Unicef Logo and the text: Children Under Threat. The State of The World's Children 2005.

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Christine Nesbitt



Girls and women

Great strides have been made in recognizing the unique impact that armed conflict has on women and girls. On 31 October 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, peace and security. The resolution marks the first time the Security Council has addressed the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women. It recognizes the undervalued contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building, and stresses the importance of their equal participation as active agents in peace and security.

Also in 2000, the Windhoek Declaration and the ‘Namibia Plan of Action’ called for the principles of gender equality to permeate UN peacekeeping operations in order to ensure the participation of women and men as equal partners and beneficiaries in all aspects of the peace process.

Despite these achievements, women and girls continue to be largely invisible in post-conflict situations. Many reconstruction efforts do not specifically focus on women or undergo a gender-budget analysis, which compares spending in different sectors such as level of funding reserved for the military to the level of those assigned to education initiatives. For example, women-specific projects accounted for only 0.07 per cent of the $1.7 billion UN-sponsored 2002 reconstruction plan for Afghanistan.

When it comes to protecting women and girls in conflict situations from rape and sexual violence, the most that can be claimed is that international agencies are more aware of the need for such protection. The problem is as grave, perhaps graver, than it has ever been. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where hundreds of thousands of women are thought to have been raped since 1998. In Darfur, Sudan, militias have also routinely resorted to rape and sexual assault, and the assaults have continued around the camps for displaced persons, as women have ventured out in search of water and firewood.

The burden of protecting girls and women from rape in wartime rests squarely on the shoulders of governments, many of which regard incidents of rape in a conflict situation as almost inevitable. They are not. It is a crime for which perpetrators must be held accountable. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines rape and other grave sexual violence as a war crime. More, however, needs to be done to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.


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UNICEF’s work on child protection [Web]

Adult Wars, Child Soldiers [PDF]

Children, Armed Conflict and HIV/AIDS [PDF]

No Guns, Please: We are Children! [PDF]

“…exploitation of children’s rights to study, loss of warmth and love in a family, cause terrible feelings of trauma for kids and the beloved.”
girl, 12, Indonesia

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The number of children trafficked each year is the same as the number of children under five living in Australia: 1.2 million.

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© UNICEF 2004