’s place but probably had to return to her husband eventually (interview at CREAW, 13 March in Nairobi).

[6] Those working in human rights advocacy and those concerned with ‘technical‘ assistance for survivors can be found in somewhat different circles within Nairobi civil society (of course, there are also exceptions and overlaps). On the one hand, there are individuals, groups and organizations who focus on sexual violence in the context of human rights work, such as the Nairobi office of Physicians for Human Rights. On the other hand, there are organizations that specifically frame their work as technical and ‘a-political’, as offering solutions for pressing problems, such as LVCT Health.

[7] Wangu’s work is part of ActionAid’s strategic focus on women’s rights, see (last accessed 12 June 2018).

Artikel und Analyse von Dr. Anna Antonakis und Nicola Popovic

Die Implementierung von UNSCR 1325 auf nationaler Ebene hat insbesondere in den letzten zehn Jahren eine Inflation erlebt. Mittlerweile werden 75 nationale Aktionspläne[1] weltweit umgesetzt. Während sich die meisten Länder in ihrer ersten Implementierungsrunde befinden, haben manchen Länder (11%), insbesondere in Europa bereits über drei Aktionspläne zu Frauen, Frieden und  Sicherheit veröffentlicht. Viele Aktionspläne wurden bereits evaluiert und es wurde sich durch internationale Foren und Konferenzen mehrfach über gelernte Lektionen aber auch beispielhafte Umsetzungsmethoden ausgetauscht.

Eine Auseinandersetzung mit den nationalen Aktionsplänen erlaubt dabei insbesondere in Zeiten von erstarkenden Rhetoriken in der feministischen Außenpolitik, und eines oftmals populistisch polarisierenden öffentlichen Diskurses, wissenschaftliche Analysen in dem Gebiet voranzutreiben und die Debatte fundiert zu führen.

Werden die über 70 Aktionspläne systematisch und auf Basis spezifischer Kategorien verglichen, lassen sich Interessante Trends, Schwerpunkte aber auch Lücken und Handlungsbedarf identifizieren und aufzeigen. Im Folgenden sollen die wichtigsten Punkte einführend präsentiert und einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich gemacht werden. Die Darstellung erhebt dabei keinen Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit. Die Studie stützt sich dabei auf die von der Women’s International League for Peace and Security bereitgestellten jeweiligen Aktionspläne. Nach einem ersten allgemeinen Überblick, sollen Ausgestaltungen der thematischen Fokusse im Bereich Partizipation und Prävention in der Analyse exemplarisch aufgezeigt werden. Dabei wäre weitere qualitative Forschung nötig, um auch insbesondere kritische Analysen, beispielsweise aus post-kolonialer Perspektive, welche diese Ergebnisse einordnet und/oder die Qualität des Instruments aus nachhaltiger und feministischer Sicht analysiert, anzugehen.


Durch den mehrdimensionalen Themenbereich, den die UN Resolution 1325 und ihre Folgeresolutionen umfasst, bedarf es auch in der Umsetzung eine präzisen Koordination und Kollaboration einer Vielzahl von Akteuren aus Regierung, internationaler Organisationen aber auch vor allem lokal agierender Zivilgesellschaft.

Die meisten Regierungen nominieren daher verschiedene Ministerien, die für die Entwicklung und Implementierung des NAP zuständig sein sollen. In den meisten europäischen Ländern ist aufgrund des Fokus der Implementierung „nach Außen“ das Ministerium federführend, welches für Internationale Beziehungen zuständig ist. Zur möglichst effizienten Koordination der  verschiedenen Aufgabenbereiche arbeiten viele Ministerien in einer interministerialen Arbeitsgruppe zusammen, dazu zählen im Westlichen Kontext neben den Außenministerien auch Entwicklungsministerien, Verteidigungsministerien, Innen, als auch und Frauen –und Familienministerien.

Ca. 40% der aktuellen NAPs beziehen zudem zivilgesellschaftliche Organisationen aktiv in den NAP-Entwicklungsprozess und das Monitoring ein. Während in Ländern wie den Niederlanden die nationalen zivilgesellschaftlichen Organisationen den Aktionsplan mitunterzeichnen, beteiligt sich die Zivilgesellschaft in Länder wie Deutschland, die USA, Montenegro, Mali und die Ukraine nur in einzelnen Phasen der Ausarbeitung des Nationalen Aktionsplans.  

Von den über 70 Staaten, die UNSCR 1325 national umsetzen, haben 22% einen Fokus, der ausschließlich außerhalb der eigenen Landesgrenze liegt. Das betrifft insbesondere Länder in Westeuropa und den USA.[2] Dabei wäre eine gezielte Konsultation der im Aktionsplan ausgewählten „betroffenen“ Ländern, wünschenswert, ist aber bei weitem keine Praxis. Ausschließlich Irland hat sich bei der Entwicklung seines ersten NAPs 2010 mit Ländern wie Liberia, Nordirland und Osttimor beraten und das Ergebnis dieser cross-learning Erfahrung in den NAP mit einfließen lassen.[3] Auch der aktuelle Aktionsplan des vereinigten Königreichs (2018) verweist auf Nicht-Regierungsorganisationen, deren Erkenntnisse und Erfahrungen in das neue Dokument miteingeflossen sind.

Bei der Auswahl des geografischen Fokus koordinieren die Länder sich meist mit ihren eigenen Länderbüros im Inland und der generellen politischen Prioritätensetzung, jedoch oftmals nicht im Zusammenspiel mit ihren Botschaften und Außenvertretungen. Zehn der über 70 Aktionspläne haben ihren geografischen Fokus auf Afghanistan. Dazu gehören: Belgien, Estland, Finnland, Deutschland, Island, Italien, den Niederlanden, Norwegen,das Vereinigte Königreich und Afghanistan selbst. Irak und Syrien werden von Estland, Deutschland, den Niederlanden und den Briten unterstützt. Eine Koordination der Aktivitäten vor Ort zwischen den Botschaften und lokalen Zivilgesellschaft findet sicherlich durch lokale Koordinationsmechanismen (Cluster, Arbeitsgruppen etc.) statt, ist jedoch nicht in den Aktionsplänen als solche ersichtlich.

Staatliche Prioritäten werden unter anderem auch durch Entscheidungen über den Staatshaushalt gesetzt. Durch das Sichtbarmachen dieser Prioritätensetzung aus einer Geschlechterperspektive innerhalb verschiedener Finanztöpfe wie „gender budgeting“, „earmarking“ oder „gender marker“ können zur Verfügung stehende Ressourcen und ihre Verteilung transparenter gestaltet werden. Schweden hat sich zum Beispiel zum Ziel gesetzt 1% des totalen Nationalhaushaltes für den NAP auszugeben.

Nur 28% der Länder mit einem aktuellen Aktionsplan zur Implementierung der UN-Resolution 1325 haben ein öffentlich einsehbares Budget, welches an den NAP und die dort aufgeführten Aktivitäten geknüpft ist. Dazu gehören Länder wie Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kanada, CAR, Guinea, Irak, Irland, Kosovo, Mali, die Niederlande, Nigeria, Palästina, Norwegen, Ruanda, Senegal, Serbien, Sierra Leone und die Ukraine. Innerhalb Europas gelten besonders die Niederlande als vorbildlich. Sie haben in ihrem Aktionsplan spezielle Budgets für dessen Implementierung beiseitegelegt und listen auch einige Empfänger dieser Gelder auf. Viele Länder betreiben jedoch (wie die Schweiz) ein breites Mainstreaming des Themas in bereits laufende Aktivitäten.

Auffallend ausführlich jedoch legen die Länder des globalen Südens mit externen Geldgebern ihr Aktionsplanbudget offen. Ein herausragendes Beispiel ist hier die Zentralafrikanische Republik, die exakte finanzielle Zahlen jeweils einem bestimmten Implementierungsjahr und einem speziellen Indikator unterwirft.[4] Transparenz der Finanzen sollte jedoch in allen NAPs, jenseits ökonomischen Abhängigkeiten in post-kolonialen Verhältnissen Priorität haben, denn ausschließlich durch effizientes und effektives Monitoring und Evaluierungen können die Erfolge der Implementierungsbemühungen und die Effekte der nationalen Aktionspläne tatsächlich gemessen und sichtbar gemacht werden. Dazu gehören Eingangsuntersuchungen (baseline studies), konkrete und realistische Ziele, klare Rollen und Aufgabenverteilungen sowie Indikatoren, die numerisch als auch qualitativ Implementierungsfortschritte messbar machen.

