Peace through diversity and inclusive constitution-making

“Real diversity exists where differences are appreciated, embraced and where we are all enriched as a result.” Roberta Jamieson, a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario, spoke these words at the Ottawa Peace Talks, celebrated on 19 April 2016. The event was organized under the theme “Let’s build peace through diversity,” and like Roberta, several men and women from diverse backgrounds shared their personal stories and ideas on how every individual can play an active role in building peace in their communities.

Michele Brandt, a constitutional lawyer, who launched and directs Interpeace’s Constitution-Making for Peace Programme, participated in the Ottawa Peace Talks and spoke about the importance of inclusive constitution-making processes in peacebuilding: “In war torn countries, constitution-making is often a key component of a political transition. Research shows that inclusive politics and civic engagement secures a more durable peace. But what level of inclusion and civic engagement is sufficient and who gets to decide?”

Michele shared the lessons learned through her experience in Timor-Leste and Afghanistan and addressed the importance of making constitution-making processes inclusive for all members of society – including women. In Timor-Leste, she recalls, the constitution makers were given only three months to write the constitution. Despite several pleas from civil society organizations, “the process was rushed and the constitution was largely viewed as the product of a single dominant political party rather than a consensus based social compact.” Michele went on to describe that shortly after the new constitution was drafted, violence broke out in the country. After her experience in Timor, she was called to participate in the constitution-making process in Afghanistan. The process took place at first behind closed doors, but after consultations with the authorities involved, it opened to Afghan citizens. The country established 11 satellite offices, which allowed hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians, women, religious leaders, artists, youth, nomads and minority groups to be consulted. Michele noted that “Though the process wasn’t perfect… women gained significant rights in the Constitution.”

Alongside Michele, several other women shared their insights at the Ottawa Peace Talks. Alaa Murabit, founder of the Voice of Libyan Women, spoke about leadership and what a leader looks like. She explained that the definition is too narrow, disregards young leadership and ignores local and community leaders. She explained that local leaders are often women, who play a critical role in ending conflict and preventing violent extremism. Moreover, Désirée McGraw, President and Head of Pearson College, and Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire, Canada’s premiere Indigenous-led charity, both agreed that educating and empowering young people are very important methods to change the world.

In order to build peace, there must be a conscious decision to accept and celebrate diversity, which are the foundation to building more inclusive societies. This is also true in constitution-making, whereby it is essential to listen and respect women’s voices and aspirations. To watch all of the Ottawa Peace Talks visit [Link to site].

Photo credit: Andrea Cardin for Ottawa Peace Talks

Including women’s voices in Constitution-Making

Every year approximately 20 countries go through the process of writing or revising a constitution and a further 20 envisage doing so. At a recent event, “More Inclusive Ways to Peace: The Role of Women in Constitution-making processes”, experts and advocates in the field of constitution-making gathered to discuss how this process could be made more inclusive, ensuring that women’s voices are heard.

Scott Weber, Director-General of Interpeace, opened the discussion by stressing the potential that each constitution-making process represents for peacebuilding. He said they present a chance “for those countries to embrace more inclusive political practices by ensuring women participate fully at every stage and every level of the constitution-making process.”

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the United States in Geneva, acknowledged that steps forward have been made in many countries due to the advocacy of women’s groups and civil society. Progressive and inclusive constitutions are important, she said, but warned that this is not enough.

