Strengthening the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art

The political sphere in Palestine is male dominated, with young women in particular excluded from political and security decision-making. Significantly, existing social norms, growing conservative attitudes, prevailing gender stereotypes and socio-economic hardship hinder women’s participation at positions of influence. As a result, young women are often not engaged or involved in traditional power structures, and ultimately, have limited knowledge of their civic and political rights, including the capacity to express their political and social views.

To help shift this reality, Interpeace’s Palestine programme (Mustakbalna) has since its creation engaged diverse actors across the political spectrum and key sectoral groups within the Palestinian society, including women and youth, as change agents to promote constructive dialogue, enhance civil peace and greater stability within the Palestinian community.

In 2018, Mustakbalna partnered with The Freedom Theatre to strengthen the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art. Combining technical capacity building on UNSCR 1325, human rights, and gender with training on the use of innovative advocacy tools such as participatory photography, videography and theatre, young women from six different areas in the West Bank were empowered to act with influence, stand up for their rights and lead positive change in their communities.

Empowering women through art   

In 2000, the Security Council passed UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This resolution was a milestone because it acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, as well as the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, humanitarian response and peacebuilding. More than just victims of conflict, the resolution recognized women as actors of change and as peacebuilders, as well as acknowledged the importance of including women in all stages of conflict prevention and peace negotiations. However, in conflict-affected countries, women – and young women in particular – often do not possess technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325 and generally lack the space, confidence and advocacy skills to voice their concerns and aspirations to decision-makers.

Thinking of ways to address the particular challenge faced by young women, the Mustakbalna programme in partnership with The Freedom Theatre delivered a series of capacity building workshops, theatre and drama workshops, and participatory photography/videography sessions, to enable young women in target areas to improve their confidence, advocacy skills and technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325. These comprehensive training efforts helped 120 young women between the ages of 15-25 to find their “own voice” using creativity and art. Throughout the sessions, young women improved their ability to have oftentimes difficult conversations about security concerns, covering issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse with their peers, project staff, and key stakeholders, while at the same time linking these concerns to broader reflections about UNSCR 1325 and to what extent it can be used as an advocacy tool. These improvements were confirmed by participants’ parents, and other project stakeholders, including women leaders, who were impressed by the level of knowledge and expertise demonstrated by young women such as displaying greater confidence and courage, greater awareness of their rights as women and as Palestinians, and greater clarity in their communication and self-expression. As a result, young women were able to bring forth their concerns and aspirations through various means and with various audiences.

The photography and videography workshops trained young women in the use of cameras and mobile phones to document issues around them and examine how these tools can be used as an advocacy instrument. Young women produced photographs and short films portraying their everyday realities, concerns and challenges regarding security, sexual harassment, societal pressure, abuse, and discrimination (gender and age) but also their aspirations and role in society. Meanwhile, the theatre and drama workshops covered not only theory and practice, but also interactive exercises such as use of body language and confidence-building. As a conclusion to the workshops, the works produced by young women, such as theatre sketches, photographs and short films, were presented in local communities to foster discussion around the role and concerns of young women.

Additionally, as part of the objective to raise broader awareness about issues concerning women in the Palestinian society, Interpeace’s partner, The Freedom Theater led the production of a play “Us Too – Women of Palestine”. The play highlighted powerful personal stories of harassment, struggle for equality, and women’s dreams of determining their own future, which toured in different locations in the West Bank.

In October 2018, a National Gathering was organized to conclude the training elements of the project. For the first time, the young women working groups were brought together from across the West Bank: Jenin City, Ya’bad, Nablus, Tulkarem, Tubas, and Hebron to help build stronger relationships, networks and communication channels with each other and with local organizations.

Connecting young women with decision-makers

As an integral part of the project, communication channels were created between young women and local decision-makers through introductory meetings to provide women with concrete opportunities to practice advocacy and accountability. These meetings were organized in all target areas, where participants discussed the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the role and particular security concerns of young women. Over 120 participants attended these meetings including young women, representatives of local municipalities, Governorate Offices, political parties, women’s and human rights organizations, legal institutions, and informal community leaders.

Furthermore, through the advocacy engagements facilitated by the programme, a meeting between young women and representatives of the National Coalition for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Palestine was organized. The discussion covered issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination against women including honor killings, violence against women by the Israeli occupation, raising awareness among men of women’s rights, gender, and UNSCR 1325, as well as the challenge of forming a unified front among women on the issue of women’s rights in Palestine.

Both decision-makers and women leaders acknowledged the importance and necessity of listening to these strong – but often marginalized – voices and recognized the place and potential of young women as “future leaders” of the Palestinian society.

Ensuring young women’s access to community structures at a local level is key to enabling them to later participate in peace and security processes at the national level. Fostering greater awareness of young women’s rights and opportunities can enable them to use such frameworks, and UNSCR 1325 specifically, as tools to advocate for a greater role for themselves.

