A Critical Approach to Women’s Post-Conflict Empowerment
Scholarship on women in war often focuses on the devastating and disproportionate toll that conflict wreaks on the lives of women. Less studied are the openings and opportunities that frequently follow war, derived from its potential to disrupt and fundamentally reorder gender relations (Hughes 2009; Hughes and Tripp 2015; Mageza-Barthel 2015; and Tripp 2015).
The WRAW project asks which women benefit from new opportunities, suggesting that the implementation of gender egalitarian laws and policies often maps onto existing socio-political cleavages. Particularly when conflict resolution benefits a single conflict-era faction, gender reforms tend to ensure that women affiliated with disenfranchised political, religious or ethnic identity groups remain marginalized in the realization of gender equality. Reforms heralded as emancipatory and egalitarian, therefore, may reproduce conflict-era fissures, and in doing so ensure some women’s continued political and gender oppression.
In addition, the WRAW project investigates the political instrumentalization of women’s leadership by regimes and parties aiming to entrench their political control. The research explores the conditions under which women’s rights and empowerment interventions can be used strategically to advance agendas that undermine democratic values and weaken civil society.
This examination is carried out through quantitative and qualitative research to assess national and subnational level implementation as well as individual engagement. The fieldwork for this project is enhanced by participatory research methods that allow researchers evaluate the reality of women’s equality and empowerment efforts as they are experienced by women from different class, ethnic, racial, religious, or other backgrounds.