Sapana Pradhan Malla, Gender advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal, speaking at a panel discussion on the role of women in constitution-making processes. Sustainable peace can only be built if the process is inclusive and all voices are heard equally. .Ensuring that womenâs voices are heard and that many more women can participate in re-shaping their own, and their countries future was the focus of a panel discussion November 12 organised by Interpeace and the U.S. Mission. Research shows that peace accords that include civil society actors such as womenâs groups can be at least 50 percent more likely to endure than those that are less inclusive,â said Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, speaking at the opening of the event The panelists at the event held at the Museum of the Red Cross included:  Fatima Outaleb â Founder of Union de lâAction Féminine.Farooq Wardaq â Former Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.Louise Kasser Genecand â Attaché for Intercantonal affairs. Presidential department of the canton of Geneva.Michele Brandt â Director of Interpeaceâs Constitution-Making for Peace Programme.Sapana Pradhan Malla â Gender advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal.H.E Ms. Pamela Hamamoto â Ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in Geneva U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers;
Photo credit: Francois Wavre/ Lundi13

“Equality on paper does not necessarily translate to equality on the ground.” She said. “There is no doubt that this form of equality will require more women in leadership positions on all fronts, in all sectors.”

This theme was continued by Fatima Outaleb, the founder of Union de l’Action Féminine in Morocco, who discussed the difficulties faced in achieving a truly representative constitution. In part, she said, the problem is one of political will, but civil society has also been responsible. “We as civil society have not done much to include the people we are speaking on behalf of,” she pointed out.

Ensuring gender equality in the constitution-making process is essential to building a sustainable peace, that’s according to Farooq Wardaq, the former Minister of Education for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who held key government roles in the revision of his country’s constitution and in ensuring women’s equal participation in elections.

A key to their success, as Wardaq pointed out, has been countrywide civic education that put a priority on reaching out to women. “Up until that time people thought the constitution was a book on a government shelf that meant nothing for their lives. This we had to change.”

Fatima Outaleb, Founder of Union de lâAction Féminine, speaking at a panel discussion on the role of women in constitution-making processes Sustainable peace can only be built if the process is inclusive and all voices are heard equally. .Ensuring that womenâs voices are heard and that many more women can participate in re-shaping their own, and their countries future was the focus of a panel discussion November 12 organised by Interpeace and the U.S. Mission. Research shows that peace accords that include civil society actors such as womenâs groups can be at least 50 percent more likely to endure than those that are less inclusive,â said Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, speaking at the opening of the event The panelists at the event held at the Museum of the Red Cross included:  Fatima Outaleb â Founder of Union de lâAction Féminine.Farooq Wardaq â Former Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.Louise Kasser Genecand â Attaché for Intercantonal affairs. Presidential department of the canton of Geneva.Michele Brandt â Director of Interpeaceâs Constitution-Making for Peace Programme.Sapana Pradhan Malla â Gender advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal.H.E Ms. Pamela Hamamoto â Ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in Geneva U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers;
Fatima Outleb discusses the challenge of fostering inclusivity in Morocco. Photo credit: François Wavre/Lundi13 for Interpeace

As a consequence of the constitution, he said, women now participate in 40% of national decision-making overall, and hold 29% of the seats in the upper house, 22% of the lower house and 22% of the provincial councils.

In order to advance women’s role in constitution-making and nationbuilding processes, Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices Programme provides a space for women to have their voices heard and to share their experiences and expertise.

“Our aim is to provide a platform for women – and for men who are fighting for gender justice – to share what works,” Scott Weber concluded. “It is up to all of us, men and women, to work together for find more inclusive ways to peace.”


More inclusive ways to peace: The role of women in constitution-making processes

Too often women find themselves excluded from the peace-making process. But at the same time many women have been able to make a significant impact on statebuilding in their own country.

How do we ensure that women’s voices are heard and that many more women can participate in re-shaping their countries’ future?

The More Inclusive Ways to Peace panel features women and men from different backgrounds and professions who will share their own experiences of working within constitution-making processes around the globe.

The goal of the event is to underline that sustainable peace can be built if the process is inclusive and all voices are heard equally. This is the central message of the Interpeace’sConstitution-Making for Peace Programme.

The panel is co-organized by Interpeace and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations in Geneva.