The implementation of the Interpeace and Freedom Theatre project “Advocates for peace and security” was made possible with the generous support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA).

Photo credit: The Freedom Theatre

Fostering sustainable peace in Libya – Managing tensions in the Nafusa Mountains

This is the story of Tamzin, a Libyan community that maintained its neutrality and peace in times of conflict. Located in the Nafusa Mountains of Northwestern Libya, Tamzin is a small town with a population of about 6,000 people, slightly more residents than Interlaken, Switzerland. Like Interlaken, Tamzin has a pharmacy, snack shops, stores, places of worship and occasionally snow in the winter. Amidst years of war, Tamzin has remained peaceful, fostering good practices and serving as an example for neighboring towns.  

The Nafusa Mountains Valley, home of Tamzin and its neighbors. Photo credit: Ahmed Labnouj

Communities divide as political tensions rise

Since 2011, the legacy of the Libyan revolution resulted in continued political and social tensions. Across the country, communities that once co-existed peacefully, suddenly began to resurrect old wounds, which were fueled by historical disagreements. In 2014, issues between various Libyan political camps resulted in violence, which spread from Tripoli to Benghazi and other parts of the country. As a result, new political bodies emerged, which competed for followers and power. Some communities stayed impartial, while others actively supported one party over the other. The competition between these political parties extended throughout different communities and inevitably tensions worsened. In this troubled time, the community of Tamzin remained neutral.

Tamzin has a history of fostering and sustaining peace. At the height of the revolution, it was one of the few communities that was not militarized. Unlike other communities across Libya, it did not develop a military council or a heavily armed local militia.

Reducing violence through inclusive dialogue

Over a year ago, violence erupted between Tamzin’s neighboring towns of Kabaw and Tiji. These two communities struggled with fights on and off since 2011. As a result, the people of Tamzin, who had developed their dialogue facilitation skills with Interpeace, decided to get involved and reduce the tension between their neighboring communities. The people of Tamzin took advantage of their good relations with both communities, as well as their impartial reputation during moments of conflict, and worked with the people of Kabaw and Tiji to end the fighting, as well as help prevent it from spreading to other neighboring communities.

Traditionally in Libya, elders in the communities are the ones tasked with reaching out to each other to resolve community problems. The Tamzin people put in practice the new skills learned with Interpeace and promoted the participation of all sectors of the communities to identify and resolve conflict. In an attempt to put an end to the conflict between their neighboring communities, peacebuilders from Tamzin held consultations in Kabaw and Tiji, inclusive of all aspects of society for over a week.

According to Hassan[1], a Tamzin peacebuilder who facilitated discussions, “several methods and tips from Interpeace were used during those dialogue sessions. One of them was to trigger 'behind the scenes', informal moments to improve interpersonal relations over common values. After sharing traditional dates and buttermilk during a break, participants smoothened their tones and declared that since they had broken bread together, they should not leave the room without an agreement.”

By gathering all sectors of the communities, a clear peace plan between Kabaw and Tiji was established. To this day, the peace plan holds because it was lead and  developed  by the very people affected by the tensions, and as a result guaranteed its sustainability.

Asked about the evolution of the situation over the past year, Hassan reflected that “the dispute resolution enhanced stability in the whole Nafusa Mountain region.” According to him, improved relations between Kabaw and Tiji trickled down positively on the economic trade and social linkages of all communities, as illustrated by a rise in inter-communal marriages.

Change agents designing their community dialogue sessions during an Interpeace workshop in February 2018. Photo credit: Interpeace

A peace mapping process

Interpeace and its local partners have worked in Libya since 2011, with the aim of building an architecture for peace in the divided country. Through a peace mapping process, the views on obstacles to peace and stability of hundreds of Libyans have been documented, with the objective of highlighting the numerous, but less visible communities, that have remained relatively stable despite the conflict in the region.

Interpeace began working with the people from Tamzin in 2016, to better understand the conditions and coping mechanisms developed in the community to deal with the conflict that surrounds them – extracting the lessons learned from this community and others like it can help others across Libya build their own peace and stability. With the help of Interpeace, women and men from Tamzin were able to build on their own peaceful history and study more ways to help others engage in inclusive dialogue, without resorting to violence. For the past two years, community members learned to lead and facilitate dialogue to resolve problems, and created a group gathering over 200 people from the city, Tripoli and the diaspora, to mediate conflicts and seize joint opportunities for local regional development.

Learning from communities like Tamzin, that remain peaceful in conflict-affected environments, can help contribute to the overall peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in Libya. By strengthening their capacity for resilience through dialogue and inclusion, violent conflict can be reduced in the region.

[1] The name has been changed to protect the identity of the dialogue facilitator.

Youth, Peace and Security: Moving into Action

The 2018 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development addressed the politics of peace by assessing how different policies, processes and tools can be used to overcome political obstacles to building and sustaining peace. Interpeace and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation hosted a two-part session on May 8 and 9, entitled: “Youth, Peace and Security: Moving into Action.”

