BRIDGE Report 34: Gender, Conflict and Development. Volume I: Overview

Author: B. Bryne
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Jul 1996
What do wars mean for women' In what ways can gender analysis contribute to conflict resolution and prevention' With reference to case studies, this report shows how conflict at its various stages impacts differently on men and women, depending on their relative position prior to conflict. Men of combat age are most vulnerable to being conscripted, killed or injured during battle. However, women tend to be the main victims of war as direct fatalities and casualties, and indirectly through social breakdown and dislocation. Gender inequalities that disadvantage women prior to conflict persist and often magnify during war. However, conflict may bring women some benefits, most importantly as a potential catalyst for changing gender roles and gaining new status and skills in non-traditional areas, which can then continue in the post-war period. It is recommended that women's relative needs and constraints be recognised in processes of conflict and peace negotiations. In particular consultation with women affected and the employment of female staff should be pursued, to enhance their decision-making power.

Globally conflicts are on the increase, and struggles over power and resources are crosscut with gender issues. This presents an enormous challenge to development thinking, yet there remains very little study of conflict from a gender and development perspective. Factors that make women more vulnerable in times of conflict include:
- Structural disadvantages that mean women have less access to resources than men and less influence in institutions of power, while carrying the burden of reproductive work.
- The militarisation of the state often leads to opposing gender identities and emphasis on traditional gender roles, often restricting women's freedom of movement and expression.
- Government spending is generally transferred away from social spending and welfare into military investments, with women disproportionately having to compensate for welfare losses.
- Many women are socially and economically dependent on men and war often results in loss of this protection and support.
- The absence of men during conflict multiplies women's roles and responsibilities within the family and society.
- Women generally form the majority of adult refugees and are often victims of sexual violence.
- Conflict may lead to transformations in gender roles, with women assuming responsibility for activities outside of their normal or traditional domain.
- Women tend to be even more excluded from decision-making processes during times of conflict.
- Wars fought for nationalist and liberating ideologies may aim to reduce gender inequality and increase women's participation in military, political and economic spheres.

Interventions to prevent and resolve situations of conflict must consider the following recommendations to adequately address gender issues:
- Carry out increased research and analysis of gender issues in relation to conflict.
- Develop mechanisms and social organisations through which women can express their particular needs and interests, particularly during the peace- building process.
- Recognise inequalities within households and how female-headed households may be especially vulnerable when distributing aid and basic services.
- Employ and train women in conflict prevention and humanitarian aid programmes.
- Support coping strategies, with particular focus on women as main providers for households, and centred on production and income-generation, as well as provision for basic needs.
- Provide training programmes for women in refugee camps, as was successfully done in camps for Guatamalans in Mexico.
- Enhance levels of security after conflict, particularly for women, ensure their access to resources, and support their property rights.