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Par­ti­cip­at­ory re­search pro­ject re­cords bio­graph­ies of fe­male ex-com­batants

01.12.2021, News :

In a project implemented by the Berghof Foundation, former female members of armed groups shared their experiences and stories during and after conflict.

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© Berghof Foundation, 2020

Non-state armed groups in conflict regions are mainly associated with male combatants. However, up to 30 per cent of the members of these groups are women. Little is known about their roles in conflicts, and their perspectives and needs are often not taken into account in peace processes. Yet a better understanding of the diverse experiences and potentials of former female combatants is highly relevant for supporting reconstruction processes in post-conflict societies and is crucial step in building sustainable peace. Several studies have proven this.

The project "From Female Combatants to Post-War Democratic Leaders" captured the various challenges, opportunities and lessons lerned by women who were members of non-state armed groups. From 2018 to 2020, the project was implemented by the Berghof Foundation and funded by the GIZ sector programme "Promoting Gender Equality" on behalf of BMZ.

The approach was based on a participatory research approach that enabled six female ex-combatants from Aceh (Indonesia), Mindanao (Philippines), Nepal and Burundi to collect and filmed stories of other female ex-combatants. In reflection and dialogue spaces designed specifically for women, the participating female ex-combatants were empowered to voice and share their very own perspectives. This allowed them to capture conflict narratives and experiences of women in conflict that are usually difficult to access. 

A wo­men is peace, a wo­men is love. Our place is not in the forest: our place is de­vel­op­ing our coun­try.

Christella, ex-combatant from Burundi

The video interviews helped to identify key challenges and opportunities for former female combatants in their reintegration into society. Furthermore, innovative insights into the actual and potential role of former female members of armed groups in post-war political transitionsand their involvement in preventing violent conflict recurrences were collected, documented and analysed. A total of 1,800 minutes of footage was produced in 43 videos. Some findings from the research project were captured in a scholarly article in the International Feminist Journal of Politics as well as in a booklet and the short film "I Have to Speak" - Voices of Female Ex-Combatants"

Learn more about the project here. Based on this cooperation, the GIZ sector programme "Promoting Gender Equality" on behalf of BMZ is funding a new project implemented by Berghof Foundation since November 2021, in which the experiences of female ex-combatants in Colombia and Uganda will be documented.

Between November 2020 and November 2021, a project funded by the GIZ project "Strengthening Youth for Peace Development and Nonviolent Conflict Transformation in Mindanao" continued the cinematic search for traces in the Philippines. Through film interviews, documentaries and a booklet, conversations between generations were documented, especially between ex-combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their daughters.

Par­ti­cip­a­tion of wo­men in peace pro­cesses

Women are often excluded from peace processes because of discriminatory gender stereotyping, a lack of political will, generally few opportunities to participate politically and insufficient educational opportunities. Such exclusion means the views of around half of a negotiating community are disregarded. Just and equal participation of women can contribute to increasing the legitimacy of peace processes and to improving outcomes.