What NOW | Using the UN Women Peace and Security Agenda to Build Solidarity Across Borders in the Trump Era

Building Solidarity Across Boarders in the Trump Era | Sabrina Stein

Sabrina Stein

The election of Donald Trump shed light on the fragility of some of the women’s movement’s gains and how much work we still have ahead of us. The fact that a man accused on several occasions by different women of sexual harassment, and who openly and shamelessly disrespects, objectifies, and sexualizes women, is the current president of the United States is the symptom of a larger problem: the US lags behind other developed countries in gender parity. In the US, women hold only 19.6 percent and 20 percent of the seats in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate respectively. Similarly, only 4 out of the 23 Cabinet members President Trump nominated are women. Women earn 20 percent less than men and the gap is even more significant for women of color. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. 1 out of every 5 women in the United States will be raped during their lifetime, and 91 percent of sexual assault victims are women—and women are still blamed for their victimization. Along these same lines, women’s reproductive rights are under attack with efforts to restrict access to abortion all over the country. These facts paint a picture of a country that has historically and systemically undermined the rights of women, and the current administration has proven that its work will only worsen the status of women in the US.

At the international level, it is alarming that the United States has failed to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Similarly, the US has made little effort to fulfill its obligations as agreed to in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment as pivotal in achieving the international community’s peace and security agenda. Resolution 1325 and the additional six Security Council Resolutions, collectively form the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, call on UN member states to ensure the increased representation of women at all decision-making levels. As of 2016, 63 countries have adopted national action plans (NAPs) as a tool for implementing 1325 at the national level, including developed, industrialized countries like Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. The United States does not have a NAP.

On a more optimistic note, the challenges ahead for the women’s movement have already served as a catalyst for uniting, mobilizing, and organizing women across the United States as was proven by the Women’s March. But the impact of a Trump administration on women is not limited to the United States, and solidarity across borders will be necessary to build a movement that helps us stand up against a system that continues to intentionally leave women behind. To do this, as women in the United States, we should consider the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and Resolution 1325 as a platform for action at the national and international level and as a form of solidarity with women’s movements across the globe.

Resolution 1325 recognized the disproportionate impact conflict and violence have on women and stressed the key role women play in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding. 1325 calls for greater participation of women in decision-making spaces, for more significant leadership roles for women, for a concerted effort to prevent violence against women, and for the mainstreaming of gender issues at all levels. Women across the globe use the WPS agenda as a platform to hold their governments accountable as it delineates government’s commitments and responsibilities. Also, it provides a common base for comparison across borders, to measure progress, fallbacks, and share best practices and lessons learned.

As a United Nations resolution we might be tempted to think of 1325 as a document that refers to situations of armed conflict as those plaguing countries like Syria or Yemen. However, the scope of the resolution speaks to the need to include women in decision-making spaces, since women can play a key role as peacebuilders and mediators. The organization of the Women’s March comes to mind when thinking of women in leadership positions. A group of women started with an idea that transformed into one of the largest mobilizations in the United States. While the process was turbulent at times, March organizers were open to and receptive of constructive criticism, making the necessary changes along the way to make the March inclusive and strategic. I marched in Washington, D.C. where an estimated 500,000 women took to the streets and not one violent incident or arrest took place. While many factors contributed to this, I see this as a reflection of the role of women in building peace. In October of 2016, women in Poland took to the streets to protest a proposed abortion ban and refrained from paid and unpaid work. Also, in October of last year, women marched across South America to protest the region’s growing rates of violence against women. These are all examples of mobilizations led by women that try to bring the most pressing women’s rights issues to the forefront of the media and policy discussion. Key to the WPS agenda is that these processes are women-led and peaceful. Sharing experiences and lessons learned across these movements can help increase the numbers of women in leadership positions, which could lead to the resolution of conflict through peaceful means.

Women’s movements across the globe are diverse and address different grievances and challenges. Oftentimes, the differences between women working in an armed conflict or post-conflict scenario and those working in developed or industrialized countries appear abysmal. However, a connecting thread is that in all these cases women are working to counter a system that oppresses them. By creating spaces where women can lead and be part of decision- and policy-making processes, women can make sure that women’s rights are at the forefront of these processes. Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda recognize the importance of women in leadership positions, women as mediators, and women as peacebuilders. We should take advantage of this shared global agenda to build alliances and work in solidarity with women across the globe, particularly at a time when women’s rights in the US and around the world are under attack by the new US administration.