US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s Bill Requiring Women To Be Part Of Conflict Prevention Becomes Law

We love the saying: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu”. It can be applied to a number of situations, when talking about the representation of women in positions of leadership or in key decision-making roles. When it comes to government and conflict resolution, historically women have never been part of negotiations or major decisions.

But with a greater global push toward gender equality, women must be included in discussions about conflict resolution and prevention. A recent bill introduced in US Congress was created to ensure this happens, and it has now become law thanks to the signature of President Trump. Yes, the same Donald Trump who reinstated what is being called the most extreme version of the Global Gag Rule, who just rolled back the birth control mandate from the Affordable Care Act, who appointed a group of anti-choice individuals to key roles in the Health and Human Services department, and who approved of the Education Secretary rolling back Obama-era sexual assault protections.

Surprisingly, the Women, Peace and Security Act (S.1141), sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, which was supported by a bipartisan list of co-sponsors from both the Democratic and Republican parties, made it to the desk of Trump and was signed into law. Oh how we wish this kind of unified governing would happen more often on a whole list of issues, but we must celebrate the wins we get and continue for those we still need.

Senator Shaheen’s bill advocates for women’s engagement and participation in conflict resolution and peace-building around the world. She is the only female on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which means her advocacy of gender equality in conflict resolution is even more important.

“Women are significantly underrepresented in the peace-building and conflict resolution process, yet they are disproportionately impacted by violence and armed conflict. They deserve to be fully represented at the negotiating table. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that U.S. diplomats, military personnel and development workers are trained to promote the inclusion of women in peacemaking processes and that the U.S. continues to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on the role of women in peace and security,” said Senator Shaheen in a statement.

One of the co-sponsors on the bill was Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, who expressed her excitement and helping to pass a bipartisan bill with Senator Shaheen.

“Women bring so much to the table when it comes to solving problems and resolving conflicts, and our bipartisan legislation will promote their inclusion in peacekeeping and mediation efforts,” she said.

According to InDepthHN.org, “The Women, Peace and Security Act advances the priorities outlined in the United States’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and ensures the US continues to advocate for women’s inclusion and engagement in the peace-building process to prevent, moderate and resolve violent conflict.”

The history of women being part of peace talks isn’t exactly encouraging. Between 1992 and 2011 women represented less than 4% of signatories on peace agreements and 9% of negotiators, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. And a quick reminder, women make up half the world’s population.

With Senator Shaheen’s work on this bill, we could see this start to change. The Women, Peace and Security Act was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky from Ilinois previous to Senator Shaheen bringing it to the floor. With women only representing a mere 20% of US Congress, the work they are doing shows how valuable it is to elect more progressive women who fundamentally understand the widespread effect of gender equality globally.

In an interview with Bustle for International Women’s Day back in March, Senator Shaheen says female empowerment can actually be a powerful tool in the fight against violence and terrorism.

“We know when women are at the table when negotiating in conflict areas, they’re more likely to get a settlement that will last. That’s one of the challenges that we’re seeing, if we don’t empower women and girls, then we’re more likely to see conflict,” she said.

She told Bustle’s Bronwyn Isaac that studies show women are more likely to invest money they earn back into their communities than men. On average, working women bring back 90% of their wages, and men bring back an average of 35%. Senator Shaheen says there is a strong link between women who are empowered financially, and their ability to make positive decisions in conflict resolution situations.

Along with championing the Women, Peace and Security Act, the Senator also introduced the  Keeping Girls in School Act, designed to focus on breaking down barriers that girls in the developing world face when it comes to accessing quality education. She has also met with education activist Malala Yousafzai, who regularly travels around the world talking to leaders and activists about the importance of girls’ education.

While it may seem like the emphasis on empowering girls around the world may not affect us in the United States, Senator Shaheen explains how it actually does.

“It’s in our national security interest to provide support for women and girls around the world…I think it’s not surprising that the countries that we’re seeing terrorists come out of, do not provide equal opportunities for women, that have restrictions on women’s employment,” she said.

“I think it’s important for us to pass the bill, specifically in relation to some of the countries where we’re seeing conflict right now — Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, where we’ve seen the rise of terrorist organizations. They’re where it’ll be important initially to do the implementation because they’re dealing with conflict now,” she said.

Thankfully the bill is now law, and if it is possible to see bipartisan support of such an important issue as this, we can only pray this continues. You can watch Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky talking about the House version of the bill in the video below, thanking Senator Shaheen and the rest of the Senators who worked to ensure the Women, Peace and Security Act was passed.

Leave a Reply