Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013

By Senator Nan Grogan Orrock Special to The Atlanta Voice | 12/20/2013, 3:10 p.m.

As the world mourned the loss and celebrated the life of courageous freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, we were reminded by a woman leader speaking at his service that Mandela’s dedication to humanity, to equality for all, to ending discrimination, oppression, and apartheid, certainly included a bedrock commitment to advancing women and removing barriers to their full participation in civic life. Malawi President Joyce Banda shared her moving account of being welcomed and encouraged by Nelson Mandela in her role as Vice President, and then described his unwavering support when her ascendancy to Malawi’s Presidency was challenged by competing male politicians.

President Banda now courageously leads her country to improve living standards and oppose corruption and special interests who would impede progress. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president, has a long history of working to advance women’s rights in Africa. She was one of the five U.N. commission chairs to investigate and report on the effect of conflict on women and women’s roles in peace building. Sirleaf won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen, for her efforts to ensure women’s safety and women’s rights to participate in peace-building work. She is currently using her second term as president to make women’s rights and health a national priority in Liberia.

Here at home, effective women leaders in the US Senate led in crafting a bipartisan compromise to end the government shutdown in October, ending an artificially created crisis intended to block the Affordable Care Act funding. Women here and around the globe are demonstrating their skill and leadership in resolving and preventing conflict and building peace.

This week we mark the third anniversary of an important US policy shift on behalf of the women of the world. On December 19, 2011, President Obama introduced the first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. NAP). The U.S. NAP recognizes the critical role of women in preventing and resolving violent conflict and building lasting peace. It aims to protect women and girls from rape and gender-based violence and guarantees equal access to humanitarian aid in crisis situations. The U.S. NAP calls for women’s meaningful participation and leadership in advancing U.S. foreign policy issues on all matters of peace and security.

Today, on the third anniversary of the U.S. NAP, we have the opportunity to support the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013 (H.R. 2874) that will transform the U.S. NAP (an executive order at risk of termination upon the election of a new president) into permanent U.S. national law.

Let us support the WPS Act, because even though empowering women is associated with lower poverty, higher economic growth, better nutrition and education of children, and other outcomes vital to the success of communities—and therefore security—our government agencies repeatedly ignore women, especially in conflict-affected environments. The WPS Act will ensure women are equally included in creating peace and preventing conflict.

Let us support the WPS Act, because of the 40 conflicts in the last decade, 31 represent repeated cycles of violence with a disproportionate impact on women and children. For instance, in Afghanistan though the overall number of casualties finally decreased in 2012, the number of casualties among women and girls increased by 20% during that same period. The WPS Act seeks to protect women from violence, especially gender-specific violence such as sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking.