Gendering Conflict and Conflict Management in the Solomon Islands

AUTHOR(S)
Helen Leslie
Development

During the recent conflict in the Solomon Islands, in which unprecedented economic and political suffering occurred, it was the women who bore the heaviest burden. Because of their combined gender roles as mothers, housewives, breadwinners and keepers of the family or clan (Pollard 2000a), Solomon Islands women suffered considerably from the destruction of the social and economic fabric of their society. In not being able to access medical attention for their children because hospitals and medical centres were closed, for example, some women suffered a form of trauma related to a sense of loss of gender identity. Other women were victims of rape and domestic violence, while still others were unable to maintain the economic activities that enabled their families to adequately subsist. Along with these forms of disempowerment experienced by women, the recent conflict in the Solomons also acted to empower women to work for peace and security. Evoking cultural and historical constructions of women as ‘peacemakers’, women’s organisations such as the Women for Peace group (WFP) in Guadalcanal worked to bring the warring factions together, and to build a culture of peace in Solomon Islands society. Despite the efforts of this group and others, Solomon Islands women were excluded from participating in the official peace process in Townsville, and appear to remain excluded from political decision making at national level after the conflict. There were no women members voted into office in the December 2001 elections, for example (Roughan 2001c). This lack of recognition of women’s efforts, and the apparent unwillingness of the authorities to ensure the adequate representation of women in political decision making processes, flies in the face of current development research and practice, which shows that empowered women are the key to sustainable development in society. Development efforts that ignore women, target solely women’s welfare, or focus on integrating women into existing (male-centred) development processes have not been effective in ensuring that society is transformed in ways which promote security and sustainability. The empowerment of women therefore becomes crucial to building a culture of peace in society after a conflict.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Toksave
March 23, 2021
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