I have started learning about since I started taking Peace and Justice studies courses at Pace University. Even though gender inequality is briefly talked about in Taiwanese education, it is not a mainstreamed topic as it should be. I learned about gender from talking to my peers who know much more than I do, from teachers who are specialized in women and gender studies and from being in an environment that focuses a lot on gender. As someone who is passionate about gender and peacebuilding, I found that the intersection between the two is very important. From learning about the gender box, I start to think how I am fitting into the box, and how we can deconstruct the box. Moreover, as a peacebuilder, how is my own gender affect my resources, skills, knowledges and accesses.
To think about the role of gender in different stages of conflict makes me realize that we shouldn’t think about gender and conflict as two different issues. Gender in early stages of conflict is often affected by male unemployment. During conflict, it is affected by gender-based violence as well as gender role shift because the men are away from home and the women take up the responsibility as the breadwinners. After the violent conflict, gender is affected again by increased gender-based violence because of the grievance of the former combatants. However, there might also be an increase in opportunities and programs that promote gender equality. Gender is an important factor in the decision-making process. There is not only an extremely low rate of women including in the peace-making process, but also a very low rate of programs that advocating for gender equality.
I really learned a lot by putting myself into a woman peacebuilder’s shoes, realizing the privileges I have as a man and how can I use them to advocate for gender equality within the field of peacebuilding. It is very disheartening for me to learn about the challenges a female peacebuilder has to go through, such as not being taken seriously by the community, threats to their own safety, ill-treatment by their male colleagues and more. However, it was very interesting for me to learn about “strategic invisibility.” How people use their vulnerability and invisibility to their own advantage, such as that women usually generate less suspicion than men. How women rights NGO use their role as mother to negotiate with extremist groups.
I am actively thinking what my role as a male peacebuilder can do to advocate for gender equality in peacebuilding field as well as the conflict we are working on. I think the first and foremost is still active listening, not just to the people from the community, but also other peacebuilders we are working with. If we are working on a project, it is imperative that I stand by if not behind female peacebuilders and not try to take over the project. At the same time, I should use my own privileges to talk to males who are not willing to talk with female peacebuilders and persuade them to talk with them. Lastly, I want to share that after this session, I try to have my gender lens on with me every day. It allows me to see the deeper analysis of things and be more critical about my own behavior. Most importantly, it helps me to deconstruct the gender box that I had trapped myself in for most of my life.