Revisiting ‘Womenandchildren’ in Peace and Security: What About the Girls Caught in Between?

  • Lesley PruittEmail author


International Relations (IR) tends to ignore children in general and girls in particular. Where they have been included it has most often been under the conflation of ‘womenandchildren’ used to represent an agentless, victimized shorthand for non-combatants. Feminist IR scholars and critical peace and security scholars have engaged with children as they have sought to break up ‘women and children’ into separate, distinct entities. For feminists, these claims typically rely on the premise that women should be seen as equal to men, not relegated to the private world of children. However, gendered hierarchical notions may permeate feminist theories of peace and security when they rely on adult-centric models of agency and fail to acknowledge the presence and actions of girls. Theoretical advancements through intersectional feminism are needed to better understand and account for girls in relation to peace and security. Pursuing this approach makes it possible to acknowledge that the needs and experiences of women and children can both differ and overlap, rather than (re)creating age- and gender-based hierarchies that rely on false oversimplifications, which hamper peacebuilding and further insecurity for people of diverse ages and genders. To demonstrate this, the chapter engages with UN Security Council Resolutions, related debates, and empirical examples from Colombia.


  1. Ackerly, Brooke A., Maria Stern, and Jacqui True, eds. 2006. Feminist Methodologies for International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beier, J. Marshall. 2015. “Children, Childhoods and Security Studies: An Introduction.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 1–13.
  3. Berents, Helen. 2016. “Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (4): 513–527.
  4. Borer, Tristan Anne, John Darby, and Siobhán McEvoy-Levy. 2006. “Caught Between Child Rights and Security: Youth and Postwar Reconstruction.” In Peacebuilding After Peace Accords: The Challenges of Violence, Truth, and Youth, edited by John Darby Tristan Anne Borer and Siobhán McEvoy-Levy, 41–67. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bouvier, Virginia M. 2016. Gender and the Role of Women in Colombia’s Peace Process. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.Google Scholar
  6. Brocklehurst, Helen. 2006. Who’s Afraid of Children? Children, Conflict and International Relations. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  7. Brocklehurst, Helen. 2015. “The State of Play: Securities of Childhood—Insecurities of Children.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 29–46.
  8. Burman, Erica. 2008. “Beyond ‘Women vs. Children’ or ‘Womenandchildren’: Engendering Childhood and Reformulating Motherhood.” The International Journal of Children’s Rights 16 (2): 177–194.
  9. Caron, Cynthia M., and Shelby A. Margolin. 2015. “Rescuing Girls, Investing in Girls: A Critique of Development Fantasies.” Journal of International Development 27 (2015): 881–897.
  10. Carpenter, R. Charli. 2010. Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cho, Sumi, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall. 2013. “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis.” Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society 38 (4): 785–810.
  12. Cockburn, Cynthia. 1998. The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  13. Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Crow’s Nest: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  14. Del Felice, Celina, and Andria Wisler. 2007. “The Unexplored Power and Potential of Youth as Peace-builders.” Journal of Peace and Conflict Development 11: 1–29.Google Scholar
  15. Efrat, Asif, David Leblang, Steven Liao, and Sonal S. Pandya. 2015. “Babies Across Borders: The Political Economy of International Child Adoption.” International Studies Quarterly 59 (3): 615–628.
  16. Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 1975. “‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’: The Dialectics of Development.” Politics 10 (2): 139–148.
  17. Enloe, Cynthia. 1990. “Womenandchildren: Making Feminist Sense of the Persian Gulf Crisis.” Village Voice, 25 September, 29–32.Google Scholar
