ongress should do more to protect and empower women around the world.  That’s the word from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18), who co- hosted a Capitol Hill breakfast briefing  in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.  

The briefing, which was the sixth of a Women, Peace and Security breakfast series, was on Mitigating Violence Against Women in Crises and Political Transition.

“There needs to be a continuing effort to ensure that we protect the rights of women and to ensure freedom, to ensure peace and to ensure justice,” Lee said. “I am hoping that we will look at legislation that fills the gap and emphasizes the needs of women around the world.”


Panelists at breakfast briefing

The theme of the briefing was inspired by former Secretary General Kofi Annan, who referred to violence against women as a problem of “pandemic proportions, where 1 in 3 women have been abused in their lifetime.” This same sentiment on protecting women from violence was echoed by a panel including IFES Senior Gender Specialist Jennifer Huber; Sandra Pepera, Director of Gender, Women and Democracy at the National Democratic Institute; Rakesh Sharma, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, and Public Opinion Research at IFES; and Aisling Swaine, Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

The panel discussed  violence against women during elections, how endemic forms of violence continue during and after conflict, the importance of women in the forces and, most notably, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. According to the U.N. Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, the resolution “reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” Prof. Swaine said that 63 states globally have developed national action plans for their commitment to UNSCR 1325 as a way to respond to violence against women issues.

IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney gave the closing remarks

IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney gave the closing remarks

One of the key points that came out of the panel discussion was that women in politics are faced with persistent harassment and psychological abuse. In fact according to NDI’s Pepera, “women are targeted in order to discourage them from political activity because politics is about power; those who want it,  those who have it and those who are denied it.” Sharma, who gave a presentation on IFES research on this issue, added that there is a lack of knowledge and data about violence against women in elections and that women experience different types of violence in different spaces than men.

The breakfast series, which was first launched in July, 2015, explores current issues affecting women and girls in conflict and illuminates their determination and leadership to find peace. Each conversation is framed in the context of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the U.S. Government’s National Action Plan on 1325.

The next scheduled briefing will be on “Engaging Men and Boys as Allies in Peace-building” on July 21, 2016. Future topics will include, “Women, Conflict and the Environment,” “Codifying Inclusive Human Rights in Transitional Legal Frameworks,” and “Women, Girls and Human Trafficking.”