Gender and conflict

More than just ticking a box: the importance of undertaking gender analysis of conflict


Gender analysis is becoming more common in conflict analysis, but, in most cases it fails to look at the broader ways in which gender and conflict interact. Hannah Wright introduces Saferworld’s new toolkit for undertaking gender analysis of conflict and discusses the first testing of it in Karamoja, North Eastern Uganda.

The importance of applying a gender lens to all efforts to prevent and resolve violent conflict and build sustainable peace is widely recognised, though often not adequately implemented. Last year, the UN Global Study on Women, Peace and Security highlighted this issue: 15 years since UN Security Council Resolution 1325 called for the adoption of a gender perspective in peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts, significant strides have been made, yet we are still far from seeing this ambition fully realised.

One obstacle to ensuring that conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities are gender-sensitive is a lack of thorough gender analysis in conflict analysis. When we analyse the causes, impacts, actors and dynamics of conflicts around the world, we need to pay attention to the gendered aspects of all of these. If we don’t think about gender when we seek to understand the context, then it is hardly surprising if the peacebuilding efforts we design, fund and implement are not gender-sensitive.

While it is becoming more common to see gender analysis included in conflict analyses, this is often done in a very limited way. For example, there may be a paragraph on sexual and gender-based violence, but no analysis of the broader ways in which gender and conflict interact, such as the different roles that women, men and sexual and gender minorities play as conflict actors or as peacemakers. Another common limitations is that ‘gender’ is taken to mean only ‘women’. While analysis of the roles, experiences and perspectives of women and girls in conflict is essential, omitting analysis of the attitudes and behaviours of men and sexual and gender minorities from a gender perspective also leaves vital information out of the picture. Furthermore, gender is often only considered when it comes to understanding the impacts of conflict, and not when we analyse what drives conflicts or motivates conflict-fuelling behaviours.

In response to these shortcomings, Saferworld and the Uganda Land Alliance have produced a toolkit for undertaking gender analysis of conflict. The toolkit employs participatory approaches, providing recommendations and practical exercises for gender analysis of conflict that give primacy to the voices of community members in conflict-affected contexts. It takes a broad view of gender that includes the experiences of women, men and sexual and gender minorities, as well as considering how gender intersects with other markers of identity and systems of power, such as marital status, class, ethnicity, age and (dis)ability. The Gender Analysis of Conflict Toolkit places a particular focus on understand gender norms – the ways in which societies pressure, and expect, their male and female members to behave, in line with socially and politically constructed notions of masculinity and femininity. It seeks to understand how these norms – and of the gaps between these norms and people’s actual behaviours and experience – can fuel conflict and violence.

In March 2016, Saferworld and the Uganda Land Alliance tested the toolkit in Moroto District, in the Karamoja region of North Eastern Uganda. In the past, Karamoja saw high levels of armed violence, including violence linked to cattle raiding and inter-communal violence, as well as domestic violence and other violent crimes. For young men particularly, masculinity was closely associated with ownership of cattle and guns, and with participation in cattle raids, which led to killings, rapes, and cycles of revenge attacks. Armed violence in the region has reduced significantly in recent years following government-led civilian disarmament initiatives, which also resulted in large a reduction in the number of cattle.

While greater stability and freedom from armed violence is welcome for both women and men, the removal of key pathways to achieving manhood for men in Moroto has also had negative impacts on both. Many men feel a sense of emasculation at the hands of the government who disarmed them, which may also contribute to high levels of violence by husbands against their wives. Newer conflicts, including those caused by the acquisition of large swathes of arable land by multi-national mining companies and subsequent displacement of communities, only add to this feeling of emasculation and injustice. Exploitative business practices have left male and female miners with severe health problems, and have cut off water resources to communities, increasing the burden on women who are responsible for collecting water and looking after those who are sick. A return to the previous era of cattle raiding and the problematic masculinities associated with it is clearly not desirable, but peacebuilding responses must take into account the gendered experiences of both women and men in order to promote a more peaceful and gender just future for the region.

Given the prominence of conflicts over land and extractive industries in Moroto where the piloting took place, the Gender Analysis of Conflict Toolkit includes topic guides on these specific issues. Using the toolkit in additional contexts in the future will enable us to develop and revise it, refining the exercises included in it and adding new topic guides on different types of conflict. We are currently doing a second test run of the toolkit in Yemen, and aim to do more in other contexts as time goes on.

Understanding gender norms is just one aspect of gender in conflict analysis, but one that has, to date, received little attention. We hope that the toolkit helps fill a gap in gender and conflict analysis practice, and contributes to increased understanding on the complex interactions between these issues. 

This blog was originally posted on the website of Saferworld. Please consult the link below to download the Gender Toolkit:

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