You are welcome to join the panel event on Thursday January 12, 2015, from 9:30 to 11:00 CET at the Espace Henry Dunant, Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • Fatima Outaleb – Founder of Union de l’Action Féminine
  • Farooq Wardaq – Former Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Louise Kasser Genecand – Attaché for Intercantonal affairs. Presidential department of the Canton of Geneva
  • Michele Brandt – Director of Interpeace’s Constitution-Making for Peace Programme
  • Sapana Pradhan Malla – Gender advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal
  • H.E. Ms. Pamela Hamamoto – Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva

More information, including the full biographies of the panelists, is available here.

Correspondents and journalists interested in talking with individual speakers and event organizers prior to or after the event, please contact:
Alexandre Munafò, Global Engagement Officer
T : +4122 404 59 21
M : +4179 272 73 22

About Interpeace: Interpeace is an independent, international peacebuilding organization and a strategic partner of the United Nations. Interpeace works with local partner organizations in 21 countries with the aim of building long term peace. The organization is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It has regional offices in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire); Guatemala City (Guatemala); Nairobi (Kenya); and representation offices in Brussels (Belgium); New York (USA).


Women’s Voices Heard in Ukraine Constitution-Making Workshop

On May 30, Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices project organized a workshop in Kiev, inviting women from across Ukraine to participate. The workshop, organized in co-operation with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), addressed ways in which women could participate fully in the constitution-making process.

Many of the women who attended were members of local government, chosen not only for their job role but because of their community volunteer work. The daylong event included discussion on what constitutions are, how they are made and how women’s voices can be heard during the process of constructing a constitution.

The participants voiced their concerns about severe obstacles blocking the path to political reform in Ukraine and expressed a strong interest in having their own, and their fellow citizens voices included in the debate.

Isolation from the reform process, even at a local level, was a common frustration for the women. The dangers of speaking out were also raised; one participant’s house was burned down after she wrote about corruption in her local community.

But the women were not deterred by these obstacles. They showed enthusiasm and a strong commitment to having a role to play in the reform process. After the event the participants exchanged emails in order to keep in touch and to continue their discussions with one another outside of the workshop, helping to bridge the gap of isolation.

While in Ukraine, the Constitution-making for Peace Programme (CMP) met with representatives from international and local organizations to deepen understanding of the current Ukrainian situation and begin developing a plan of action. Important lessons were learned from stakeholders and the workshop discussion. The promotion of constitutionalism, education driven reform of the political environment, and the support of citizen’s active engagement in the reform process were all identified as potential areas for CMP to help with.

Photo credit: Interpeace

Supporting Women’s Equal Participation in Constitution-Making

09 March 2015 – International Women’s Day is an important date to celebrate and reflect on the progress made in bringing about greater gender equality. For 2015, the day’s theme was “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity.” Strongly committed to this, Interpeace is highlighting the work being done by its Constitution-making for Peace Programme.

Women’s Constitutional Voices (WCV) is a project launched by Interpeace’s Constitution-Making for Peace Programme (CMP) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It empowers women globally to fully participate at every stage and at every level of a constitution-making process – from building coalitions, engaging in civic education efforts to debating, adopting, drafting and implementing the constitution. Enabling women to build constitutions that promote gender equality and reflect women’s aspirations is another goal of the WCMV. The project will also document and share women’s vital contributions and experiences in building their constitution.

We live in an age of constitution-making. Since 1975 well over 200 new constitutions have been adopted, typically in response to conflict. Every year as many as 20 national constitutions are reformed or adopted, and another 20 or more constitutional reform processes are considered or initiated. Each of these constitutional processes represents an enormous opportunity to empower women to claim their political, social, economic and cultural rights. Moreover, if the constitution is made through an inclusive process, it is more likely to lead to a durable peace.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security underscores that political transitions are critical moments to empower women. Constitution-making processes are an essential component of the roadmap to peace. The stakes are high. If women are supported during a constitution-making process they will be able to play larger roles in the political, social and economic life of their country after the adoption of the constitution. In short, each constitution-making process represents an enormous opportunity to advance the status of women but also carries a risk of losing hard fought for gains.