Was die allgemeine Koordination des Monitorings der Aktionsplanimplementierung angeht, so hat Bosnien und Herzegowina ein interessantes Kontrollgremium ins Leben gerufen, welches aus einem Regierungsvertreter, einem Vertreter aus dem Sicherheitssektor und einer Nichtregierungsorganisation besteht. Zusammen mit dem Institute for Inclusive Security wurde sowohl das Monitoring- und Evaluierungssystem gestärkt, als auch Kapazitäten für den zweiten Aktionsplan (2014-2017) geschaffen, welcher klar definierte Methoden der  Datenerhebung und -analyse vorsieht. Außerdem knüpft das Gremium seine aufgelisteten Aktivitäten an vorherige CEDAW-Berichte.[5]

Ein aktiver Einbezug der lokalen Bevölkerung zu der tatsächlichen Wirkung der Unterstützung und klar definierte Evaluationsschritte würde zudem die Effizienz der Maßnahmen, insbesondere bei der direkte Förderung und Verbindungen von nationalen Aktionsplänen zwischen Geldgeberländern aus dem globalen Norden und mit Empfängerländern aus dem Süden (Beispiel Finnland-Kenia, Norwegen – die Elfenbeinküste und Irland – Liberia) stärken. Ohne zivilgesellschaftliche Kontrollverfahren, besteht die Gefahr, dass NAPS als machtpolitische Steuerungsinstrumente funktionieren oder nach Verabschiedung wieder in der Bedeutungslosigkeit versinken.

Thematische Fokusse

Fast alle Aktionspläne orientieren sich an den vorgegebenen Dimensionen der UN-Resolution 1325, welche auf den beiden Säulen Partizipation und Prävention aufbauen. Dabei sind die Felder der politischen, ökonomischen und gesellschaftlichen (kulturellen, wissenschaftlichen etc.) Partizipation von Frauen eng an Konfliktprävention geknüpft. Für die Analyse unterteilen wir im Folgenden erstens die Partizipation von Frauen in Friedensprozessen, sowie die Partizipation von Frauen in Militär und Sicherheit, sowie zweitens den Schutz vor sexueller und genderbasierter Gewalt und die Prävention von bewaffneten Konflikten miteinschließt. Im Folgenden wird eine Auswahl vorgestellt, welche insbesondere aus den Gesichtspunkten der Innovation innerhalb dieser drei gebiete herausgearbeitet wurden.


Die meisten Aktionspläne setzen es sich zur Aufgabe, die Beteiligung von Frauen in Friedensverhandlungen, auf verschiedenen Ebenen des Sicherheitssektors und in internationalen Friedensmissionen zu fördern. Die Schweiz im Besonderen fördert vor allem Frauen als Mediatoren in Friedensprozessen wie beispielsweise in Syrien, aber in der Vergangenheit auch in Burkina Faso, Benin, Kambodscha, Kosovo, der Ukraine und Somalia.

Nach wie vor sind Frauen an den Friedenstischen jedoch unterrepräsentiert.

In beinahe allen Aktionsplänen findet sich die Komponente der Erhöhung des Frauenanteil in a) in den eigenen Streitkräften, d.h. Militär und Bundespolizei oder b) in den UN Friedensmissionen. Frauen in Managerpositionen in Polizeistreitkräften werden im NAP aus Bosnien und Herzegowina mit der Forderungen einer (unspezifischen) Quote, Mutterschutz und weiteren Anreizen vorangetrieben. Im Bereich der Festlegung von Quoten und Gender Mainstreaming in den Streitkräften nimmt Kanada eine Führungsposition ein: In den kanadischen Streitkräften wurde zudem die Position eines Gender Berater*in eingeführt; zudem übernimmt  in jeder Mission eine Person zumindest Teilzeit die Funktion eines Gender Focal Point. Der kanadische als auch der finnische Aktionsplan spricht zudem allgemein von 40%-40% Zielsetzungen anstatt einer mittigen Genderparität und lösen damit eine rigorose binäre Geschlechterzuordnung auf, in dem sie Raum für non-binäre Personen (Transgender, Intersex etc.), auch in den Streitkräften zu lassen.

Schutz vor sexueller und geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt

Sexueller und geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt [6] werden neben der Frauen, Frieden und Sicherheitsresolutionen auch von Dokumenten wie CEDAW aber auch der Deklaration zur Beseitigung aller Gewalt gegen Frauen definiert und Präventions- als auch spezifische Schutzmaßnahmen aufgezeigt. Dabei spielt die Präventions- als auch die Strafverfolgungs-dimension eine große Rolle. Länder setzen sich in fast allen Ländern für eine Verbesserung der Rechtssysteme und der institutionellen Infrastrukturen zu Gunsten der Betroffenen und Überlebenden von sexualisierter Gewalt, ein. Forderungen nach besseren Infrastruktur für physisch und psychische Gesundheit und bessere Versorgung mit Therapiezentren, welche auch häusliche Gewalt strukturell miteinbeziehen finden sich in einer Vielzahl der NAP (Kroatien). Neben langfristigen Maßnahmen, werden auch die Förderung von „Frühwarnsystemen“ etwa für systematisch stattfindende Gewalt gegen Frauen und Kinder in Konflikten und „Emergency Response“ Einheiten gefordert (Dänemark, Japan).

Daneben werden unter Prävention auch Reformen in National- und Regionalgesetzgebungen zu Gewalt gegen Frauen, etwa im Aktionsplan Belgiens und Ruandas gefasst. Auch auf  internationale Rechtsmechanismen, die sexuelle Gewalt auf internationaler Ebene eindämmen sollen. Finnland und Belgien fordert zudem explizit auch für  nationale und UN Streitkräften in Friedensmissionen eine zero tolerance“ Politik. Auf öffentliche Events zu Ursachen geschlechterspezifische Gewalt, die mehr Sensibilität mit Opfern fordert, setzen beispielsweise die Aktionspläne Afghanistans und der Niederlanden. Italien und Deutschland gehen dabei auch auf die Nutzung von (Massen-) Medien ein. Die Förderung wissenschaftlicher Forschung und die systematische Erfassung von Sexualisierter Gewalt, werden etwa im NAP Guineas gefordert.

Der Kampf gegen Gewalt gegen Frauen wird in einigen NAPs um eine ökonomische Dimension erweitert. Die Möglichkeit, ein unabhängiges Leben zu führen, wird damit als partizipatives Element als auch als Präventionsmaßnahme verstanden und Sicherheit bis in den „privaten“ Raum, der Familie, verstanden. Dies ist insbesondere in Ländern ohne sozialstaatliches Netz besonders wichtig, wo familiäre Strukturen wirtschaftliches Überleben sichern.

Die Themenbereiche der physischen Sicherheit, ökonomischen Sicherheit und Armutsbekämpfungsansätzen wurden unter anderem in dem liberianischen Aktionsplan miteinander verknüpft. Burkina Faso und andere Länder erkennen über die Forderung zur Stärkung der ökonomischen Rechte hinaus zudem insbesondere „weibliche Armut“ an. Georgien und andere NAPs verweisen zudem auf die besondere Vulnerabilität von geflüchteten Frauen und regen an, diese besonders zu unterstützen.

Der afghanische NAP spricht „ökonomische Sicherheit“ an, welche durch die Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen, insbesondere von Frauen, die in ländlicheren Gebieten leben, gestärkt werden solle. Die Elfenbeinküste fügt die Bereitstellung von Mikrokrediten in ihren Aktionsplan mit ein. Auch die USA nehmen diese Dimension in ihre „Advanced Conflict Prevention Strategy“ mit auf, wodurch der Zugang zu ökonomischen Möglichkeiten als proaktive Bestrebung für Sicherheit und Stabilität angesehen wird.[7] Allgemein kann gesagt werden, dass die nationalen Aktionspläne durchaus Potential haben, Konflikt- und Sicherheitsbegriffe im Sinne von feministischen Ansätzen und Human Security neu zu denken. Hier wäre eine stärker konzeptionell geleitete Analyse, die auch den Wandel des Sicherheitsbegriffes behandelt wünschenswert.


Auch im Bereich der Konfliktprävention, lassen sich innovative Methoden identifizieren. Der NAP des Kongo und Senegals integriert Konzepte wie Übergangsjustiz als Dimension zur Konfliktprävention. Deutschland verweist auf die mediale Repräsentation von Männlichkeiten als Teil einer Konfliktpräventionsstrategie und reagiert damit auch auf neuste Erkenntnisse aus der Genderforschung und Forderungen der Zivilgesellschaft.

In Deutschland fordert zum Beispiel das Bündnis 1325, dass sich auch in der Weiterbildung von internationalen Fach- und Führungskräften in Konfliktgebieten mit „Männlichkeitsbildern, männlicher Sexualität und militarisierter Männlichkeit in Deutschland und im Einsatzgebiet auseinandergesetzt werden muss, ohne in die falsche Dichotomie friedliche Frauen versus kriegerische Männer zu verfallen”[8] In vielen Ländern werden Männer aktiv in die Konflikt- und Gewaltprävention miteingebunden. In Namibia und Neuseeland ist dies in den aktuellen Aktionsplänen der Fall.

Senegal (2011) und Spanien (2009) beziehen eine detaillierte Analyse zu Kleinwaffen und ihre geschlechterrelevanten Dimensionen in ihre Aktionspläne mit ein und möchten somit die Zirkulation solcher in Bezugnahme auf menschliche Sicherheitskonzepte verringern.[9] Auch der Aktionsplan des Südsudan weist auf den Influx von Handfeuerwaffen und die negativen Auswirkungen auf die Geschlechterbeziehungen hin.[10] Schweden widmet seinen Bemühungen zur Waffenkontrolle ein zusätzliches Ziel für die Konfliktprävention der Waffenkontrolle in ihrem aktuellen NAP (2016-2020).[11] Auch der deutsche NAP (2017-2020) identifiziert Waffen als zentrales Sicherheitsrisiko für Frauen und Mädchen und möchte die Rolle von Frauen  bei Abrüstungsbemühungen und der Entwicklung von Waffenkontrollmechanismen besonders außerhalb der eigenen Staatsgrenze in Afrika, Asien, Lateinamerika und dem Nahen Osten stärken. Auch bei der Kontrolle des illegalen Kleinwaffenhandels soll zunehmend eine Genderperspektive miteingebracht werden.


