A national plan to help prevent violence against women in war-torn countries was launched recently in Dublin.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the initiative will promote recognition of violence directed specifically against women and girls in wartime, as well as increasing awareness of support needed for women from conflict areas now living in Ireland.
The plan also aims to increase the number of female gardai and members of the defense forces on peace-keeping missions.
Speaking at the launch, the Tánaiste said the plan builds on the “momentous” work of United Nations resolution 13-25 relating to women’s human rights and the prevention of gender based violence in war zones.
“The national plan is a powerful statement of Ireland’s commitment to the rights of women and girls affected by conflict,” Mr Gilmore said. “We will ensure that the UN resolution continues to be promoted. The plan is intended to be a living document.”
The initiative was launched during a seminar on violence against women during wars run by a grouping of aid agencies, the defense forces and government bodies.
Former president Mary Robinson praised the group – the Irish Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence – and said they have taken a unique approach to this problem.
She went on to talk of “haunting memories” from a humanitarian visit she made to refugee camps in the Horn of Africa earlier this year.
“Women who had been traumatised by the journey were so often attacked going over the border. I was told of women arriving naked at Dadaab camp. There is an acute need for us to focus on this issue,” Mrs Robinson said.
National Women’s Council of Ireland CEO Susan McKay said the plan is important but should be applied as much in Ireland as abroad.
“The work of Irish Aid and the consortium will be important in ensuring that the national plan can contribute to ending violence against women. We hope that the Tánaiste will remember that this is also an Irish problem,” she said.
Referring to the Irish plan as “a model initiative” expert on violence against women in wars Jeanne Ward said there have been great changes in this field in the last decade.
“However, my feelings of satisfaction are far out-weighed by my feelings of shame,” she said. “We have failed to provide resources for survivors to heal … There is a strong correlation between fragile states and the treatment of women and children. A failure to invest now will be more costly in the future.”
Separately a global campaign - 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence – continues until December 10th.