The Women and Peace Hypothesis in Peacebuilding Settings: Attitudes of Women in the Wake of the Rwandan Genocide

Authored by: Karen Brounéus

Categories: Peace Support Operations, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Peacemaking, Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Country: Rwanda
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2014
Citation: Brounéus, Karen. "The Women and Peace Hypothesis in Peacebuilding Settings: Attitudes of Women in the Wake of the Rwandan Genocide," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40, no. 1 (Autumn 2014): 125-151.

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Executive Summary

At the microlevel, the “women and peace” hypothesis suggests that women hold more pacific or compromising attitudes than men. Previous empirical studies of this hypothesis have focused on war-waging settings; this article is the first to bring the women and peace hypothesis to the peacebuilding phase. When studying the hypothesis after war, this article argues that the postconflict context, and especially war-related trauma, must be taken into account. Given that war affects women and men differently, there may be important gender differences in attitudes related to peacebuilding. To test this argument, data from a multistage, stratified cluster random survey of 1,200 Rwandans was analyzed, focusing on the connection between war-related psychological ill health and attitudes toward three issues of relevance for peacebuilding: trust, coexistence, and the gacaca (the Rwandan peacebuilding process). The results demonstrate that women reported significantly more negative attitudes than men toward all three issues. The article also suggests that this surprising finding may result from the different types and levels of trauma women and men experience in war: more men are killed, and more women are subjected to sexual violence. As more women are left to survive the atrocities of war, they may carry a heavier burden of war-related memories in their bodies and minds, leading to greater challenges in the peacebuilding and, often, truth-telling phase. In addition, higher levels of abuse against women in the postconflict phase may require continuing vigilance and anxiety. The article concludes by sketching out areas for future research investigating the important yet counterintuitive findings presented here.