How do post - war empowerment interventions impact women's lives?

As the nature of global conflict shifts towards more diffused, localized violence, it is important to recognize the ways in which war’s destabilizing effects can engender power transitions resulting in women’s rights gains. Yet, these gains may be limited in their reach and depth, and in many cases serves as a mask for other forms of identity – based exclusion. 

Feminist scholarship has critically explored the limitations of women’s empowerment schemes aimed at advancing women’s rights in the post war period. This scholarship argues that international norms and frameworks promoting women’s inclusion neglect to fundamentally transform the gendered power relations and institutions that produce women’s marginalization in the first place. 

Women’s empowerment evaluations also frequently overlook how rights or inclusion efforts can differentially empower women within inegalitarian social orders, as women from certain ethnic, class, religious, linguistic, political, or educational backgrounds may stand to benefit more fully from new rights. Such unequal impacts of rights-based empowerment can create new forms of social inequality, widening the gap between policy and practice and even exacerbating some women’s marginalization and oppression. 

Research of the past two decades has directed necessary attention to the fact that women’s bodies are often the battlefields over which wars of national aggression are fought. This early literature however, often maintains an almost exclusive focus on female harm and victimization, often at the hands of male aggressors. This approach obscures female agency and disregards the many and varied roles women have occupied during and after conflict. Increasingly, scholars have begun to problematize this narrative and recent scholarship highlights the agency and empowerment of female actors in a variety of different conflict roles; pushing back against the idea of women as solely victims. 

As constitutions are rewritten and institutions rebuilt, this project seeks to shed much needed light on the alternate political considerations that shape the processes of integrating international gender norms into domestic legal frameworks. 

Learn more The Women's Rights After War Project.