Title: Intergenerational gaps in women’s grassroots peacebuilding in Ghana: a critique of “inclusive peacebuilding”

Published date21 February 2022
Date21 February 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression,conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology,policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
AuthorSebastian Angzoorokuu Paalo
Title: Intergenerational gaps in womens
grassroots peacebuilding in Ghana: a
critique of inclusive peacebuilding
Sebastian Angzoorokuu Paalo
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the idea of inclusion in women’s bottom-up
peacebuildingin Ghana. Inspired by the growingimportance of ‘‘inclusion’’ and ‘‘local empowerment’’in
the discourseand practice of local ownership in peacebuilding,this paper seeks to investigate the scope
and degree of inclusionof key actors such as women and youth, andhow that affects peacebuilding and
sustainablepeace in some conflict-affectedzones.
Design/methodology/approach This study adopts a cross-sectional case study design and
qualitative strategy. It is based on semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions conducted
with actorswho have been engaged in grassroots peacebuildingin Ghana and West Africa. The analysis
was largelyinductive, identifying emerging themesand patterns in the research data.
Findings The findings indicate that young womenare usually absent or not engaged meaningfully in
the mobilizationof women and youth in the ‘‘inclusive’’ grassrootspeacebuilding in Ghana. This is due to
the prevalenceof deep-seated cultural and political prejudicesor stereotypes about women in the areas
studied. As theselocal constructs and thus practices are difficultto change or challenge, peacebuilding
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) usually deploy innovative ways by mobilizing socially
constructed women’s positionalities as ‘‘whistleblowers,’’ ‘‘cross-ethnic/cross-cultural actors’’ and
‘‘socially networked actors’’ in ways that promote women in contemporary peacebuilding discourses
and practices. Through mobilizing these stereotypes (to forestall possible provocation, especially from
dominant actors or gatekeepers),peacebuilding NGOs have subtly positioned women centrallywithin a
vibrant peace infrastructure in Ghana. Yet, due to the dominance of some patriarchal sociopolitical
structures,only older women and young men occupy the spaces forwomen and youth’s peacebuilding.
Originality/value To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is one of the first research papers to
question not onlythe scope but also the degree of inclusion and participationof women in peacebuilding
in sub-Sahara Africa. This has nuanced scholarly debates on the subject and encouraged the
development of innovative programmes targeted at a more comprehensive gendered and youth-ed
inclusionto address the inequality gap in peacebuildingdiscourses and practices.
Keywords Women, Youth, Inclusive peacebuilding, Grassroots peacebuilding,Ghana
Paper type Research paper
The inclusion of women and youth in international peacebuilding has become topical in
policy and scholarly discussions. This is more so in the critical peace literature which
advocates for the inclusion of key local actors, such as young people and women to build
local capacity for sustainable peace and development (McCann, 2015;McLeod, 2015;Lee,
2019). As Fritz (2016) asserts, defining inclusive peacebuilding is difficult because different
actors ascribe different meanings to inclusion. Nonetheless, Fritz, like other scholars
generally agrees that inclusive peacebuilding concerns the involvement andparticipation of
all the key stakeholders in peacebuilding processes. In contemporary global policy arenas,
(Informationabout the
authorscan be found at the
end of this article.)
Received 4 January 2022
Revised 28 January 2022
Accepted 28 January 2022
The author would like to first
express his profound gratitude
to Morgan Brigg, his PhD thesis
supervisor, who has contributed
tremendously to shaping the
theoretical background of this
article. Great appreciation also
goes to the School of Political
Science and International
Studies, The University of
Queensland (Australia), and the
International Peace Research
Association (IPRA) Foundation
for providing generous funding
for field data collection, from
which this article emerged. For
the many supportive research
participants, research assistants
and community contacts in
Ghana, he is humbled by your
selfless contribution to this
research. Finally, he is very
thankful to Dr Linda M. Johnston,
President of IPRA Foundation for
showing consistent support at all
stages of his research,
processes in getting this article
published in a reputable and
very appropriate journal.