An verschiedenen Stellen und insbesondere in zivilgesellschaftlichen Stellungnahmen werden nach wie vor militarisierte Männlichkeitsstrukturen vor allem im sicherheitspolitischen Bereich als Hürde zu mehr Geschlechtergerechtigkeit und friedlichen Konfliktlösungen verstanden. Im Sinne eines positiven Friedenbegriffes und menschlicher Sicherheit müssen jedoch der Schutz und Einbezug von Frauen und Mädchen nicht nur mit einer militärischen sondern allgemeingesellschaftlich angegangen werden. Dabei sollten Geschlechterbeziehungen nicht ausschließlich binär und in ihrer traditionellen Manifestierung bewertet werden, sondern auch in a-typischen und intersektionalen Formen in die Frauen, Frieden und Sicherheitsinstrumentarien integriert werden. In diesem Rahmen sollte die Debatte um implizite Zuschreibung zu „gender“ sowie globale ökonomische Abhängigkeiten  in der Implementierungsmöglichkeiten von 1325 stärker vorangetrieben werden.


[2] Nach einer  vorgelagterten quantitativen Analyse von Popovic haben 46% der NAPs einen internen Fokus, 22 % einen Exteren und 32% schreiben die Zielsetzung intern als auch extern fest  (Nicola Popovic. Berlin: 2017)

[3] Government of Ireland. Ireland’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. 2015-2018. Dublin: 2015. Introduction.

[4] Nations Unies en Centrafrique Republique Centraficaine. Plan D´Action National pur la mise en Oevre de la Resolution 1325 du Conseil de Securite de Nations Unies sur les Femme, la Paix et la Securite. 2014-2016. S. 28. Ormhaug, Christin. OSCE Study on National Action Plans on the Implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. OSCE & PRIO. Vienna: 2014. S. 45.

[5] Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Action plan for implementation of UNSCR 1325 In Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Period 2014- 2017. Sarajewo: 2013

[6] UNSCR 1820 spricht von Zivilisten und UNSCR 2106 erwähnt Männer und Jungen im Kampf gegen sexuelle Gewalt & (als sekundäre) Opfer von Konflikten.

[7] Government of the United States of America. The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Washington: 2016. S. 35 „proactive efforts to build women’s capacities to help prevent war and promote stability by providing girls and women safe access to tools such as education, economic opportunity, and health care“.

[8] Gunda Werner Institute.Bündnis 1325: Eckpunkte für einen Nationalen Aktionsplan (NAP). Herinrich Böll Stiftung. Berlin: 2011

[9] Senegal (2011): demands to “Analyze the phenomenon of the circulation of small arms.” Und Spanien (2009): „Alentar la presencia de perspectiva de género en las iniciativas de desarme y no proliferación de armas pequeñas y ligeras así como la participación de mujeres en tales iniciativas.“

[10] “With firearms, the act of killing or injuring other people was depersonalized, promoting impunity and physical attacks on women and children. Increased weapons in the community translated into more violence against women and girls in their homes and in the public sphere. Men became more violent and explosive, not only towards enemy soldiers on the battle field but even toward their loved ones and unprotected females in their homes, who had no fallback position for redress or attainment of justice” South Sudan National Action Plan 2015-2020 on UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and Related Resolutions. Juba: 2014, Seite 16.

[11] „ Contribute to ensuring that a gender perspective is integrated into discussions, final documents and relevant resolutions in the area of disarmament and arms control, and in their interpretation and implementation, particularly regarding small arms and light weapons.“ Government of Sweden. Women, Peace & Security. Sweden’s National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security 2016–2020. Stockholm: 2016, S. 12.


Das Mauerparkinstitute e.V. in Zusammenarbeit mit der Robert-Bosch-Stiftung und dem Encounter/Engaged Anthropology Network feiern die Begegnung! Das Medienprojekt ENCOUNTER lädt herzlich ein:

Samstag, den 14. April, 2018 in den Räumen des Lichtburgforums, Behmstrasse 13, 13357 Berlin (Gesundbrunnen).

19.00 Uhr Einlass
21.00 Uhr Vorstellung des Blogs und Magazins ENCOUNTER
21.30 Uhr Live: Dominance Band (Syrien)
22.00 Uhr Party mit DJ Moji (Kicks ass!)

Es sind alle herzlich eingeladen, die Lust haben, Begegnungen, mit uns, und ENCOUNTER zu feiern und unsere Zusammenarbeit kennenlernen zu wollen! Eintritt frei.

In Vorfreude,
das Mauerparkinstitut e.V. und das Encounter-Team

Philippine Cinema: What are its roots, how has it developed, and where is it going? Read this fascinating article by Paul Grant featured in the The Brooklyn Rail. Passionate about Filipino films or simply eager to learn more? Join us at the The First Reel: Philippine Film Festival – Berlin on November 3 – 5, 8 -12 at the Kino Moviemento for 8-nights of critically-acclaimed Filipino films and in-depth Roundtable Discussions on an intriguing and diverse area of topics relevant to the films and other critical issues and aspects of Southeast Asian and/or Philippine cinema.

The First Reel: Philippine Film Festival is presented by the @PhilippineStudiesSeriesBerlin in cooperation with Mauerpark Institut e.V., supported by Stiftung Umverteilen and @Philippinenburo, and assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Germany

#FiliKino #thefirstreel #PHilmFest17 #PhilippineCinema #filmfestival

Read more



Der Film zeigt, wie die Betroffenen in Indonesien auch heute noch unter Beleidigungen, Erniedrigung und Angst leiden. Die Geschichte der Trostfrauen ist in Indonesien bisher kaum aufgearbeitet und die Betroffenen leben unter unerträglichen Bedingungen. Dr. Boryano Rickum vom Mauerpark Institut e.V. moderiert das Publikumsgespräch mit Hilde Janssen, die die Überlebenden für den Film „Because We Were Beautiful“ interviewte.

Datum: 22. November 2017 um 19:00

Eintritt frei – Spenden für Überlebende in Indonesien erbeten.

Veranstaltungsort: Hörsaal Nr. 1070, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

Über den Film:
Because We Were Beautiful
(2010, Niederländisch / Indonesisch mit englischen Untertiteln, 60 Min.)

Bis heute ist über die Mädchen und Frauen aus Indonesien, die im Zweiten Weltkrieg während der drei Jahre langen Besatzungszeit durch die japanische Armee als sogenannte „Trostfrauen“ zur sexuellen Sklaverei gezwungen wurden, nur wenig bekannt. Im Gegensatz zu anderen Ländern sind diese Ereignisse in der indonesischen Gesellschaft noch immer ein Tabuthema und die Verbrechen der japanischen Besatzungsmacht kaum aufgeklärt. Der niederländische Regisseur Frank van Osch begleitet die Journalistin Hilde Jansen und den Fotografen Jan Banning bei ihren Recherchen in Indonesien. Elf Überlebende erzählen zum ersten Mal vor der Kamera, was ihnen damals widerfuhr. Ihr ganzes Leben mussten sie Beleidigungen, Erniedrigungen und Angst ertragen. Die Erzählung dieser Ereignisse ist nicht nur für die betroffenen Frauen schmerzhaft, sondern auch für die Anwesenden. Der Film zeigt dem Publikum einen bisher unbekannten Teil der „Trostfrauen“-Geschichte.

Zuvor wird noch der 25-minütige Kurzfilm “The Story of the Papak Building” gezeigt.

Weitere Informationen unter:

By Anne Menzel

In July 2016, I began to prepare for my first return to Sierra Leone since the 2014-15 West Africa Ebola outbreak. My last stay had ended shortly before the first Ebola cases were officially registered, and my return was to begin in early November 2016. Its purpose was to conduct three months of archival and field research for a project titled Redressing Sexual Violence in Truth Commissions. The Labelling of Women as Victims and its Social Repercussions. One aspect to be covered by my research was the current state of fighting sexual violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone. Pertinent questions were: who is doing or funding which kinds of measures based on which policy-narratives, and (how) do these measures and narratives reflect local experiences, needs, struggles and aspirations? Among current reconstruction efforts after Ebola, I expected to meet a fair number of activities around sexual violence against women and girls.