With these goals in mind, Interpeace and UNDP, with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, jointly organized a workshop in Amman, Jordan on women’s full participation in constitution-making processes. Participants from Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Iraq shared their experiences and lessons learned. They were able to talk with their peers about how to ensure women fully engage in the constitution-making process – including the critical role women are playing, often at great risk, to promote peace through constitution-making.

Making the role played by women visible

As one participant pointed out during the workshop: “The critical role that women play in constitution-making and peace processes is too often forgotten. Monuments and history only celebrate the men, whilst women are usually omitted from the historical records.” Another noted that she had become a citizen journalist because the media was ignoring issues that were central to women.

The women came from diverse backgrounds, including youth representatives. Some were part of civil society or the media, while others have worked with former or current official bodies involved in constitution- making or were members of the Arab Regional Network for Women’s Peace and Security Network (Karama).

Connecting women within their countries, across regions and globally

Reflecting on the workshop, participants particularly valued what they had learned from the experiences of women in similar situations. Hearing about the common challenges women face icreated enthusiasm about a global network that could support their efforts and foster learning. Everyone agreed on the need to share strategies about how women at the grassroots level can fully participate in constitution-making process and how to incorporate constitutional provisions that promote gender equality. As Michele Brandt, Director of the Interpeace’s Constitution-making for Peace Programme and the WCVM project explains: “It is hard to achieve constitutions that promote gender equality but it is even harder to implement those constitutional provisions.”

Empowering women in political transitions

The workshop highlighted how women can and should be equal participants in every task and at every phase of a constitution-making process to realize the goals of international efforts to empower women. “History has shown that when marginalized in the constitution-making process, women continue to be sidelined in the political life of the country. That’s why we need to carefully plan the full participation of women prior to the launch of a process,” explains Michele. “Women should not only be at the negotiation table, but also carry out civic education, public consultation, research, elections and other activities associated with the making of a constitution,” she adds.

This not only leads to a more durable peace but also more prosperous countries. Based on data drawn from numerous UN specialized agencies active in gender-related issues, the UNDP Gender Inequality Index indicates that countries where women play active roles in the political life of the country have a corresponding higher level of development.


Photo credit: Interpeace

Timor-Leste: Promoting the voices of women for peace

This past Friday, Interpeace’s local partner in Timor-Leste, the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), held a National Validation Workshop with the goal of helping women to participate in the democracy process within the country. Coinciding with the International Day of Peace, the event marked the third phase in an innovative research project, which looks specifically at how to engage women in democratic processes at the local level as active citizens.

The first phase of the project brought together women across 12 districts of the country to participate in interactive dialogues, which was then followed by the opportunity for men and women to meet at the regional level over a series of three one-day conferences. The Validation Workshop was the final phase and provided an opportunity for the involved men and women to discuss their recommendations for the consolidation of democracy directly with policy-makers and civil society actors at the national level.

Incorporation of Peace Day

In concordance with International Peace Day on 21 September, CEPAD chose the theme of “Promoting the Voices of Women for Peace” for the workshop. All participants wore a white and blue ribbon, signifying a commitment to peacebuilding. Each attendee was also invited to write a message of what peace means to them to be displayed on a large cloth dove inside the venue, with the messages representing the dove’s feathers. This allowed participants to think about peace within a local context but also consider its global implications.

Panel workshops lead to self-empowerment

The first panel of the workshop included João Boavida, Executive Director of CEPAD, as well as numerous other speakers involved in women’s issues and government. This panel was then followed by a second group consisting of Joana Maria Viegas, a CEPAD researcher, along with three female representatives from the different regions of Timor-Leste. Sra. Me. Guilhermina Marçal, Provincial Superior of the Canossian Sisters and first speaker at the workshop, inspired participants when she stated: “Women hold the key. The key for peace, the key to democray. Women’s laughter grows peace in the world.”

