Violent female rebels must not be ignored

October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ignoring the fact that female rebels also use weapons is dangerous, according to IRIN, in a report which particularly looks at the situation in Nepal, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In Sierra Leone, the article reports that women were not just sex slaves or passive victims, but also the perpetrators of attacks and violence, and trained well in using weapons . To use the report’s words: “women and girls carried arms, killed, commanded armed groups, looted and spied.”

In a bizarre way there is a comfort in this. To deny women’s role in war as female soldiers is to re-write history, to omit important facts, and to deny them the rehabilitation and support they need in post-war reconciliations.  It also fails to recognise how empowering many wars can be for women. The two world wars were determining factors in gender relations in the 20th century, and when British women gained the vote in 1918 it was largely down to their war efforts (admittedly, not as soldiers, but I think the principal is the same). In times of war and conflict, rigid social norms are broken down, and there is a chance for women to challenge preconceptions and move into “male territory”.

It also serves to remind us that war is horrific for all involved. Always. And for women in particular, you can’t win either way.

The key conclusion of the report takes us back to a point coverd by the site Women’s Views on News that women are kept away from peace talks (cue wry response that it’s no bloody wonder so many fail). IRIN concludes:  “There are too few trained women peacekeepers, civilian police and experts” and calls for “the establishment of a regionally balanced group of women and gender DDR experts.”

Pic courtesy of UN: A female soldier in Sierra Leone

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