My expectations were based on recent reports and on experiences in the aid industry: During and in the immediate aftermath of the epidemic, there had been press and NGO reports about increases in sexual violence and teenage pregnancy. Both were attributed to the closing of schools (a quarantine measure) and escalating economic hardship.[1] Girls were at home or in the streets rather than in school, while food prices were rising and while it was becoming even harder than usual to earn a living or survival. It was judged plausible that these conditions had rendered women and especially young girls even more vulnerable to sexual abuse. According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) factsheet, there were coordinated plans to allocate USD 2 million to the fight against sexual violence from June 2015 until December 2016 ‒ as part of the Ebola recovery efforts.[2] I presumed that this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Also, I had already experienced that sexual violence was regarded as a relevant and actionable problem to be addressed in the context of post-Ebola reconstruction efforts. In May 2015, when Ebola cases had markedly decreased and organisations were rushing in to plan and pitch reconstruction projects, I was approached by an international NGO looking for a consultant to conduct a needs assessment among vulnerable populations (women, children and youth) in the capital city Freetown and some rural areas. Based on this assessment, the prospective consultant was also expected to come up with a project proposal. There had recently been an EU call for relief and reconstruction projects for Ebola-hit West African countries and the NGO was looking for relevant and actionable ideas that would match the call as well as its own established specializations and competencies. The country director clearly communicated her preference for a needs assessment result that would enable a project centred on Ebola-related sexual violence. During my skype job interview she told me,

Please don’t come up with something like ‘people are hungry and people are sick’. Everybody knows that, and there is nothing we can do about it. We need something more specific to get these EU grants. Maybe something like Ebola and sexual violence.[3]

I ended up not taking the job, but it still made a lasting impression on me. Over the following months (until July 2016) I did not have time to systematically follow up on current policy-developments in Sierra Leone. But I assumed that sexual violence against women and girls was a topic that donors and their implementing partners (international and national/local NGOs) were eager to address.

A post-Ebola diversion?

It did not take me long to begin to doubt my expectations. In fact, they did not even last until I left for Sierra Leone in early November 2016. Already in late August, I came across press reports that told a very different story. According to a BBC report, it had actually become more difficult to raise money to assist women and girls who had suffered sexual violence in Sierra Leone.[4] The report specifically focused on the Rainbo Initiative, a national organization, and Familiy Support Units (FSUs), which are part of the Sierra Leone Police structure. Rainbo Initiative runs three Rainbo Centres, one in the capital city Freetown and one, respectively, in two district headquarter towns, Kenema and Koidu. The centres offer a medical examination and counselling to survivors of sexual violence and, if possible, collect evidence for future criminal prosecutions of perpetrators.[5] They are also meant to closely work with FSUs. These are units within the national police structure that were specifically established to respond to domestic abuse (sexual or other) of women and children. Most importantly, they are supposed to make sure that allegations are properly investigated so that cases of abuse can be tried in court – instead of hidden away or settled within or between families according to customary law.[6] Both organizations had originally been established in the context of British-led security sector reforms during and after the 1991-2002 war in Sierra Leone.[7] And both were about to run out of funds and desperately looking for donors willing to step in. The Sierra Leone government had already declined their requests.[8]

Another press report about a post-Ebola lack of funds in the fight against sexual violence drew on interviews with the executive directors of Rainbo Initiative and AdvocAid. The latter is a Sierra Leonean NGO, which offers legal aid to women in Sierra Leone’s over-crowded prisons. The executive directors of both organizations agreed in their diagnoses: funding was going elsewhere. AdvocAid’s executive director, Simitie Lavaly, also provided an explanation, “[D]onors have diverted their priority from human rights funding to the health sector, since its weakness was hugely exposed by the Ebola outbreak.”[9]

Donor fatigue

But I soon began to doubt the idea of a ‘post-Ebola diversion’ as well. When I spoke with AdvocAid’s Simitie Lavaly in November 2016, she actually confirmed these doubts. She explained that AdvocAid had always found it comparatively difficult to attract donors, because the women they assisted were criminal offenders (though many are also imprisoned for non-criminal offenses, such as failure to repay loans) – and major donors preferred victim-centred projects. However, while AdvocAid was getting better at presenting their beneficiaries’ vulnerable aspects (the stories behind the stories that led them to end up in prison)[10] and while Ebola had indeed brought some new policy priorities and funding difficulties, they also had to deal with a more profound donor fatigue. This affected the FSUs and Rainbo Centres even more than AdvocAid. Donors had reached the point at which they really wanted the government to take over funding responsibilities for certain organizations in the area of responding to sexual violence against women and girls,

‘Donors feel that they have poured so much money in the justice system, but they just don’t see the results. So they say, let’s stop the funding, let the government take responsibility. And, of course, this is their right and it makes sense in terms of sustainability. But it also creates a gap.’[11]

FSUs have been chronically underfunded for years and Rainbo Centres can still only offer a very limited set of services in a few location. This has meant that sexual violence cases still rarely make it to court and that survivors do not receive necessary medical attention.[12] Common complaints are, for example, that FSUs have none of the necessary basic equipment, like cars, fuel, pens and paper, to engage in a criminal investigation. Unpaid and insufficient salaries are also a constant problem, as they cause petty corruption. Survivors and/or their families and friends are usually asked for financial contributions before they can even make a report. An elderly woman in Freetown (a petty trader surviving on a hand-to-mouth basis) recently told me this typical story,

One time, I went with a girl [to the local FSU]. Three men had beaten and abused her. We went to the hospital and they gave her a medical paper. Next, we went to the police and sat down with one police woman. This woman told us to bribe her. She wanted 20.000 [Leones, roughly 3 Euro) before ever she was ready to do something. I told her that I was only holding 10.000. She said that she would wait first. And that was it. We did not go there again.[13]

During an interview with leading officers at an FSU Freetown in early 2014 (before Ebola), I was told that it was only during the time of the British-led post-war security sector reforms that there was sufficient funding.[14]

While FSUs have been experiencing this ‘gap’ for a number of years now, donors’ retreat from the Rainbo Centres is more recent but still predates Ebola. In my first Rainbo interview with a member of the board of governors of Rainbo Initiative, she explained that the organization had been in a difficult process of transition since 2014.[15] Here is her account of the organization’s history in brief: She explained that the very idea to found Rainbo Centres had come from a British policeman, Bill Roberts, who was a consultant for the British-led security sector reforms in the early 2000s.[16] Because of his initiative, Rainbo Centres became modelled after an organization in Manchester (most likely St. Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre).[17] The idea was to establish more private and secure-feeling places outside the police stations where women and girls would receive care and counselling and, at the same time, where professionals would be able to collect physical evidence of abuse. The three Rainbo Centres were established in 2003 (Freetown), 2004 (Kenema) and 2005 (Koidu). Until 2014, they were fully managed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an international NGO. This meant that IRC raised funds and managed the centres’ budgets. From 2014 on, however, IRC supported Rainbo to become independent – under a national organization called Rainbo Initiative. This process was also approved and supported by Rainbo’s most important donor, Irish Aid, the Irish government’s programme for overseas development. Irish Aid has a steady relationship with IRC, which is its implementing partner in Sierra Leone. This relationship continues[18] while Irish Aid has been seeking to phase out its support for Rainbo Centres.

The idea was that an independent Rainbo Initiative would be able to raise and manage its own funds.[19] But without an international partner and the accompanying donor-connections, Rainbo Initiative has been unable to attract new donors. As an emergency measure, it received one last grant from Irish Aid to cover nurses’ and counsellors’ salaries until the end of January 2017; an additional grant from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to cover medical supplies, stationery, food etc. did not come through.[20]  When I visited the centre in Kono in February 2017, it was still operating and patients were coming in every day. The staff told me that they remained hopeful and trusted that their new executive director − James Fofanah, who had just started the job in January 2017 − would soon find a donor for them.[21]

Moving on to teenage pregnancy

When I spoke to Mr. Fofanah in late February 2017, he was indeed in the process of preparing several grant proposals. He explained that, at the moment, he really just wanted to make sure that the centres survived. In the medium and long term, however, he was going for a different strategy. He argued that it was absolutely necessary to include medical care for survivors of sexual violence into the regular government budget as part of the ‘free health care package’. The existing package is only for pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and infants under the age of five (and even their ‘free’ treatments are often not actually free of charge; petty corruption has been a major obstacle hindering access to basic health care in Sierra Leone[22]). What this means in practice is that survivors of sexual violence officially have to pay for themselves if they want to receive medical care − aside from an initial free check-up at Rainbo Centres (if there is a centre nearby) and unless they fall into the categories of pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and infants under the age of five. Mr. Fofanah argued that this situation urgently needed to change. In this, he is in perfect agreement with donors such as Irish Aid who have been advocating for the inclusion of sexual violence survivor-care into the government’s ‘free health care package’.[23]

In addition, Mr. Fofanah was also hoping to be able to persuade donors to include Rainbo Centres into the new focus on teenage pregnancy. This focus had been pushed during Ebola when sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies were reported to be massively on the rise due to girls’ increased vulnerability. Still, the topic was not exactly brand new. It had been introduced to Sierra Leonean policy makers via a widely received United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report in 2010[24] and had already been designated as a priority area for coordinated donor and government action before Ebola.[25] After Ebola, there are certainly no signs that it is slowing down. To the contrary, as I was speaking with Mr Fofanah in late February 2017, Irish Aid and IRC had just launched a new project in Kenema and Kailahun and additional teenage pregnancy related activities were going on in partnership with the international NGO Save the Children and the United Nations Populations Fund.[26] All these current activities focus, in one way or another, on raising awareness for the problem of ‘teenage pregnancy’ − as sexual abuse, as a considerable health risk and as a barrier to education and empowerment – and on encouraging girls to ‘say no to early sex‘ and stay in school.