Idea behind the research

After a long struggle for independence, Interpeace local partner CEPAD has supported the consolidation of democracy within federal and local government structures. Recently, CEPAD has been looking into the role women can play in the consolidation of democracy at the community level, moving the focus away from formal structures to active citizenship. Through CEPAD’s series of workshops, women are encouraged to think deeply about how they can actively participate in democracy and the workshops allow participants to understand the meaning of democracy within everyday life.

Cyprus: Policy Brief On Empowering Women In The Peace Process

Interpeace Conference Nicosia
Photo credit: cips Marcos Gittis for Cyprus 2015/Interpeace

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security adopted on 31 October 2000. The Interpeace initiative in Cyprus, Cyprus 2015, seized the opportunity to advocate for the vital role of women in post-conflict reconstruction processes and to promote greater social inclusion and participation in the peace process.

Women participation: perceptions and realities

Cyprus 2015 has recently conducted surveys on the perceptions of the peace process of both men and women from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in terms of values, hopes, fears, and outlook of the peace process.

“Our research suggests that gender discrepancies do exist. For instance, Turkish Cypriot women seem to fear that a settlement of the Cyprus question may lead to economic failure, while Greek Cypriot women are more concerned with renewed conflict and domination by the other side”, explains Erol Kaymak, Research Co-Director of Cyprus 2015. In terms of the outlook of the peace process, the gender difference seems more striking he continues, as “women were found to be at significantly lower knowledge levels than men in both communities regarding the events of the peace process.”

Moving forward: integrating a gender perspective in the peace talks

In order to allow for greater societal input and thus provide new impetus to the peace process, Cyprus 2015 recommends the adoption of a National Action Plan within the framework of the negotiations.

“The establishment of a working group for a gender perspective which would work towards the adoption of a mutually binding framework would entail the broad participation of civil society and relevant stakeholders”, said Ahmet Sözen, Co-Director of Cyprus 2015. Funding would be required from both communities as to ensure mutual trust and commitment, “but it is a first step in working towards greater inclusion of women,” according to Alexandros Lordos, Co-Director of Cyprus 2015.

In and of itself, the development and implementation of a National Action Plan in Cyprus may not transform relations overnight, “but it could serve to galvanize advocates of a new set of norms, reinforcing democratization and participatory processes, both of which could prove to be invaluable assets in guiding Cyprus out of conflict into the realm of sustainable peace and a sustainable future”, added Giorgos Filippou, Senior Researcher of Cyprus 2015.

For more detailed information, the complete policy brief on Gender Participation in the Peace Talks by Cyprus 2015 can be found here (PDF, English).

Plant the seed of peace: Women peacebuilders in Rwanda

In late 2007, a pilot activity was launched by Interpeace and its Rwanda partner, the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP). The Biba Amahoro project, which means ‘plant the seed of peace’ in Kinyarwanda, aims to strengthen the role of Rwandan women in peacebuilding efforts.

Five women have been chosen this year to be exposed to IRDP’s work and to other peacebuilding activities in the region. The goal of the pilot activity is to show them different initiatives and to help them develop peacebuilding initiatives in their own communities.

Each woman is an active community member. Each comes from a different part of the country and from a different background: there is a member of the local administration, teachers who are also engaged in IRDP’s activities as facilitators of a dialogue club or of a school club, an active civil society representative, and a young woman who manages an orphanage. In November 2007, they spent two weeks with the IRDP team where each woman was assigned to one of IRDP’s staff members and followed his/her activities. They also attended a forum of debate organized by IRDP.

In December 2007 they travelled to Kenya with the IRDP researcher responsible for the pilot activity. The Interpeace team in Nairobi exposed them the work of other peacebuilding organizations in Nairobi and in the Wajir region, in the North of Kenya. In Wajir they met local organizations working on conflict prevention with youth, women, religious leaders, and with elders. These organizations, which have more than a decade of experience in the region, gave inspiration to the Rwandan women about the kinds of projects they can develop within their own community.

A training event is planned for summer 2008 and they will develop the ideas for a micro-project that they want to develop in their community.