What Is Strategic Invisibility In Gender Inclusive Approach to Peacebuilding?

According to Sheherazade Jafari, gender inclusive approach is peacebuilding with a gender ‘lens’ that enables one to better ‘see’ and understand the impact of gender in this field. Through this approach, we are able to analyze the conflict deeper, from different angles. Without using this lens, peacebuilding solutions tend to fail and to be unsustainable.

During our session yesterday, Sheharazade gave us a simulation where we were divided into groups and given different scenarios and choices to choose from according to the conflict we were facing. I found the exercise/simulation to be very impactful, it got us discuss deeply about different conflicts and difficult decisions that we had to make, in the shoes of women peacebuilders. During the exercise, Sheharazade also introduced a new term to us: strategic invisibility.

Our groups were discussing about the different challenges that women peacebuilders tend to have to face. Some of them were: not given equal power or authority in their work, not being taken seriously by the public, and etc. At the same time, we also discussed about some of the advantages that women could create from things that others might see as disadvantages. That is strategic invisibility.

That was a hopeful moment for me because finally I get to learn the term that I knew existed but never came across. It is a term that I associate with the saying of “turning lemons into lemonades”. I honestly think that this concept is very powerful. Once we identify our strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to turn our ‘weaknesses’ into strengths, we can accomplish a lot more than we think we can. I think we need to know that whatever circumstances the system throws us all in, we have to find a way to fight back, with everything we have.

An example that we discussed about yesterday was that as women peacebuilders, we are often seen as less threatening to the extremist groups. By having women going to negotiate with these groups, there is a bigger probability that they would listen and talk to us, with more trust than if we were men. Moreover, these members of extremist groups come from the local villages. Therefore, seeing women who can be their mothers or sisters might help them to be more willing to negotiate some kind of peacebuilding.

The most valuable part of strategic invisibility in this context for me is that it allows us to utilise both of our advantages and disadvantages, as women in this society. Utilising the perception of what is seen as inferior and turns it into being seen as less harmful. Instead of making the perception that women are emotional and too sensitive stop us from doing our work, we should recognise that as our strength in emotional intelligence to connect with different groups and be a good mediator.  I also believe that it would be useful to apply strategic invisibility into different contexts too, so we can turn around the disadvantages into advantages.

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