Including women’s voices in Constitution-Making

Every year approximately 20 countries go through the process of writing or revising a constitution and a further 20 envisage doing so. At a recent event, “More Inclusive Ways to Peace: The Role of Women in Constitution-making processes”, experts and advocates in the field of constitution-making gathered to discuss how this process could be made more inclusive, ensuring that women’s voices are heard.

Scott Weber, Director-General of Interpeace, opened the discussion by stressing the potential that each constitution-making process represents for peacebuilding. He said they present a chance “for those countries to embrace more inclusive political practices by ensuring women participate fully at every stage and every level of the constitution-making process.”

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the United States in Geneva, acknowledged that steps forward have been made in many countries due to the advocacy of women’s groups and civil society. Progressive and inclusive constitutions are important, she said, but warned that this is not enough.


Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto displays a copy of the US constitution during her opening remarks. Photo credit: François Wavre/ Lundi13 for Interpeace

“Equality on paper does not necessarily translate to equality on the ground.” She said. “There is no doubt that this form of equality will require more women in leadership positions on all fronts, in all sectors.”

This theme was continued by Fatima Outaleb, the founder of Union de l’Action Féminine in Morocco, who discussed the difficulties faced in achieving a truly representative constitution. In part, she said, the problem is one of political will, but civil society has also been responsible. “We as civil society have not done much to include the people we are speaking on behalf of,” she pointed out.

Ensuring gender equality in the constitution-making process is essential to building a sustainable peace, that's according to Farooq Wardaq, the former Minister of Education for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who held key government roles in the revision of his country’s constitution and in ensuring women’s equal participation in elections.

A key to their success, as Wardaq pointed out, has been countrywide civic education that put a priority on reaching out to women. “Up until that time people thought the constitution was a book on a government shelf that meant nothing for their lives. This we had to change.”


Fatima Outleb discusses the challenge of fostering inclusivity in Morocco. Photo credit: François Wavre/Lundi13 for Interpeace

As a consequence of the constitution, he said, women now participate in 40% of national decision-making overall, and hold 29% of the seats in the upper house, 22% of the lower house and 22% of the provincial councils.

In order to advance women’s role in constitution-making and nationbuilding processes, Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices Programme provides a space for women to have their voices heard and to share their experiences and expertise.

“Our aim is to provide a platform for women – and for men who are fighting for gender justice – to share what works,” Scott Weber concluded. “It is up to all of us, men and women, to work together for find more inclusive ways to peace.”

More inclusive ways to peace: The role of women in constitution-making processes

Too often women find themselves excluded from the peace-making process. But at the same time many women have been able to make a significant impact on statebuilding in their own country.

How do we ensure that women’s voices are heard and that many more women can participate in re-shaping their countries' future?

The More Inclusive Ways to Peace panel features women and men from different backgrounds and professions who will share their own experiences of working within constitution-making processes around the globe.

The goal of the event is to underline that sustainable peace can be built if the process is inclusive and all voices are heard equally. This is the central message of the Interpeace’s élaboration de Constitutions pour la paix.

The panel is co-organized by Interpeace and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations in Geneva.

You are welcome to join the panel event on Thursday January 12, 2015, from 9:30 to 11:00 CET at the Espace Henry Dunant, Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge in Geneva, Switzerland.


More information, including the full biographies of the panelists, is available ici.

Correspondents and journalists interested in talking with individual speakers and event organizers prior to or after the event, please contact:
Alexandre Munafò, Global Engagement Officer
T : +4122 404 59 21
M : +4179 272 73 22

About Interpeace: Interpeace is an independent, international peacebuilding organization and a strategic partner of the United Nations. Interpeace works with local partner organizations in 21 countries with the aim of building long term peace. The organization is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It has regional offices in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire); Guatemala City (Guatemala); Nairobi (Kenya); and representation offices in Brussels (Belgium); New York (USA).


Women's Constitutional Voices event: Engaging women in constitution-making processes

Interpeace et le Permanent Mission of the United States to UN in Geneva are co-organizing a panel, “More inclusive ways to peace: the role of women in constitution-making processes”. The event will be held on Thursday 12 November, at 9.30am at the Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge.

Featuring speakers from different regions and generations who have played key roles in ensuring a better role for women in political processes, including constitution-making, the discussion will center on the need for women's full and equal participation at every level of the constitution-making process. The event will also showcase the important role that women are already playing in these processes.

Speakers at the event will share their personal experiences of the struggle to achieve gender justice in the constitution-making process, setting this in an international but also local context.

This panel is part of Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices programme that seeks to increase women’s inclusion in the peacebuilding and constitution-making process.

More Inclusive Ways to Peace: The Role of Women in Constitution-Making Processes
12 November 2015 - 9h30 - 11h30
Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge
Espace Henry Dunant

To register, please cliquez ici.

Event speakers

Fatima Outaleb is a founding member and executive board member of Union de l’Action Féminine (Union of Women’s Action) Morocco. The organisation has been part of the women’s lobby to implement the gender parity provision in Morocco’s constitution.  As a human rights and gender advocate she has focused on women’s empowerment and gender justice across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Fatima also runs a shelter organised by Union de L’Action that helps women victimized by domestic violence, rape and other abuse.