  18. Enloe, Cynthia. 1993. The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Enloe, Cynthia. 2004. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gilligan, Chris. 2009. “‘Highly Vulnerable?’ Political Violence and the Social Construction of Traumatized Children.” Journal of Peace Research 46 (1): 119–134.
  21. Harding, Sandra G. 1987. “Introduction: Is There a Feminist Method?” In Feminism and Methodology: Social Sciences Issues, edited by Sandra G. Harding, 1–14. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Jacob, Cecilia. 2015. “‘Children and Armed Conflict’ and the Field of Security Studies.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 14–28.
  23. Koffman, Ofra, and Rosalind Gill. 2013. “‘The Revolution Will Be Led by a 12-year-old Girl’: Girl Power and Global Biopolitics.” Feminist Review 105 (1): 83–102.
  24. Koffman, Ofra, Shani Orgad, and Rosalind Gill. 2015. “Girl Power and ‘Selfie Humanitarianism’” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 29 (2): 157–168.
  25. Koopman, Sara. 2018. “La paz en plural: Espacio, raza, género y sexualidad en los acuerdos de paz de Colombia.” In Geografías de Paz, edited by Yuri Sandoval. La Paz, Bolivia: Universidad Mayor de San Andres.Google Scholar
  26. Lee-Koo, Katrina. 2011. “Horror and Hope: (Re)presenting Militarised Children in Global North-South Relations.” Third World Quarterly 32 (4): 725–742.
  27. Lee-Koo, Katrina. 2018. “‘The Intolerable Impact of Armed Conflict upon Children’: The United Nations Security Council and the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict.” Global Responsibility to Protect 10 (1–2): 54–74.
  28. McKenzie, Megan H. 2012. Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone: Sex, Security & Post-Conflict Development. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mies, Maria. 2014. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the Division of Labour. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  30. Nandy, Ashis. 1983. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Pankhurst, Donna. 2003. “The ‘Sex War’ and Other Wars: Towards a Feminist Approach to Peace Building.” Development in Practice 13 (2–3): 154–177.
  32. Pruitt, Lesley J. 2013. Youth Peacebuilding: Music, Gender, and Change. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  33. Pruitt, Lesley J. 2014. “The Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Australia and the Agency of Girls.” Australian Journal of Political Science 49 (3): 486–498.
  34. Pruitt, Lesley J. 2015. “Gendering the Study of Children and Youth in Peacebuilding.” Peacebuilding 3 (2): 157–170.
  35. Puechguirbal, Nadine. 2010. “Discourses on Gender, Patriarchy and Resolution 1325: A Textual Analysis of UN Documents.” International Peacekeeping 17 (2): 172–187.
  36. Sagi-Schwartz, Abraham. 2012. “Children of War and Peace: A Human Development Perspective.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 56 (5): 933–951.
  37. Schell-Faucon, Stephanie. 2001. Conflict Transformation Through Educational and Youth Programmes. Berlin: Bergh of Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management.Google Scholar
  38. Shepherd, Laura J. 2006. “Veiled References: Constructions of Gender in the Bush Administration Discourse on the Attacks on Afghanistan Post-9/11.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 8 (1): 19–41.
  39. Sommers, Marc. 2006. “Fearing Africa’s Young Men: Male Youth, Conflict, Urbanization, and the Case of Rwanda.” In The Other Half of Gender: Men’s Issues in Development, edited by Ian Bannon and Maria Correia, 137–158. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  40. United Nations Security Council. 2000. “Resolution 1325,” S/Res/1325. Accessed 2 July 2019.
  41. Watson, Alison M. S. 2008. “Can There Be a ‘Kindered’ Peace?” Ethics & International Affairs 22 (1): 35–42. http://10.1111/j.1747-7093.2008.00128.x.
  42. Watson, Alison M. S. 2015. “Resilience is its Own Resistance: The Place of Children in Post-Conflict Settlement.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 47–61.
  43. Wibben, Annick T. R. 2016. “Introduction: Feminists Study War.” In Researching War: Feminist Methods: Ethics and Politics, edited by Annick T. R. Wibben, 21–31. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Young, Iris Marion. 2003. “The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State.” Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society 29 (1): 1–25.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations