Theresa Ammann

Anthropology, Interacting Minds Centre—Aarhus University

Theresa Ammann
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Study of the Impact That the Neglect of Women in the Liberian Peacebuilding Process Has on the Sustainability of Peace

United Nations (UN) peacebuilding efforts concentrate on state security, democratic establishment, economic recovery, and infrastructure repairs—largely at the expense of women and the psychological wellbeing of the people. In post-conflict settings, female ex-combatants are hit hardest by ostracism from both international and local actors. While UN Resolutions advocate the importance to integrate both female victims and perpetrators, this is not reflected in practice. Not surprisingly, research has shown that Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) Programmes carry militarised gender norms and focus on male needs. Thus, DDR efforts reinforce socially-constructed gender biases and militarily-established hyper-masculinities which can persist in form of violent behaviour. Adding to the neglect of female ex-combatants, female victims remain vastly underrepresented at the decision-making level in peacebuilding.

The failure to actively integrate all female actors—i.e., victims and perpetrators—and tend to their psychological needs, renders peace negative and constitutes a potential threat to its sustainability. Firstly, gender unequal societies are more prone to turn to violent conflict. Secondly, the neglect of trauma—especially in relation to ex-combatants—has been linked to an increase in drug and alcohol abuse, criminality, and human rights violations. Thirdly, while previous research indicates that marginalised male ex-combatants turn to criminality or await recruitment elsewhere, little is known about the post-conflict lives of female ex-combatants.

This multidisciplinary project, therefore, seeks to study the impact that the neglect of women and their psychological needs in the Liberian peacebuilding process has on the sustainability of peace. An investigation of Liberian peacebuilding seems particularly valuable, as few women were involved in peacebuilding, only 17% of female ex-combatants participated in DDR programmes (most of whom later dropped out), trauma continues to be widespread, gender-based violence and rape remain rampant, and Liberia currently is the sixth most gender unequal nation in the world. To allow for a holistic, multidisciplinary analysis, this project will apply theoretical perspectives from a variety of different disciplines (i.e., Human Security, Political Science, Gender Studies, Psychology, and Anthropology). Twelve months of fieldwork will be conducted in the capital Monrovia and the rural town Zorzor. My hypothesis is that women’s wellbeing plays a greater role in determining lasting peace than we currently realise.