Walking the long road to gender inclusivity and peace

  • Clémence Buchet-Couzy, QCEA

At QCEA I follow and seek to influence the latest policy developments, but we are an organisation that is aware of the work we have done in our previous decades, and are we are able to learn from that experience for our work today.

QCEA’s action for gender equality and peace

While going through QCEA archives I had the opportunity to learn what the organisation was doing in terms of gender equality, feminism and peace in the 1980s. It was quite exciting to discover how much work was achieved at this time, and how interesting it was.

The majority of the activities on this topic focused on highlighting how women can contribute to peace and how feminism and pacifism are inherently linked. Disarmament, and particularly nuclear disarmament were at the core of our work through the STAR (Stop The Arms Race Movement). Already at this time QCEA was not acting alone but in partnership with many organisations and notably WILPF (Women International League for Peace and Freedom).

What has changed?

In the 1980s almost everything was analysed through the lens of the Cold War and its intertwined issues. The risk of a Third World War was at the heart of all peace related concerns. Also, the nuclear threat was central to conversations about disarmament and peace, which is less the case today, even if the nuclear threat is still a crucial issue. Building bridges with women from the East and calling for a detente in Europe were prerequisite to any attempts to achieve peace. The context has changed a lot since then, and therefore the issues and discussions too.

We have also witnessed many improvements in recent decades, notably with the adoption of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda thanks to the women’s movement which acknowledged the important contribution of women to peace. Crucial conversations were already happening.

What has not changed (enough) since the 1980s?

From the QCEA archives I have realised that crucial issues were already being discussed in the 1980s. First, there was already a reflection on aid and development actions not being necessarily positive for the local populations, partly because they can reinforce gender discrimination and the domination of male power.

Today the European institutions regularly talk of the importance of having gender-sensitive planning and programming, the vocabulary has changed but the same concerns were at stake. Then, documents mentioned the under-representation of women, who were mainly excluded from decision-making. Even if the situation has evolved we must admit that women are still struggling to be included and this is true for other marginalised communities.

In the 1980s we argued that the money spent on military should be spent in other fields. One document highlights the fact that “1 bomber plane = 75 hospitals”, which reminds us of some campaigns we saw during COVID-19 recently, saying that for the price of an F-35 warplanes you can have 2,200 ventilators. It seems that in 40 years we haven’t learned much.

Finally, another point discussed then was the need for a non-sexist education for peace, which does not “conditious boys to make war and girls to accept it”. Education is different now, in some cases less militarized and sexist, but we are still far away from a true education for peace, even in countries considered to be at peace.

What is QCEA doing now for gender, inclusivity & peacebuilding?


QCEA is currently co-leading an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project on gender and inclusivity in peace and security in cooperation with Newcastle University. The intention of this project is to offer guidance to peacebuilders, as well as European governments and institutions. It includes a best practice guide and three accompanying films focusing on the three following themes:

  • Gender and Inclusivity Matter for Peace and Security
  • Gender and Leadership: Practising Inclusivity in Peace and Security
  • Overcoming Resistance to Work on Gender: Strategies and Approaches

They will be available at the official launch of the project on November 10, after which you will be able to view resources at QCEA.org/gender.

We invite you to join us for the online launch event. Please register here.

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