How to Access a Safe Education as a Girl-Child of War

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By Christina V. Harris, Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

Three years ago, a tenacious student in Pakistan named Malala Yousafzai brought to the world’s attention the hardship faced by millions of girls living in conflict zones around the world when she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on her bus ride home from school. The Taliban had targeted Malala because of her advocacy for something that many of us take for granted: her right, and the right of all girls and conflict-affected children, to a safe education.

According to a recent joint report by UNICEF and UNESCO, one-half (nearly 30 million) of the world’s out-of-school children are those from war torn nations—and most are girls.


No Woman, No Peace

mother and child refugees in Dadaab Kenya

© UNHCR/B. Heger

Just moments ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a comprehensive new plan by the U.S. government to help protect women and girls in conflict zones and ensure that peace processes include women.

The new plan by the Administration is the first ever U.S. national action plan and Executive Order to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.   Often dubbed “the women’s resolution,” UNSC Resolution 1325 recognizes that significant action is needed to protect women and girls from armed conflict and include them in peace-building.  States have been asked to create a national action plan to specifically address the issue of women, peace and security.


Support Women as Peacebuilders

Almost 10 years ago, on October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1325, calling for women’s equal participation in peace building. Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 was a response to the disturbing trend that women and girls often suffer most during conflicts, including as displaced civilians or as the targets of sexual violence.  A recent horrific example of widespread sexual violence was the reported mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo in August of this year.  Despite women deeply suffering the consequences of conflict, they have few opportunities to contribute to peacebuidling – women account for only 10% of the people who negotiate peace after conflict has ceased.

Adoption of 1325  created an opportunity to promote women’s rights in conflict situations and called for full and equal access in all elements of peace-building negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction. However, implementation of the resolution has been too slow.

Mark the 10th Anniversary of SCR 1325 by taking action to  make women count for peace. Sign UNIFEM’s petition encouraging governments to act rapidly in taking steps to implement the resolution by prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence, ensuring women participate equally in peace negotiations and all post-conflict decision-making institutions and increasing the number of women in troops, police forces and civilians within international peacekeeping efforts.  The petition will be delivered to the UN Security Council and the Secretary General next week so take action now!  Help make women count for peace. 

Women and children escape the fighting in Maidan, northwest Pakistan, 27 April 2009.