December 13, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

The Women's Peace and Security Act

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Within our own nation, we have seen the effectiveness of women in resolving conflicts. As Time Magazine recently observed, women legislators did what the men could not: they shut down the government shutdown. Without these  women, vast numbers of people – many of whom are our own friends and neighbors – would still be struggling to make ends meet, unsure if they would have a job to which they could return.

Here in Wisconsin, we experienced the success of women as public leaders. Our state is a leader in female state legislature representation, was first to ratify the 19th amendment- which gave women the right to vote, and was first to guarantee women full and equal rights amongst all fifty states. Wisconsin has a motivated and thoughtful female population that isn’t afraid to speak up or change the gender composition in the professional world; for these reasons, women are responsible for many of the important things communities in Wisconsin depend on, like affordable clinics.

From here at home, to our nation as a whole – women’s leadership is changing the face of peace and conflict in the world at large. On December 19th, 2011, President Obama introduced the first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. NAP). The U.S. NAP recognizes the critical role of women in preventing and resolving violent conflict and building lasting peace. It aims to protect women and girls from rape and gender-based violence and guarantees equal access to humanitarian aid in crisis situations. The U.S. NAP calls for women’s meaningful participation and leadership in advancing U.S. foreign policy issues on all matters of peace and security.

Today, on the third anniversary of the U.S. NAP, let us applaud the achievements of women in resolving and preventing conflict and building peace.

We must support the WPS Act, because even though empowering women is associated with lower poverty, higher economic growth, better nutrition and education of children, and other outcomes vital to the success of communities—and therefore security—our government agencies repeatedly ignore women, especially in conflict-affected environments. The WPS Act will ensure women are equally included in creating peace and preventing conflict.

We must support the WPS Act, because of the 40 conflicts in the last decade, 31 represent repeated cycles of violence with a disproportionate impact on women and children. For instance, in Afghanistan though the overall number of casualties finally decreased in 2012, the number of casualties among women and girls increased by 20% during that same period. The WPS Act seeks to protect women from violence, especially gender-specific violence such as sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking.

We must support the WPS Act, because in many societies gender roles make women the primary caregivers in crisis situations. Women also carry much of the burden of healing and rebuilding communities in the aftermath of conflict. Still, these female leaders and their unique understandings of communities’ needs are excluded from peace conversations—perhaps explaining why more than half of all peace agreements fail within the first ten years. The WPS Act will ensure women have equal access to and influence over peace negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction, and relief and recovery measures.

The U.S. NAP is an executive order, which means it is at risk of termination upon the election of a new president. Therefore, we must support the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013 (WPS Act: H.R. 2874), an act that will transform the U.S. NAP into permanent U.S. national law.

We must support the WPS Act, because women understand that “security” is not just about removing tanks and troops from a territory. True security only comes with human security—with access to clean drinking water, food, healthcare, shelter and bodily integrity.

I encourage my members of Congress to cosponsor the WPS Act, because it recognizes that women are successful leaders in preventing and resolving conflict, and their inclusion in our decision-making processes is vital to the maintenance of international security and peace.

 

Lena C. Taylor is a State Senator in Wisconsin and an active member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby – a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).