Quantifying the Impact of Women’s Participation in Post-Conflict Economic Recovery


Justino, Patricia, Ivan Cardona, Rebecca Mitchell. and Catherine Müller. 2012. "Quantifying the Impact of Women’s Participation in Post-Conflict Economic Recovery." HiCN Working Paper 131, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. 

Authors: Patricia Justino, Ivan Cardona, Rebecca Mitchell, Catherine Müller


"The main aim of this report is to analyse how changes in the roles and activities of women during episodes of violent conflict may shape their contribution to post-conflict economic recovery and sustainable peace. The report poses two important questions for which limited evidence is to date available in the academic literature on violent conflict or in policy programming in post-conflict contexts:

1. How does violent conflict change the roles that women take on within their households and communities?
2. How do changes in female roles during conflict affect women‘s own status after the conflict, and the capacity of households and communities to recover from the conflict? 

In order to address these questions, the report reviews existing knowledge and provides new empirical evidence on the nature and extent of changes in women‘s roles and activities as a result of their exposure to violent conflict and the impact of these changes on post-conflict economic recovery at the household and community levels. The purpose of this empirical analysis is to provide a better understanding of (i) how changes in women‘s roles and activities may contribute towards processes of economic recovery; (ii) whether existing interventions are able to support these new roles (if positive) or to help women overcome negative outcomes; and (iii) what interventions the international community and local governments need to encourage in order to support the role of women in economic recovery and peacebuilding processes. The research was based on a literature review and original comparative empirical analysis in six country case studies: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Kosovo, Nepal, Tajikistan and Timor Leste. This analysis offers a first step towards the generation of rigorous evidence on the relationship between women‘s engagement in economic recovery and community stability in post-conflict countries. The results obtained must be interpreted with caution due to the simplistic nature of the analytical methods employed. Nonetheless, the empirical analysis points to a number of strong and suggestive trends and patterns, as follows:

  • Women participate more actively in labour markets during conflict. This result is consistent across the six case studies. However, despite increases in labour market participation, women often face substantial limitations in terms of access to employment, the types of employment available to them, and the levels of wages received. In addition, women‘s contribution to household economic security is overlooked in the post-conflict period: women tend to lose their jobs once the war is over and face pressures to return to traditional roles.
  • In general, vulnerability among women increases during conflict. This result is particularly significant for female-headed households. This is due to three main factors. The first is an increase in dependency rates during the conflict: households have more children to take care of (due to increases in fertility and in the number of orphans) and have more injured and incapacitated household members to support. The second is an increase in the labour market participation of women without any visible reduction in other obligations: women join formal and informal employment when male workers enlist in armed forces or are killed, injured, migrate or are abducted, in addition to their traditional household duties. The third is related to the type of jobs that women perform in contexts of violent conflict. These are typically low-paid, low-skilled jobs in the form of self-employment in informal activities or unpaid family labour. These new activities very seldom result in direct empowerment gains for women and may contribute further to their levels of vulnerability.
  • However, and against all odds, increases in the labour participation of women in conflict-affected areas are in some cases associated with increases in overall household and community welfare, when compared with households and communities in areas less affected by violence, and measured in terms of higher per capita consumption. This result is dependent on the type of work in which women engage: benefits are more significant when women are employed in better paid jobs. Remarkably, positive household or community benefits were still observed in some case studies despite the low status jobs performed by women affected by conflict, and the fact that women earn on average less than men.

These results are not reflected in policy interventions currently being implemented in conflictaffected countries, including employment generation programmes, microfinance projects, community-driven development (CDD) initiatives, peacebuilding projects and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes. Despite the potentially important peace dividends of more systematic integration of women in economic recovery and peacebuilding initiatives, of more meaningful employment for women and of measures that improve women‘s power relations within the household and in their communities, current policy programming in conflict-affected countries continues to prioritise the role of men in the achievement of peace, security and economic stability. Women remain outside mainstream peacebuilding and economic recovery programmes.

This situation may be partially due to the lack of rigorous enough evidence on the roles played by women in the economic security of their households through periods of violence, and in contributing positively to the economic recovery of communities affected by armed conflict. This project contributes, we expect, to the improvement of this evidence basis. The evidence discussed in this report suggests very strongly that post-conflict recovery interventions should support much more systematically women‘s engagement in economic reconstruction of postconflict societies, given the large yet unexploited benefits of women‘s involvement in household and community-level recovery processes” (Justino et al 2012, 6-7).

Topics: Armed Conflict, DDR, Economies, Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, International Organizations, Livelihoods, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Peacebuilding, Peace Processes, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325, Violence

Year: 2012

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