Mr Fofanah felt that Rainbo Centres could complement these efforts. He referred to a recently published independent policy analysis, which takes a critical stance on the emphasis placed on changing girls’ attitudes and behaviours and calls for an approach that also considers changing contexts and structures.[27] This was where Mr. Fofanah saw a potential role for Rainbo Centres that might still attract donor-funding – if and when donors were ready to again invest in a less individualized approach to social change.

Lessons learned

What is there to be learned from this glimpse into the world of donor-involvement in the current ‘sexual violence situation’ in Sierra Leone? It is clear that donors have certainly not lost interest. Instead, they have shifted their focus towards new priorities offering problems that may still be solved and towards areas where donor-funded projects may still make a measurable impact and generate ‘value for money’[28]. It appears that such impact no longer seems possible with FSUs and Rainbo Centres. They should long have become owned by the national government or, at least, they should have become independent of steady donors who are no longer willing to take over government responsibilities.

The current situation in Sierra Leone appears to confirm perspectives that interpret donor-funded activities in the name of aid, peacebuilding and development as self-referential. In practice, they are about designing and doing ‘good projects’ that can have a demonstrable impact according to predefined indicators and standards. This happens, ’relatively independently of beneficiaries’ needs and preferences.’[29] For example, it might well be that many Sierra Leoneans would prefer external donors to make good use of available money to fund basic services − even if donors consider this a government responsibility and regard such actions as unsustainable and prolonging dependency. But, in any case, this option is never on the table. Donors decide when it is appropriate to push certain topics and withdraw funding in other areas – all in the name of assisting/empowering vulnerable people while respecting the state’s sovereignty (and avoiding accusations of neo-colonialism). When desired impact seems no longer possible, it becomes plausible and even inevitable to move on to problems that are more ‘attractive’, in the sense that they can be perceived of and presented as actionable and rewarding. This appears to be the case for ‘teenage pregnancy’ in Sierra Leone, which has been made into a matter of changing harmful attitudes among teenage girls and encouraging them to focus on their education and socio-economic empowerment. In addition, it is also presented as an issue of sexual violence − only without the messy components of Sierra Leone’s post-war security structure that have turned out as such disappointments.

It is still uncertain where this situation is headed and whether critical voices regarding the current individualized approach to social change in the realm of ‘teenage pregnancy’ will be heard. Much will probably depend on Sierra Leone’s 2018 general elections and on a new governments’ willingness and ability to make credible commitments to effectively become responsible for old problems and new priorities.


[1] See, e.g.,  Nina Devries, ‘Ebola drives increase in sexual violence in Sierra Leone, experts say’, Al Jazeera America, 20 February 2015, (last accessed 19 April 2017); Sheik Alie Y. Kallay, ‘Ebola and Gender Violence in Sierra Leone’, Awareness Times, 16 March 2015, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[2] See UNDP, ‘Ebola Recovery in Sierra Leone: Tackling the rise in sexual and gender based violence and teenage pregnancy during the Ebola crisis’, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[3] Skype job interview, 20 May 2015.

[4] Umaru Fofana, ‘Sierra Leone: “Real men don’t sleep with school girls”’, BBC Focus on Africa, 25 July 2016, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[5] See Lina Abirafeh, ‘Building capacity in Sierra Leone’, Forced Migration Review 28 (2007), p. 20.

[6] See Lisa Denney and Aisha Fofana Ibrahim, ‘Violence against women in Sierra Leone: how women seek redress’ (Overseas Development Institute, London 2012), p. 13.

[7] See Peter Albrecht and Paul Jackson, ‘Security system transformation in Sierra Leone, 1997-2007’ (Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector reform and International Alert, Birmingham and London, 2009).

[8] Umaru Fofana, ‘Sierra Leone: “Real men don’t sleep with school girls”’, BBC Focus on Africa, 25 July 2016, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[9] Mustapha Dumbuya, ‘Funding issues threaten support for Sierra Leone’s sexual abuse victims’, News Deeply, 23 August 2016, (last accessed 19 April 2019).

[10] See, e.g., ‘Favour’s story’, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[11] Interview in Freetown, 14 November 2016.

[12] For an overview, see Lisa Denney and Aisha Fofana Ibrahim, ‘Violence against women in Sierra Leone: how women seek redress’ (Overseas Development Institute, London, 2012).

[13] Informal conversation in Freetown, 10 December 2016.

[14] Interview in Freetown, 10 January 2014.

[15] Interview in Freetown, 24 November 2016.

[16] See also Peter Albrecht and Paul Jackson, ‘Security system transformation in Sierra Leone, 1997-2007’ (Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector reform and International Alert, Birmingham and London, 2009), p. 40.

[17] Rainbo Centres were originally called ‘Sexual Assault Referral Centres’. On the centre in Manchester, see (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[18] See Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ‘Ministers Flanagan and McHugh announce €2.2 million in funding to the International Rescue Committee’, press release, 23 February 2017, (last accessed 19 April 2017).

[19] Interview with Irish Aid’s gender advisor, Freetown, 27 January 2017.

[20] Interview with a member of the Rainbo Initiative’s board of governors, Freetown, 24 November 2016.

[21] Interview in Koidu, 6 February 2017.

[22] See Amnesty International, ‘At a crossroads: Sierra Leone’s free health care policy’ (Amnesty International, London, 2011).

[23] This is according to Irish Aid’s gender advisor, interview in Freetown, 27 January 2017.

[24] Emily Coinco, ‘A glimpse into the world of teenage pregnancy’ (UNICEF, New York, 2010).

[25] Government of Sierra Leone, ‘Let girls be girls not mothers: national strategy for the reduction of teenage pregnancy (2013-2015)’ (Government of Sierra Leone, Freetown, 2013).

[26] Interview with Irish Aid’s gender advisor, Freetown, 27 January 2017.

[27] Lisa Denney, Rachel Gordon, Aminata Kamara and Precious Lebby, ‘Change the Context not the girls: improving efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone’ (Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium/Overseas Development Institute, Report No 11, London, 2016).

[28] ‘Value for money’ as a principle for programming and project-making is, ‘is about maximising the impact of each pound spent to improve poor people’s lives.’ DFID, ‘DFID’s approach to value for money (VfM)’ (Department for International Development, London, 2011), p. 2.

[29]See, e.g., Monika Krause, The good project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentations of Reason (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, and London, 2014), p. 4.

Event with Fahmi Panimbang, labour activist and researcher at LIPS (Sedane Labor Resource Center), Indonesia

Presentation with case studies plus videosequences of “Bekasi workers fight back” by Fahmi Panimbang, labour activist and researcher at LIPS (Sedane Labor Resource Center)

Tuesday, May 16, 7 pm (free admission)
taz Café | Rudi-Dutschke-Str. 23 | Berlin-Kreuzberg

For more info, see:



By Nicola Popovic;

Training sessions, workshops and courses form part of the professional environment in the development cooperation world. Not only cognitive knowledge but also attitudinal and behavioral changes form part of the learning agenda when working on human rights issues, sustainable peace and gender equality. Gender trainings in particular address soft skills and socio-emotional changes. These factors and shifts are difficult to measure. How can we evaluate whether training sessions really help to break glass ceilings, close pay gaps, prevent trafficking and violence through institutional reforms, and aid in statistical data collection?

Gender training is often defined as a long term, transformational process that strives to foster greater gender equality within societies through the transmission of knowledge, the enhancement of skills, and attitude as well as behavioral change.[1] Such definition implies various levels of assumptions, namely that a) the materials, presentations and exercises presented in the training contribute to a change in knowledge, attitude and skills; and b) that these new or changed knowledge, attitude, behavior and skills will translate into actions that contribute to greater gender equality. The justification to develop and conduct training for gender equality is based on this theory behind the change that it claims to bring.

The need to prove that gender training really does link to both these smaller and larger objectives and goals is especially relevant considering the large funding cuts for gender equality and sustainable development projects. The most common evaluation tools in trainings are satisfaction surveys or tests handed out to participants after a training session. An analysis of these tools shows us immediate reactions and desired knowledge curves, but do not tell us anything about the ways the training´s content will translate in actual behavioral, institutional or social change nor if it actually has an impact.
Security sector actors receive gender training in order to reform the sector towards more inclusive, participatory and sensitive provision of security for all: men, women, boys and girls. Mostly male dominated and driven by an agenda that fosters traditional gender roles, the security sector can be more resistant to training for gender equality.

