This memorandum is a response to a proposal to cut funding for gender and peace programs across federal agencies such as USAID, Department of State, or USIP. The members of the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee define gender issues as a topic of secondary importance in conflict resolution and peace-building that can be addressed later as soon as the conflict is over and the peace agreement is achieved. This memo provides information about the importance of empowering women through education and to let them know their rights on the basis of Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of “symbolic violence” as one of the ideas to support the necessity of funding and prove that the chosen gender issue is worth attention.
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Conflict Resolution, Peace-Building, and Gender Issues
There is no necessity to give a number of reasons to explain how conflict has become a natural and even vital part of human life and why it should be understood and studied thoroughly. Unfortunately, some people fail to realize that gender issues remain to be crucial in conflict resolution and peace-building processes. The idea to reduce funding for gender programs in peace-building seems to be evident as the committee considers gender issues of secondary importance, however, such decision cannot be justified as empowering women is a serious question that has to be discussed on a number of levels from many perspectives.
Gender diversity helps to comprehend the reasons and nature of conflicts and choose the most appropriate solutions within a short period of time. Empowerment of women is a step to reduce the number of conflicts in society, explain how women and men should be treated, and prove that women have to participate in the decision-making process that can easily shape their lives (Women 2000 and Beyond 13)1. Nowadays, women are able to offer the same or even more effective ideas on how to create and develop peaceful relations and solve conflicts on different levels, this is why women have to know, comprehend and use their rights in all spheres of life. Funding for gender and peace programs cannot be neglected and reduced as women cannot be deprived of their opportunities and a chance to improve the world and create better living conditions for future generations.
Bourdieu’s Theory of “Symbolic Violence”
The necessity of power in society and the importance of changes are the topics that have been discussed by a number of sociologists and philosophers from different epochs. Not many people have heard the theory of “symbolic violence” by Pierre Bourdieu. This French philosopher viewed change as a chance to free human minds and study the injustices people have to live in. Gender relations have defined the quality of life and the needs of society, and Bourdieu introduced the symbolic violence theory as an opportunity to understand that “every power which manages to impose meanings and to impose them as legitimate by concealing the power relations which are the basis of its force” (Yair 34)2. This theory explains the conditions under which people have to live and introduce the symbolic violence as an issue that cannot be avoided: the elders gain control over the young people, men have more rights than women, etc. The injustices are everywhere. The empowerment of women is a chance to break the standards and use some new approaches to improve living conditions. Education is the sphere of life that is constrained by various social and economic norms (Hung, Yoong, and Brown 25).3
Reasons to Continue Funding for Gender and Peace Programs
The continuation of funding for gender and peace programs may be presupposed by the identification of the following factors:
- Women have to know their rights and possibilities in a society they live;
- Women may offer interesting and unusual ideas and suggestions on how to resolve conflicts and create peaceful relations between genders;
- Women may have better experiences in conflict-solving processes that should be announced and considered by men that have powers;
- Women can share their knowledge in different spheres of life with men.
Men consider women as beings with unusual approaches. Why not use this ability and rely on women’s possibilities to regard conflicts and human relations from new perspectives. Nowadays, it is the period when people are open to new ideas. This is why it seems to be wrong and irrational to reduce funding for the ideas that can improve the world and prove that the relations between people have achieved some new boundaries. It is hard to believe that a woman of the Congress, like Liza Smith, does not find it necessary to support the empowerment of women in conflict resolution processes defining this issue of secondary importance instead of defining it as a preliminary step.
Ideas on How to Increase the Necessity of Empowering Women through Education
Congress should know that funding for gender and peace programs does not require too much effort or money. It is enough to underline the necessity and inform society about it. Empowerment of women through education may be regarded as a reason to continue funding gender issues in conflict resolution processes and learn how to empower women and let them know their rights and possibilities.
The following ideas may be used:
- Special educational programs are available for male and female students on a regular basis (both men and women should understand the role of gender equity in human relations and learn how to respect both approaches in conflict resolutions);
- Women share their ideas and knowledge under the same conditions as men can, e.g. online questionnaires may be used as a method of information sharing;
- Historical overview helps to define the role of women and use past experiences, e.g. online databases and libraries may contain the necessary articles;
- Promotion of such programs like UNIFEM or DAW should not be reduced but developed considering new opportunities and improvements in different spheres of life (Blanchfield 2).
In general, the empowerment of women through education is possible and should never be neglected. Women have to know their rights, and men, in their turn, have to respect them. Gender equality is the right of every human, and conflicts cannot be avoided by humans sometimes. This is why gender equality should be an important issue in conflict resolutions and peace-building, and Congress is one of the first places where this topic should be discussed and offered to society for consideration. People, both men, and women, think about the most effective methods on how to improve their lives. And women should have the same opportunities as men have already got.
Blanchfield, Luisa. “A New United Nations Entity for Women: Issues for Congress.” Congressional Research Service. 2010. Web.
Hung, Angela, Yoong, Joanne, and Brown, Elizabeth. “Empowering Women through Financial Awareness and Education.” OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions. 14 (2012). OECD Publishing. Web.
Women 2000 and Beyond. Gender Equality and Empowerment of Woman through ICT. 2005. Web.
Yair, Gad. Pierre Bourdieu: The Last Musketeer of the French Revolution. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2009. Print.
- This report focuses on women’s empowerment as a chance to increase women’s power and provide them with an ability to participate in all process that defines the quality of life by means of Information and Communication Technologies (a crucial tool for development).
- This theory was introduced at the end of the 1970s as a response to the necessity to comprehend the hierarchies of power in societies.
- In this article, the authors use various types of research to explain how women may use their possibilities and rights and why the deprivation of female rights and abilities influences development.