Women, Peace Building, and Political Inclusion: A Case Study from Solomon Islands

Authored by: Katherine Webber and Helen Johnson

Categories: Peace Support Operations
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Peacemaking, Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Country: Solomon Islands
Region: East Asia and the Pacific
Year: 2008
Citation: Webber, Katherine and Helen Johnson. "Women, Peace Building, and Political Inclusion: A Case Study from Solomon Islands." Hecate 34, no. 2 (2008): 83-99.

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Despite the crucial activities women fulfilled during the conflict in Solomon Islands they were overlooked and excluded in the peace negotiations and are yet to be sufficiently represented in national level politics. This article examines why, despite the active roles women undertook in peace-building activities in Solomon Islands during the 1998-2000 ethnic tensions, their activities were not translated into greater political representation in the post-conflict period. The inclusion of women in peace negotiations was necessary for sustainable peace and development in Solomon Islands, yet their inability to break the boundaries of feminine stereotypes and challenge traditional power hierarchies left them relegated to the sidelines and excluded from the political forum. We argue that it was because women’s activities were based on gendered stereotypes that they were unable to challenge the traditional power imbalances that exist in Solomon Islands politics. Prior to and since Independence, the public arena and politics in Solomon Islands have traditionally been a male domain, yet the conflict within the country, commonly referred to as the ‘tensions’, resulted in changes to some social roles and increased women’s sphere of influence. Others have written in detail about the conflict and women’s agency; however we wish to explore why greater changes in areas of women’s political participation were not sustained by women in Solomon Islands. To understand why this was the case, we apply three arguments drawn from feminist critiques of international relations to the domestic politics of Solomon Islands: first, that women’s experiences and voices are often excluded and ignored in politics and conflict, with men’s experiences promoted as ‘real’ in international relations theory and practice; second, that the myth that the state provides protection for vulnerable populations, such as women and children, in times of conflict needs critical examination; and third, that unreflectively linking women and peace can have negative consequences.