Nonetheless, once open to change, security actors can be receptive and engaged participants in gender training sessions. If received as an order, the mandate to provide security for all can be taken very seriously if received as an order, particularly in the military sector. It can also be seen as an operational necessity, such as in the area of evidence finding for the police or crime prevention. The effects of gender training and gender mainstreaming measures may be even more visible in this sector than elsewhere. The importance of gathering evidence and documenting changes in attitudes and behavior is important to prove the effectiveness and impact of gender training.
A very specific and most commonly used evaluation method when it comes to training is the Kirkpatrick’s four level model.[2] After the training has been conducted, this method measures different levels of comprehension to estimate how the learned knowledge and skills will be applied in contexts relevant to participants. It analyses the immediate reaction, learning, behavior and impact of the participants. While the first two levels are relatively easy to evaluate and gain data on using questionnaires and observation, levels 3 and 4 may be more difficult to assess and may require more resources. Levels 3 and 4 may be the most relevant to track progress participants have made and how effective the training has been for them, and for meeting the overall learning objectives.

It is important to recognize that training initiatives are only effective if the trainee has a chance to implement the learned content and skills in the environment in which he or she works in an effective manner.

The higher levels at the Kirkpatrick scale are more difficult to evaluate and require longer term observation, analytical detail and resources. However, they are also a lot more significant when it comes to the relevance and impact of gender training. Behavioral change does not solely depend on theoretical knowledge or even emotional awareness about certain issues, but also on the practicality and individual disposition of the participants to express and perform tasks and actions in a way coherent with the theoretical knowledge and awareness learned during a training for gender quality. Very often that means breaking out of routines, stereotypes, and comfort zones. It may question values and modus operandi of one’s own culture, institution or family. A behavioral change and other long term changes may be complex goals to achieve and can be even more complex to prove and measure.

For example, a UN peacekeeper may have a positive reaction to the gender training he has received prior to his mission in country X. He may have scored high on the final test and feel that he has learned quite a lot. Nonetheless, he may fall back into the same behavior he meant to avoid once in mission due to the environment and conflict situation he is in, which may also be fostered by comrades. Additionally, the infrastructure in mission has not changed in a way that any gender issues can be integrated into operations. Therefore, results may not prove very different from the previous mission he participated in. In this case, gender training has made a change on the first two levels on the Kirkpatrick Scale but failed to have long term impact and results. This is also due to the fact that the infrastructure surrounding the trainee does not permit the application of the learned content and skills.

The tools and resources institutionally available often do not allow follow-up with individual training participants, nor observation and analysis of their behaviors. Instead only anecdotal data, tests, or interviews may indicate long term changes or even impacts. “Most tools assume that change occurs in a linear way, but social change is a complex process that cannot be reduced to neat sets of causal relationships. What often ends up happening when organizations use this kind of linear framework is that their focus is on the tool itself – how to meet the expected achievements – rather than on the larger picture.”[3]

However, the larger picture often has culturally specific gender codes, roles and norms that dynamically relate to each other. “Gender roles, identities and expectations are socially, culturally and politically constructed through the power relations between men, women and those identifying with other gender categories – as well as through the power relations within these groups.(…) In order to bring meaningful gender dimensions into these methods and processes, DME should integrate local understandings of gender identities of different social classes, religious beliefs, economic resources, education and ages (…).[4] Therefore, such understandings of gender roles and norms need to be unpacked and contextualized before being able to assess the level of behavioral, institutional or societal change that may be realistic and worth achieving in each context. In addition, these roles and norms need to be considered in relation to other social and political factors such as ethnicity, age, economic status and religious beliefs which may influence power dynamics and discriminatory practices within a given society, organizational context or institution. In the above example of the example of the UN peacekeeper, the context is a) the specific security sector he works in –a military unit- and b) the mission country.

In addition, the background, experiences and perceptions of the various participants taking the same gender training and course can be very diverse. Particularly in international settings, a heterogenic audience with different background knowledge, attitudes and skills can pose challenges in the design, implementation and evaluation of a training’s success towards the creation of a more gender sensitive audience and subsequently greater gender equality overall.

Apart from evaluation approaches that focus on quantitative and conventional data collection methods and analysis, there are also alternative methods that can provide a deeper understanding of issues surrounding gender perceptions and social change. This is particularly important when specific attitudes and behavioral change shall be challenged through the training. Most significant change focuses on a central question: “Looking back, what do you think was the most significant change in (particular domain of change)”? Significant change stories are collected and selected to provide qualitative input about the interventions contribution to change through individual narratives. The stories collected are then chosen by a selection committee to complement quantitative data. This method allows the contextualization of other data and achievement of a deeper understanding of the different levels the individual can benefit from in the given training. In this way, a logical link between a gender training and an observed change, even if subjective and anecdotal, is established.

Universities and training institutes try to follow up with their former students through alumni networks on a much larger and more systematic scale. Nonetheless, these networks are no guarantee for any systematic or reliable data collection that might lead to any significant statements or conclusions about the impact of gender training.

For peacekeeping in particular, the changes that gender training contributes can be particularly complex and constantly changing. An evaluation of the impact of gender training on each UN peacekeeper in their different military units is almost impossible to fully measure. In addition, an investment in the evaluation of an initiative or activity must always be proportionate to the investment in the activity itself. For example, the impact of a one-hour gender training should not be evaluated and analyzed for months since there is likely to be only very limited change in the participants and environment.

The effects of the gender training compete with so many other social, economic, cultural and spiritual influences. A lot of times changes show themselves in an anecdotal, one-off and unpredictable manner. Social change is not a linear process and is not only guided by rational judgement but also strongly by socio-emotional interaction, especially when it comes to social power dynamics and gender relations. Correlations between changes in behaviors, social dynamics or even practices or policies can be correlated but not necessarily caused by a given training. The link needs to be established when drawing conclusions about the impact and effects of gender training.

There is a dilemma between the need to balance how effective the different training units are on the one hand, with the complexity of and resources needed for a scientifically valid analysis. Overall, there are methods and ideas for how to measure the effects and changes gender trainings bring, but they are often too narrow to really demonstrate significant conclusions and correlations. While the development world would benefit from more in-depth analysis of what really works for training participants and the context they live and work in to make gender training more effective, the resources, time and expertise needed to do so are still not invested and may not even be worth the extensive effort for each short term training given.

A solution can be to make gender training less short term and randomly applied but more sustainably and dynamically integrated into the curricula at police academies and military schools, for example. At the same time an evaluation of the training should have a longer term perspective to match the proportionality of efforts between gender training and evaluations. The role of security sector is essential for establishing gender equality, sustainable peace and human rights protection. Because of this, training for gender equality in the security sector should be mainstreamed in other training units and implemented in a manner so that its effects are more realistic and visible. Institutional changes towards a culture of equality, respect and sensitivity within the security sector go hand in hand with an effective training unit as well as its evaluation.


[1] UN Women:

[2] Kirkpatrick Partners:

[3] Kinoti, Kathambi and Sanushka Mudaliar. The Pitfalls of Monitoring and Evaluation: Do Current Frameworks Really Serve Us? A Summary of Part I ‘Capturing Change in Women’s Realities: The Challenges of Monitoring and Evaluating Our Work’ a Paper by Srilatha Batliwala and Alexandra Pittman. Association For Women’s Rights in Development. Ottawa: 2010

[4] Khattab, Lana. Myttinen, Henri. Popovic, Nicola. Measuring Gender in Peacebuilding. International Alert. Londond: 2016

by Nicola Popovic;

Even though some –even high level presidential candidates in some countries- these three concepts do not belong together, there exist a whole normative policy framework on Women, Peace and Security. Since its adoption, Resolution 1325 and its sister resolutions embrace a whole range of topics and issues and recommend specific activities and action points for governments, non-governmental organisations and the international community:

  • Resolution 1325 itself points out three dimensions including the need for full participation of women in peace processes, as well as the protection and prevention of armed and gender-based violence.
  • Resolution 1820 focuses on the protection of civilians from sexual and gender-based violence during armed conflict.
  • Resolution 1888 consequently mandates that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative to coordinate UN actions aimed to address sexual violence in armed conflict and to carry out advocacy at the national level with Member States. The resolution places a strong responsibility on peacekeepers for responding to sexual violence and requires that peacekeeping mandates include provisions regarding sexual violence.
  • Resolution 1889 strongly stresses the need for better reporting and monitoring mechanisms. At the national level, the resolution calls on Member States to develop National Action Plans. In order to track these and other implementation efforts, the resolution requests that the Secretary-General ensures that UN entities, in conjunction with Member States and civil society, collect data to assess the needs of women and girls in post-conflict situations.
  • Resolution 1960 states that the Security Council will utilize this information as a basis for further UN action. It also calls on parties of armed conflict to take specific measures to combat sexual violence and for the Secretary-General to track such measures.
  • The Resolutions 2106 and 2122, were both adopted in 2013.
  • Resolution 2106 focuses very much on supporting Member States in post-conflict scenarios to include a gender perspective in their recovery and peacebuilding efforts.
  • Resolution 2122 requests DPA and DPKO to report and include women, peace and security issues in their regular briefings and reports.

So far, 60 countries worldwide have developed national action plans to implement the basic principles the above resolutions recommend. Among them are almost all Western European countries of which, especially the Scandinavian countries have been on the forefront of the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of their national action plans. Even though almost all activities outlined in the action plans of Western countries focus on initiatives outside their own state borders,the actors affected have almost never been consulted or involved in review processes of these action plans. When working on empowerment and peaceful conflict resolution a non-patriach approach seems key but often compromised by unequal power relations in and even between countries.

