Inclusive Peacebuilding: A Closer Look At Gender Norms And Conflict In Uganda

How do gender norms – the ways in which societies pressure their male and female members to behave – influence conflict dynamics?

The 2030 Agenda – the world’s new global development blueprint – places a strong emphasis on issues related to gender, peace and security as top priorities for the international community. These priorities are spelled out under Goal 5, which aims to reduce gender inequality, and Goal 16, which focuses on fostering peaceful and inclusive societies. In Uganda, Saferworld and its partner Uganda Land Alliance have brought these strands together by trialling a toolkit that helps peace actors carry out a gendered analysis of conflict.

What does it mean to be a man? The answer will vary depending on who and where you ask. In some parts of the world, such as in the Karamoja region of Uganda, masculinity may be defined by owning land. “A man has to find land before looking for a wife,” said Mariko Lokwakol, a community member in Nadunget sub-county. “You can’t be of my age and have no land.”

Asking these sorts of questions is crucial for any analysis of conflict. How do gender norms – the ways in which societies pressure their male and female members to behave – influence conflict dynamics? And how can these same norms be factored into solutions to resolve conflict and build peace? Despite a growing acceptance of the importance of gender analysis of conflict, there is still a long way to go to deepen the understanding of how gender and conflict interact.

In Karamoja, where Saferworld tested out its gender analysis toolkit, gender norms had a clear impact on conflict. While greater stability and freedom from armed violence in the region has been a welcome change for both women and men, the removal of key pathways to achieving manhood has also had negative impacts. Many men feel a sense of emasculation at the hands of the government who disarmed them, which may also contribute to high levels of violence by husbands against their wives. Newer conflicts, including those caused by the acquisition of large swathes of arable land by multi-national mining companies and subsequent displacement of communities, only add to this feeling of emasculation and injustice.

Saferworld hopes that by better understanding how gender and conflict are linked, we can generate new strategies to advance Goals 5 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda.

The short video below explains why it is important to do a gender analysis of conflict, and takes a closer look at gender norms and their effects on conflict in Karamoja.

Image: Family planning in Uganda. UNFPA/Omar Gharzeddine.

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