Young people make up a quarter of the world’s population and many are already engaged in efforts to promote more peaceful and inclusive societies and prevent conflict. Despite the fact that they bring new and important perspectives to the table, they continue to face barriers to participation at the international, national and local levels. The two-part session hosted by Interpeace and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, examined some of the key recommendations of the global Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2250 to identify the tools, resources and mechanisms needed to strengthen youth engagement in policy processes and programme implementation. Each part of the session began with an expert introduction, which was followed by parallel breakout discussions.

The first part of the session took place on May 8, examining the policy implications of the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. It began with an opening panel of the following experts:

Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

The panel event was followed by parallel breakout discussions, which addressed financing of youth organizations and initiatives, the role of political will in implementing 2250 and the role of gender.

Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

After the session, Thevuni Kotigala, shared her experience being part of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.


The second part of the session took place on May 9, examining how the recommendations of the study can be taken into action. The session began with an opening panel of the following experts:

Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

After the panel event, participants discussed methods of how to operationalize the YPS recommendations: reaching out to young people most vulnerable to exclusion, building on established youth initiatives and partnerships and coordination, between youth networks and YPS coalitions.

Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

Achim Wennman, Executive Coordinator of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, talks about the contribution of Geneva based organizations to the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development.


Palestinian Youth Challenges and Aspirations

This report was commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) with funds from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The report was developed as a contribution to the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security mandated by Security Council Resolution 2250. The research and consultations for this report followed the key research questions and methodology developed for the Progress Study.

The content of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations.

Youth perspectives from the global North

This report presents the findings from two focus group discussions that were undertaken as a contribution to the Global Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security in Stockholm, Sweden on the 9th – 11th of August 2017. This study was conducted as a collaboration between Interpeace Sweden, The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Pluralism and Dialogue Institute at Fryshuset.

The content of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations.

Interpeace in Almedalen – Youth, Peace and Security in Sweden and around the World

"Youth participation is a right, and resolution 2250 is a tool for also achieving this in Sweden." - Rosaline Marbinah, Chairman of the Foreign Policy Union in Sweden and Vice-Chairman of the National Council for Swedish Youth Organizations (LSU)

Just over a year ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2250, the first ever resolution on the topic of youth, peace and security. Interpeace’s Project leader in Suède, Tomas Amanuel, participated in a panel discussion during the Almedalen political week in Sweden on what this resolution means and how the work of implementing it is coming along. The conference was organized by the Foreign Policy Association in collaboration with the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), the agency for Peace, Security and Development.

The panel discussion was moderated by Max Landergård and participants included: Ulrika Modéer, State Secretary to Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation; Rosaline Marbinah, Chairman of the Foreign Policy Union in Sweden and Vice-Chairman of the National Council for Swedish Youth Organizations (LSU); Chris Coulter, Head of the conflict prevention Program at FBA, and; Tomas Amanuel, Project leader for Interpeace.

Youth's participation - an important aspect of achieving resolution 2250

Ulrika Modéer began the conversation by pointing out that the number of conflicts in the world is increasing, and at the same time, half of the world's population is under the age of 24. Therefore, it is not only reasonable, but necessary to include young people in decisions that will greatly affect the future.

UN resolution 2250 aims to achieve this and strengthen young people's participation and influence on issues of peace and security worldwide. But what are the challenges and how can we create the conditions for success?

A shift in youth engagement

In Sweden, young people often engage in associations that are focused on single political issues or associations in sports and culture. Today, it is more likely that young people will be found in sports associations or music studios than in political parties or movements. It is a global trend that while more and more young people engage and organize themselves, interest and trust in traditional politics seem to decrease. So how to increase youth involvement in politics when many young people are becoming less and less interested in politics as we know it?

The panelists agreed about the importance of local ownership to strengthen the desire of young people to participate in democratic processes. Interpeace's work with young people in socio-economically vulnerable areas in Sweden has been possible through close collaborations with local organizations and actors who are active and anchored in the specific areas where we work. Through these key people, it is possible to gain an understanding of the dynamics of the area, about what works well and what needs to change and how youth perceive the changes taking place.

The new ways in which youth engage also create a need to develop new forms to support and mechanisms for funding these movements. One way to win back young people's trust can be to review the various barriers that exist at a local level. Most often, there are high demands for formal organizational structures in order to receive financial support, demands which are often difficult for youth to live up to. The resolution has already helped to raise awareness of the need to review these barriers and find new ways to support young people's participation on their own terms.

"How do we finance young people's involvement in less formal ways? We must dare to take more risks! " - Chris Coulter, Head of the conflict prevention Program at FBA

When young people themselves define the problems they face and come up with ideas for solutions, their commitment increases. Moreover, their involvement helps provide long-term legitimacy and sustainability to the solutions that are developed. Including young people in decision-making processes should therefore be seen as a success factor that contributes to more effective and sustainable results.

"Youth's ability to organize is one of the most important issues of the resolution." - Tomas Amanuel, Project leader for Interpeace Sweden