The Austrian Action Plan for example very strongly focused on measuring the success and implementation of its development cooperation projects and peacekeeping missions in countries such as Northern Uganda, South Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, Rwanda.[1] The national action plan of Norway of 2006 has addressed and funded projects in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan and Nepal.[2] Both action plans focus therefore also their indicators on outputs outside the country of the action plan.

An indicator is “a measure that helps answer the question of how much, or whether, progress is being made toward a certain objective”[3] and are an integral part of a national action plan facilitating the needed monitoring process to prove its success or failure in different areas. In the context of national action planning on resolution 1325, the development of indicators for activities outside the state border of the country with the NAP (National Action Plan) means that the objective of the women, peace and security agenda in country X still does very much depend on the national priority of the donor country.

Examples of most common indicators in national action plans include the number of women in the armed forces or the number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence reported and prosecuted in a specific country during a specific period of time. Looking at these indicators separately they may provide misleading or incomplete information. Therefore, the use of qualitative indicator and a more contextualizing narrative is considered more and more important when reviewing these plans. But the narrative very often is not told by the people affected but by the people managing the development cooperation projects.

Even though several national action plans such have been reviewed, evaluated and updated by the governments, they almost never invite the affected population on the ground, the beneficiaries of the development cooperation projects and the 1325 NAP to provide their input about the good practices and lessons learned. Also the OSCE has conducted a study reviewing national action plans of their member states comparing the activities, structure and process of the action planning in those countries.[4] While other global policies have their well-defined reporting mechanisms such as CEDAW, the reporting on the advances on the implementation of resolution 1325 has been rather informal and anecdotal. Despite the adoption of global indicators[5] the reporting and comparison at the international level has always been rather anecdotal than systematic, reflected in the Secretary General reports, regional organisations such as the European Union and reviews by civil society organisations.[6]

Even though there is a general agreement with the global indicators developed by the United Nations, the indicators in each action plan have been developed by the national governments developing the NAP themselves in accordance to their policy priorities and capacities. The monitoring of the activities and outputs in harmony with the indicators also lay in the hands of the respectives governments. Evaluation on the other hand are often conducted by external actors, such as NGOs or independent consultants but nonetheless, inherently depend on the indicator previously developed. The collection of data and input into these evaluation and monitoring indicators almost depend on the governments and especially the leading ministry –Foreign Ministry for example- or institution –development agency for example- that works on the ground or hands out the financial resources to a collaborating agency.

In the case of most European action plans, which almost exclusively focus on activities outside their own state borders, it is particularly difficult to collect the data needed and contextualize the data in relation to the priorities of the country with the action plan, as well as the country where the implementation happened. For example, when a country like the Netherlands has several projects that are financed through the national action plan on resolution 1325 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the data collection on how he cases of sexual and gender based violence have increased or decreased and can be attributed to the project activities, has several complex layers and requires an understanding for the meanings of gender dynamics and definition of sexual and gender-based violence in the Netherlands as well as the DRC.

Outputs, activities and indicators in national action plans of European countries, therefore need to take the realistic data collection and contextualization of gender definition into consideration when developed. They should not only reflect the priorities and capacities inside the government of the action plan but take its impact zone into major consideration, which in especially in the case of European countries may lay outside the sphere in which it is developed. Consultations, base-line studies and participation of the local population and decision makers in the areas and countries of impact should ideally participate in the development process of the action plan, as well as the performance indicators. What may mean success on paper here, may not be a success in the country the activities are conducted in. In order to move truly promote gender equality and positive peace more participation and dialogue is needed overcoming unequal power structures that are still inherent in today development cooperation dynamics between donor and recipient country.

Action planning processes therefore should increase the inclusion of the end beneficiaries and the social changes attributed to in the country of destination. Monitoring and evaluation then should contribute to NAP reviews and updates that also involve the same national actors on the ground in order to improve the efficiency and most important the impact, preventing conflict and gender-based violence here and the countries Europe wants to support.




United Nations Development Programme. Measuring Democratic Governance: A Framework for Selecting Pro-poor and Gender Sensitive Indicators. New York and Oslo: 2006.

Deutscher Bundestag. Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Claudia Roth (Augsburg), Dr. Franziska Brantner, Uwe Kekeritz, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN – Drucksache 18/2680 – Umsetzung des nationalen Aktionsplans zur UN-Resolution 1325. 18/2922. Berlin: 2014


GNWP. Women Count. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 –Civil Society Monitoring Report 2014. New York: 2014.


Government of Austria, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. Austrian Action Plan on Implementation UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). Vienna: Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, August 2007.


OSCE. OSCE Study on the National Acton Plans on the Implementation oft he United Nations Security Council Resolution  1325. 2014
UN Women. Tracking Implementation of United Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). New York: 2012


United Nations Security Council. Report of the Secretary General. Women, Peace and Security. S/2010/173. New York: 2010

[1] Government of Austria, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. Austrian Action Plan on Implementation UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). Vienna: Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, August 2007.

[2] Government of Norway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Norwegian Government’s Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security. Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 2006.

[3] United Nations Development Programme. Measuring Democratic Governance: A Framework for Selecting Pro-poor and Gender Sensitive Indicators. New York and Oslo: 2006.

[4] OSCE. OSCE Study on the National Acton Plans on the Implementation oft he United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. 2014

[5] United Nations Security Council. Report of the Secretary General. Women, Peace and Security. S/2010/173. New York: 2010

[6] GNWP. Women Count. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 –Civil Society Monitoring Report 2014. New York: 2014.

October 2016

by Nicola Popovic 

When she speaks about her decision to join the rebels across the border in Mozambique, her face and demeanor embody that of a teenage girl fascinated by the spiritual power around the freedom fighters, disappointed by her conservative Christian education, and denied the possibilities white kids had in Southern Africa in the 1970s. The Zimbabwean myth that a freedom fighter can change “from one being into another” attracted the young Shona woman. It led to her decision to pay back her old school director for his maltreatment of her and to join the rebel forces. The name she chose for herself is “Freedom” and she insists that it was not only a free choice for her to join the rebel forces.

The context in which Freedom grew up left no space for the professional development, political participation nor economic prosperity for a young black woman. Unequal power relations were determined by factors such as race, gender and ethnicity (for example, between the Shona, Nbdele and Tonga). During the colonialisation process, Rhodesia was under the rule of the British crown and foreign investors, most of whom were European. The country’s economic and social structures were determined by large farms inhabited by their white owners as well as the numerous black farm employees who earned very unequal pay.

When the pressure to hold democratic elections increased among the population in Zimbabwe, in 1965 Southern Rhodesia declared unilateral independence, maintaining colonial rule under Ian Smith. The continuation of the colonial structures eventually led to a civil war from 1966 to 1980 starting with an uprising of  the black local population. Among the most prominent objectives of the liberation struggle were the establishment of a democratic and representative government (one man one vote), the unification and identification of an African people, the end of oppression, and liberation from colonialism and imperialism.[1]

The promise for a more equal and just society led many young Zimbabwean men and women to join the freedom fighters. A female ex-combatant states: “I heard it said that if the armed struggle was successful we would have the same education as the whites. …The final thing that moved me to go to Mozambique was the curfew. Blacks were not allowed to go out after 6 o’clock. I knew by right I was a Zimbabwean yet I hadn’t the pleasure of moving in the country as an indigenous person.”[2]

The reasons men and women joined the rebel forces were as manifold, diverse and influenced by their gender roles as their actual experiences of the armed conflict. Because of the complexity of political and ethnic identities that still shapes Zimbabwe today, there is only limited space for the narrative of female freedom fighters. Their experiences of carrying a gun in hyper masculine and militarized environments as well as their experiences of sexual abuse, the double burden of family obligations, and changing gender identities have never been acknowledged in a way that recognizes and accepts these experiences. Even though they are celebrated by nationalist leaders, female freedom fights remain surrounded by images of violence, aggression and sexual availability that catapults them outside the recognised, –traditional gender role that society has prescribed for women.

In Zimbabwe and many other situations, traditional gender differences are overcome for the sake of the struggle. During the Zimbabwean struggle, women were welcomed as combatants, supporter, nationalists, and politicians but also maintained their traditional female roles in the household. Traditional female tasks as well as non-conventional tasks, such as carrying a gun, were part of the female involvement of armed struggle. Women often carried out traditional supporting roles as cooks, cleaners and secretaries rather than military commanders. Rural civilian women often supported the guerilla movement by providing food, information, warm water and shelter. The support in food and goods not only meant that women supplying the guerrillas would put themselves in danger but that they also had to compensate for the economic loss to their own families and households.

On the frontlines, men and women found themselves both voluntarily and non-voluntarily involved in the armed struggle. The reasons for involvement varied. Freedom’s reasons were based on her reflections about her societal status, and the dreams and freedoms she strove for through the armed struggle. While others had political objectives from the beginning of their involvement, Freedom only came to discover the political concepts behind the liberation movement when she was already involved in it.

