The roles of women and religion in peacebuilding have been subjects of extensive research in recent years. Scholarly evidence has underscored the importance of including women in peace processeses to ensure the sustainability of peace in conflict-affected communities. There is also a rich body of literature on the role of religion in both perpetuating and transforming conflict, rooted in traditional norms and values of peace and reconciliation, which has come to be known as religious or faith-based peacebuilding. However, not much has been written on the intersection of women, religion, and peacebuilding and how this plays out in specific conflict contexts.
Stemming from Third World Feminism—which combines both African and Islamic feminisms—as the theoretical framework for its analysis, the thesis contributes to bridging the gap in literature on the intersection of women, religion, and peacebuilding. It builds on the scant literature on the role of women in religious or faith-based peacebuilding and explores the role religion—being one of the major factors shaping the culture and identity of societies—plays in enhancing or obstructing the role of women in the various forms of peacebuilding processes.
To this end, the study adopted a research design rooted in feminist epistemology that highlights the specificities of the context within which the relationship between religion and women peacebuilding roles is analysed. Both the qualitative research and case study approaches were combined given the nature of the research objectives and questions, which required the collection and analysis of qualitative data from both primary and secondary sources to examine the relationship between women, religion, and peacebuilding in Sudan. This accommodated an in-depth examination of this relationship in the case of Sudan by focusing on civil society organizations and actors working on peacebuilding issues in the country as units of analysis. It also allowed for reflecting the voices and agencies of ordinary Sudanese women, as African and Muslim agents, through capturing their insights and perspectives on their various roles in peacebuilding, the challenges militating against their participation, and the impact of religion on their participation and inclusion in the informal and formal peacebuilding domain. In-depth interviews and a focus group discussion with international and local organizations and actors working on issues related to women and peacebuilding in Sudan were employed. Both secondary and primary data were analysed using a combination of content analysis and thematic analysis techniques, which allowed room for a deeper understanding of the relationships between the main research variables and contributed to bridging the gap in literature between “women and peacebuilding” and “religion and peacebuilding”.
Based on its findings, the study concludes that in societies such as Sudan where religion plays a dominant constitutive role in social existence, its impact on women’s participation and representation in peacebuilding processes is profound and needs to be theorized. The case is therefore made for a Global South feminist theoretical perspective that takes historical and cultural contexts into account, including the multiplicity of actors and processes involved in peacebuilding and conflict transformation, while reflecting the agency and voices of women in Africa and the Global South, and making them the starting point of the research, rather than its objects.
Keywords: Feminism, Peacebuilding, Religion, Sudan, Women.
Thesis (PhD (International Relations))--University of Pretoria, 2021.