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Course 14T11: Women in War and Armed Conflicts

2 May-12 June 2011
Instructor: Indai Sajor

This short certificate course examines the various causes and manifestations of the impact of war and armed conflicts specifically on women. It will analyse the widespread and systematic violence against women as well as sexual and gender based violence, in war and conflicts situations. It aims to define and broaden the definition of wartime rape to include sexual slavery, forced impregnation, mass rape, chemical warfare impact, military sexual slavery, genocide, trafficking, physical torture, mutilation, etc. The course will critically study with a feminist lens the role of female combatants and how post conflict programmes of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration benefits or denies women. It will study statistics and cases of sexual and gender based violence in order to establish the pattern of violations and the effectiveness of responses. It will critically contextualise the role and capacity of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, UN agencies, international humanitarian agencies/organisations, and national groups (NGOs) in their advocacy, protection, prevention and response to these issues in conflict situations. Likewise the course will explore the failures and lessons of legal remedies in national and international courts in prosecuting sexualised crimes in armed conflict. It will also examine accountability, justice and reparation which recognise the legal obligation of the states to make such compensation. More importantly, we will analyse the effectiveness of the application of international instruments for the protection of female refugees and internally displaced women.

The gendered impact of war on women and men varies. It is recognised that there is a major shift of gender roles in situations of armed conflicts when most men go to war and women are left behind to fend the family and communities. But violence against women in armed conflict is one of the most heinous violations of human rights, in terms of its scale, the nature of the atrocities and the numbers of women affected i.e. (Rwanda, Congo, Darfur). Yet history has hardly recorded war crimes against women. One of the most painful reasons for this denial is that violations perpetrated against women are not considered important in the scheme of war. The world has come to speak of rape as an inevitable fact of war -- as part of the reality of the behaviour of the rebels groups or armed forces. But the origins of the systematic practice of rape i.e. (race, ethnic, class, religion etc.) why it is rampant in armed conflict situations, and its universal and at the same time violent nature needs to be examined.

This e-learning course will also look at why the international community only recently recognised one of the greatest challenges facing it today and that is recognising sexual violence in war and prosecuting these atrocities as an essential step in ending the cycle of violence in war situations despite UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The recent UN Security Council Resolution 1888 has accepted the challenge by appointing a Special Representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict. The UN Security Council Resolution 1888 reiterated its deep concern that, despite its repeated condemnation of violence against women including all forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and despite its calls addressed to all parties to armed conflict for the cessation of such acts with immediate effect, such acts continue to occur, and in some situations have become systematic and/or widespread. The international community is still struggling with the effects and implications of war and armed conflicts on women, attempting to create mechanisms towards an achievable peace process that address justice, reconciliation and rehabilitation for the victim/survivors and accountability for perpetrators both by state and non state actors, while building the nation state from the ravaged of war.

It is the overall objective of this short certificate course on Women in War and Armed Conflicts to prepare activists, development workers, humanitarian and human rights officers and experts who plan to work or already working in conflict territories focusing on gender equality issues, either in relation to the situation and role of women affected by armed conflict or within the peace-keeping operations structure. The course also aims to equip those who want to become specialised in topics such as the impact of war on women, document the systematic violence on women, improved gender analysis and women's contributions to conflict resolution, DDR, and humanitarian assistance.

The e-learning course involves approximately 30 hours of reading, on-line working groups, short assignments, webinars with guest experts, and interaction among students and the instructor, and is offered over an six-week period. The course will integrate active and participatory learning approaches within activities and assignments, with an emphasis on reflective and collaborative learning. Participants will do the required reading, prepare interim and final project assignments, including case studies, and participate in group discussions. The maximum number of course participants is 25. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Participation. It is also possible to audit the course.

Course outline

Week 1. Introduction to the Causes and Consequences of War and Armed Conflicts
Week 2. Impact of the Dynamics of War and Armed conflict Specifically on Women  
Week 3. Rape, Sexual Slavery and other Forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in War
Week 4. Female Combatants: Women in Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration
Week 5. International Instruments for the Protection of Female Refugees and Internally Displaced Women
Week 6. Psychosocial Intervention and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Armed Conflicts

About the instructor

Indai Sajor is an internationally known activist and educator in the field of women's human rights and conflict prevention and response. She has over twenty years of experience working in countries in situations of war and armed conflicts in Asia and Africa. She was the Programme Manager of Gender Equality project of UNDP Afghanistan and before that as Senior Advisor for UNDP Sudan managing a sexual and gender based violence project (SGBV) in Darfur. Likewise she was senior human rights officer with the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2003-4 she was awarded the Rockefeller Fellow on Human Security and Gender at the City University of New York. She served as co-convener of the well recognised Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery, an international law landmark initiative that recognized sexual slavery as a crime against humanity. The Tribunal outcome influenced the statutory construction of the International Criminal Court in integrating sexual violence and sexual slavery as war crimes. She is a Visiting Professor at the UN University for Peace in the IPS Masters Programme teaching Gender and Peacebuilding. She has made formative contributions to numerous international feminist networks, in their work connecting women around United Nations world conferences on Human Rights (Vienna 1993), Population (Cairo 1994), Social Development (Copenhagen 1995), Women (Beijing 1995) and the ICC (Rome 1998). Her numerous publications include Documenting Women's Human Rights Violations in Armed Conflict (2005) and Common Grounds: Violence Against Women in War and Armed Conflicts (1998). Ms. Sajor has been a trainer and course instructor for HREA since 2005.

Who should apply

The course is intended for humanitarian and human rights officers, human rights staff of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), NGOs, UN officers intergovernmental and government agencies, women's advocates and feminists, university students of international law, international relations, politics and other areas practitioners who want to learn about women's human rights, and challenges to women's human rights issues. The course is also intended for staff members of UN specialised agencies who want to learn more about women's issues in armed conflict and war context. Participants should have at least basic knowledge on human rights. Participants should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. The number of participants is limited to 25 per course. HREA aims to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants. It is also possible to audit the course.


The course tuition fee is US$ 435. Tuition for auditors is US$ 165. Unfortunately, there are no scholarships available for this course.


The deadline for applications was 15 April 2011. This course will be offered again in 2013.

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