Not all women who became part of the freedom fighters’ support system or even as active fighters joined out of political conviction. Fear, for example, could stem from both sides. Both the Rhodesian soldiers and the guerillas could be a central reason for the involvement in the armed struggle for men as well as women. Poverty, abduction and empathy can also provoke various forms of participation in an armed conflict. Even if not politically involved, civilian women often were caught in between the frontline requests for food, shelter and physical availability. “The connections made by women between the lights of poverty, violence and struggle during the revolution and aid policies, and the failures of government pointed to the continuities of this everyday terrain of local resistance.”[3]

In Zimbabwe, spirituality is an additional factor that interplays with other political and social dynamics. Spirits and mediums are highly connected to ancestors and the land, the ownership of which clashes with colonial land policies and economic exploitation, representing a central issue in the armed conflict and political debate even today. The myths around the spiritual power of the freedom fighters and the spirits inhabiting Zimbabwean soil played a large part in Freedom’s decision to participate in the armed struggle, which is also the case for other rebels.

Armed conflict can dissolve the public-private dichotomy that shapes the female role in society, and instead make women contributors and allies in the war, even if passively and indirectly. While mere survival for her and her family is a lot less romantic, it is a strong determining factor that made women compromise and participate in the revolutionary struggle. “Rich complexity marks women´s understanding of what they participated; the nature of women´s political consciousness was differentiated and varied from slogan-led politicization to grounded experiences of felt oppression. These women´s understandings of the politics of war emerged from their own local experiences in the main and involved a language of resistance that is dedicated on limited life choices, the degradation of poverty voiced as anger or the wordless lassitude of clapped hands to denoted hopelessness.[4]

While their contributions may have been diverse, there is a discourse that has a romanticizing connotation in political speeches in the liberated post-colonial Zimbabwe today. The fact that women have been fighting next to men is not a secret. For example, Robert Mugabe, then leader of the ZANU-PF armed wing, recognized that, ”‘our women fighters have demonstrated beyond all doubt that they are as capable as men and deserve equal treatment, both in regard to training and appointments. It is also necessary that we should promote more women to the High Command’.”[5] Even though there is political recognition of female freedom fighters, the voices of female ex-combatants are rarely heard; they seldom sit at the peace table and are hardly included in shaping national or international policy and politics now that the conflict has been settled. Their roles in  the armed struggle as well as after its termination and the subsequent change in political leadership have had to continuously be re-negotiated until today.

It is even said that the “actual number of female fighters tends to be exaggerated. Figures for ZANU vary from one third of the total fighting force inside Zimbabwe to accounts of 1,500- 2,000 female fighters. (…) Figures in 1987 show that 75 per cent of women fighters and workers in ZANU camps in Mozambique were between ages of 14-24 while the remaining 25 per cent were in the 25-29 age group.”[6] While the number of active fighters may be lower than is often referenced, the number of women participating in the armed struggle by supporting the fighting forces both directly and indirectly remains unknown.

The variety of roles that women played as well as their significance and contributions to the armed struggle are often indirect, untold, and hidden behind the grey area between the faithful housewife and the heroic female guerilla fighter. It is hard to grasp the female perspective about the liberation struggle, political movements and the current political participation of women due to the invisibility of women and their perspectives on political developments, the insecurities women still face regarding their identity, and their role in political processes. The oral tradition of storytelling, poetry and drama that forms a rich part of Zimbabwean culture lacks documentation and integration in the writing of history. This article does not attempt to do that justice, but rather to highlight the existence of a different perspective of a liberation struggle that started over 30 years ago and has yet to end.

Nonetheless, the narrative of female combatants differs significantly from civilians, the diaspora and the side of the Rhodesian army. “These experiences are so filled with contradictions whereby women may not be faithfully following the roles read off from their domestic existence or from a military imperative; a woman growing food in the face of guerilla demands or resources and state counterinsurgency attempts to cut off such supplies cannot remain in the cozy category of the domestic but is drawn into and forms part of the public reality of war.”[7] Supplying food, washing of the guerrilla’s clothes, and also the threat or pressure to sexual relationships with participants of either side are still underestimated as collateral damage and passive involvement in the war. Nonetheless, it represents active participation that shaped the historic outcome of the liberation movement even though it remains unmentioned and appreciated in political discourse.

Freedom becomes angry when she remembers one military commander who ordered her to come into his tent. Being only being sixteen and without military training, it was easy for him to rape her. She remembers how useless it was to the report to her supervisor since all reporting lines would end up at the commander’s hands. Chains of command within the military are highly hierarchal and it was impossible to organize independent judicial systems in a liberation struggle such as that in Zimbabwe in the seventies. Access to justice or even compensation for sexual abuse perpetrated against female freedom fighters is unheard of in Zimbabwe as in most armed conflicts. Women are often portrayed as victims rather than as survivors, especially when it comes to sexual violence, since this portrayal does not seem to fit the image of a comrade fighting at the front line. The role of the victim and perpetrator may not always be as clear in the chaos of war, and sexual relations are often far more complex and multifaceted as the story Freedoms tells us is.

Even though a lot of women joined the freedom forces out of their free will, there are also testimonies about forced abduction of young male and female children who eventually became soldiers and often mistresses and wives to the male commanders. Sexual violence, beatings and abuse are recognized to have been common occurrences in the military camps, even for those who joined voluntarily, like Freedom. As in any armed conflict, sexual violence has not only been used as a tool to reward male combatants for their sacrifices and joy, not only to scare, threaten and torture the enemy’s side, but also to discipline and control within ranks. In militarized environments, sexual relations that occur without the use of force may be influenced by military hierarchies, the fear of violence and an unspoken obligation to consent. The exchange of sex for food and goods may also be symptomatic of situations of armed conflict and limited resources in the struggle for survival.

For a women´s movement to drive social change and lay a foundation of gender equality after an armed conflict, social and political consciousness and continuous revolt against oppression that prevents the re-collapse in old patriarchal power dynamics is required. Promises to be freed from the discriminatory white rule and access to free education and farm land were gender blind and given to women and men equally under the conceptual umbrella of socialism.

Reintegration in the post-colonial society after the end of the liberation struggle has been particularly challenging for women who broke their traditional gender role, and returned as war veterans and female liberation fighters. A return to the rural communities to fulfill traditional female roles was impossible for most female war veterans. The degradation to a level of insignificance in the division of labour and political decision making led to disillusionment, even denial of having participated in the armed struggle. For a former female combatant, it is nearly impossible to identify and share experiences and sentiments not just with the women left behind, but also with male comrades because they have been denied an equal stance with them post warfare.

Though being mentioned, women returning from the battlefield did not receive the same recognition as their male comrades. No demobilization or reintegration program existed in Zimbabwe, and women in particular found themselves being relegated to old gender roles that they no longer fit into. Additionally, female former ex-combatants had more difficulty accessing public security services. Women ex-combatants confronted challenges over their social reintegration, both in terms of facing personal stigmatization and social rejection and, at the national level, in terms of being accorded inadequate recognition for the part they played in the liberation struggle.[8]

In the late 1990s, former war veterans played violent roles in the political realm due to the lack of appropriated compensation for their services, as they claimed. They as well as the unemployed youth were easily mobilised and instrumentalised for political rallies and campaigns. The involvement of female ex-combatants in this time is unknown.

The formation of governmental structures, such as the Ministry of Women Affairs and Community Development in 1981, are an attempt to create space for the inclusion of gender issues at the policy levels. The formation of women´s organizations, including the establishment of the Women´s Coalition of Zimbabwe shows that initiatives have emerged after independence to promote an agenda pushing and protect women´s rights. However, the lack of funding, political power and internal unity paralyzed a common agenda of the women´s movement.

Freedom wished to find a job in conflict prevention to share her experience and knowledge about the temptations and horrors of revolution and war. She wanted to inspire with poetry and activism for peace. She did for many years but died in an accident, this year, in 2016. She is one example of the many strong and courageous women in Zimbabwe who joined a struggle for liberation, women who were not afraid to get hurt or even die. But she is also an example of a woman who treasured peace and kindness, poetry, music and freedom of speech. These women and stories should be made more visible and listened to. There are very valuable lessons to be learned from them. The international community should involve them more actively in peace processes and peacebuilding initiatives.


[1] Kriger, Norma (1992). Zimbabwe’s Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Bond-Stewart, Kathy (1984) Young Women in the Liberation Struggle: Stories and Poems from Zimbabwe. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House. See also:‘liberation’-gender-and-the-‘national-liberation-movement’-in-zimbabwe

[3] Gorman, Eleanor. The Frontline Runs Through Every Woman. African Issue.CPI Group, London: 2011, p.13.

[4] Gorman, Eleanor. The Frontline Runs Through Every Woman. African Issue.CPI Group, London: 2011, p. 70.

[5] Chogugudza, Patricia (2006) ‘Gender and War: Zimbabwean Women and the Liberation Struggle’. p. 39.

[6] Gorman, Eleanor. The Frontline Runs Through Every Woman. African Issue.CPI Group, London: 2011, p. 57.

[7] Gorman, Eleanor. The Frontline Runs Through Every Woman. African Issue.CPI Group, London: 2011, p. 23.

[8] Lyons, Tanya (2007) ‘The Forgotten Soldiers: Women in Zimbabwe’s Liberation War’. Southern Africa Report, 12:2, February.

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