Funding: This paper emerged
from the author’s PhD field
research which was generously
sponsored by the University of
Queensland Research Training
Scholarship (Australia) and the
International Peace Research
Association Foundation
Research Grant 2020.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-01-2022-0663 VOL. 14 NO. 4 2022, pp. 287-303, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 jJOURNAL OF AGGRESSION, CONFLICT AND PEACE RESEARCH jPAGE 287
Aulin (2019) opines, inclusion and sustainable peace have become almost synonymous
with civil society participation, largely focusing on women and young people. From a
functionalist perspective, the inclusion of women and youth is aimed at causing a broader,
sustained development and poverty alleviation (Edralin et al.,2015). Besides, the Human
rights lexicon also views inclusive participation as an inalienable right ascribed to people
from all backgrounds, especially minority and vulnerable groups (Obani and Gupta, 2017).
The peacebuildi ng and conflict r esolution scholar ship, meanwhile, suggests tha t inclusive
participation processes promise sustainable peace because they enhance legitimacy and
ownership of peacebuilding interventions (Kaplan, 2010;Von Billerbeck, 2015;Lee, 2019).
Generally, inclusive, mass participatory peace processes havemostly been associated with
grassroots peacebuilding, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been the most
active actors in this fieldin the global South, serving as interlocutorsbetween citizen groups,
as well as between stateactors/institutions and citizens(Paffenholz and Spurk, 2006).
While the participation of women and youthhas been discussed on many dimensions in the
literature, there remains a key aspect of the inclusion discourse and practice which is not
adequately discussed. Addressing this knowledge gap, this study observes that while
women have gained prominence in peacebuilding activities and discussions, young
women [1] remain largely absent from these spaces in some contexts in the global South.
This creates a situation of “women but not young women,” in the discourse and practice of
inclusive peacebuilding. The article addresses this important grey zone in the
peacebuilding literature using the theory of inclusive development and data from semi-
structured interviews and focuses group discussions conducted in Ghana. This article is
derived from field research as part of the author’s PhD thesis data collection on the nexus
between NGO-led grassroots peacebuilding, local ownership, and sustainable peace in
conflict-affected communities in Ghana. Among other things, the research discovered two
critical joints of the grassroots peacebuilding processes that largely reflected in the
literature, albeit with contextual specifics. Firstly, women have gained prominent roles in
contemporary peacebuilding programmes and discussions. Secondly, the youth have
gained an important space in NGO-led bottom-up peace activities, participating in and
taking initiatives that drive politicsand development in Ghana.
However, the research discovered that young women have remained largely absent from
women and youth’s engagements in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. In all the four
cases captured in the study—Kpandai (Northern region), Bunkpurugu (North-East region),
Bawku (Upper East), and Alavanyo-Nkonya (Volta/Oti regions)—most references to
women’s representatives in bottom-up peacebuilding were made to older women while the
youth were also represented mostly by young men. While this picture resonates with the
general male-dominatedsocio-economic and political spaces in Ghana, this article makesa
case that the absence or less representation of young women in women’s spaces poses
important implications for the discourse and practice of inclusive development and
peacebuilding in the areas in questionas well as in similar contexts.
The case of Ghana is important to discuss because this study partly addresses the
overconcentration of the scholarship on grassroots peacebuilding in so-called post-conflict
settings in Africa, which obscures knowledge on bottom-up peacebuilding processes and
outcomes in stable countries shrouded with fragile sections, thus painting an incomplete
picture of peacebuilding interventions across Africa. Besides, the literature on
peacebuilding in Ghana mainly focuses on the history, causes, participants, effects, and
evolution (Lund, 2003;Gbati, 2017). The body of literature which addresses inclusive and
grassroots peacebuilding ratherreveals that NGOs have trained local actors such as youth,
women, and traditional leaders in peacebuilding efforts (Assefa, 2001;Jo
¨nsson, 2007;
Kaye, 2011). However, this batch of scholarship does not adequately reveal the degree of
inclusion of key local agents suchas women and youth, and how that affects peacebuilding
and local capacity.

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