Michele Brandt currently directs Interpeace’s Constitution-making for Peace Programme and its newest project -- Women’s Constitutional Voices.  For over twenty years she has implemented constitutional and gender justice programmes including in post-conflict countries. Previously she has worked as a constitutional advisor to UNAMA and Constitutional bodies in Afghanistan. In East Timor she was gender and judicial officer with UNTAET as well as an advisor to the Constituent Assembly.  In Cambodia, she co-founded a Women’s Crisis Center and led a legal aid association. Michele has written numerous articles and guidance tools on constitution-making and gender justice – including the Interpeace handbook on constitution-making.

Louise Kasser Genecand became the youngest member of the constituent assembly in Geneva at the age of 23. Serving from 2008 to 2012, she oversaw the organisation and development of the assembly. Previously, she worked as an advocate for youth engagement and the right of foreigners to vote, in Geneva as well as the federal level. She is now an attachée for intercantonal affairs at the presidential department of the canton of Geneva.

Farooq Wardak, in 2002, served as Director of the Constitutional Commission Secretariat as well as the Secretariat of the Constitutional Loya Jirga, the grand Assembly that ratified the constitution.  In this role, he supported efforts to ensure women's participation and representation at every stage and level of the process.  In 2004, he was appointed as Director of the Joint Election Management Body’s Secretariat (a UN and Afghan Government body) and organized the voter registration process and presidential election.  He has also served as State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Director General of the Administration as well as Minister of Education.

Sapana Pradhan Malla is an advocate for women’s participation in political and public policy processes. She is a founder of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) and a cabinet-appointed Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal. While a member of the country’s 1st Constituent Assembly tasked with writing a new constitution, she worked to ensure the inclusion of a comprehensive women’s rights agenda. In 2008, Sapana was awarded the prestigious Gruber International Women's Rights Award and the Asia Foundation’s Lotus Leadership Award in 2013 for her contributions to advancing women’s rights in the developing world.

Also appearing at the event

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto
In May 2014, Pamela Hamamoto became the second woman to serve as Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. During her term in office she has sought to use Geneva’s unique position as a center for global humanitarian organizations to create new opportunities for women and girls. As part of this goal the US mission launched The Future She Deserves in 2015, an initiative to promote collaboration between Geneva based organizations on gender issues.

Renée Larivière will moderate the event. She currently heads the Development and Learning division of Interpeace. Her main responsibilities are focused on providing the vision and leadership for Programme Development, Learning and Policy and IPAT. She also supports the development of the Constitution Making for Peace Programme. Operating in the complex environments of fragile societies, she has extensive experience in working closely with the different stakeholders that have an interest in building sustainable peace.  Renée came to Interpeace in 2007. Prior to this she worked in Peru on issues around the access, use and management of natural resources. Renée also worked in Pakistan with LEAD International and at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Engaging women across the peacebuilding process

UNSCR 1325 came into force nearly 15 years ago to ensure a role for women in all stages of the peacebuilding process, from negotiations to post-conflict reconstruction. Michele Brandt, director of Interpeace’s Constitution-making for Peace programme, says more needs to be done to support women to participate in every stage and level of the constitution-making process.

Drawing on 20 years of experience in constitution-making across the globe, Brandt has seen women sidelined from the process. If women are excluded from learning about constitutions and aren’t asked about their aspirations, their concerns will be ignored. And even when they have played key roles, often at great risk, their contributions go unrecognized.

Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices project, supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), seeks to elevate women’s voices in peacebuilding processes through a range of strategies, including bringing them together to share their experiences and reflect on lessons learned. At a workshop for women from Arab States, participants reported that they needed greater support and networks to improve their efforts, including at the grassroots level.

In Ukraine, participants noted that, with the exception of a few women in Kiev, women were being left out of the constitutional reform process. Because the country was a former Soviet Republic they needed more support to learn about the role of a constitution and to have a voice in current and future reforms. One participant said that when she tried to address corruption in her community her house was burnt down. Despite these obstacles, women are keen to form coalitions to advance their participation.

With around 20 countries amending or revising their constitutions each year, and another 20 envisaging the process, the importance of the issue is clear. Including women in the process enables them to gain skills in negotiation, writing legislation, and public consultation, ensuring they can play an active role in statebuilding and achieving a durable peace.

Article originally posted in Swisspeace KOFF newsletter

Розробка і реформа конституції: вибір процесу

This handbook is the 'how to guide' for constitution-makers around the world. Over 120 practitioners and experts with invaluable first hand field experience have been involved in the drafting. Over 100 case studies fed into the process. The book does not focus on just one area of constitution-making but takes a global view on the issue.

Разработка и реформа конституции: выбор процесса

This handbook is the 'how to guide' for constitution-makers around the world. Over 120 practitioners and experts with invaluable first hand field experience have been involved in the drafting. Over 100 case studies fed into the process. The book does not focus on just one area of constitution-making but takes a global view on the issue.