Equal Peace? Women’s Empowerment and Multicultural Challenges in War-to-Peace Transitions

Led by Inger Skjelsbæk
Jan 2015 - Dec 2019

​​​Getting from war to peace is a delicate endeavour. International interventions, mediation and dialogue efforts, as well as transitional justice mechanisms are all geared toward building sustainable peace, and avoiding relapse into new conflicts.

These are not neutral processes, however, but embedded with particular agreed-upon norms and desires for peaceful co-existence. These normative frameworks are multicultural and multi-religious in their very essence in that they are thought to be beneficial to all irrespective of culture and religion. In reality, however, these norms may be seen quite differently. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are examples of such norms and are strongly contested areas of politics. It is particularly in the intersection between global/supranational aims and local or national religious and cultural characteristics where these tensions come out most forcefully. 

This project does not aim to address the totality of challenges related to implementing gender equality and women’s empowerment norms, but will have a limited focus on implementation challenges in transitional processes from war to peace. These transitions, difficult as they are, nevertheless open up socio-political spaces for redefining gender roles and expectations. At times these changes lead to increased gender equality, while at other times they lead to reinforced or new inequalities and gendered differentiation which can be ascribed religious and cultural characteristics. 

What these settings have in common, however, is international attention and often also interventions by external actors with a normative agenda. The dynamic of this relationship is often characterized by norm providers on the intervening side, and norm adapters on the conflict side. This project seeks to explore this dynamic through an empirical focus on United Nations and Norwegian peace mediation efforts, as examples of norm providers, and Bosnian and Rwandan experiences as examples of norm receivers. Our overarching research goal is to analyze the challenges of implementing a global framework on gender equality within the context of different cultural and religious understandings of gender and peace.

The project will make an important contribution to international scholarship on questions of peace and security since it addresses issues very rarely touched upon either theoretically or empirically, yet of great importance for the sustainability of the outcomes agreed upon by the parties to the conflicts. To this end, the project seeks to answer three main research questions:

  1. In which issue areas are gender equality norms contested in transitional settings?

  2. How are the contested areas of gender equality ascribed religious and/or cultural traits; by whom and in which ways?

  3. Which strategies are developed by local and global actors to negotiate these contested intersections and what are the political outcomes?


The Equal Peace project is organised around the following sub-projects:


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Lorentzen, Jenny (2021) Frictional interactions on Women, Peace and Security in Mali, The Journal of Modern African Studies 59(4): 463–483.
Lorentzen, Jenny (2021) Women as ‘new security actors’ in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali, International Affairs 97(3): 721–738.
Skjelsbæk, Inger & Torunn L. Tryggestad (2020) Pro-gender Norms in Norwegian Peace Engagement: Balancing Experiences, Values, and Interests, Foreign Policy Analysis. DOI: 10.1093/fpa/orz028.
Skjelsbæk, Inger & Torunn L. Tryggestad (2019) Likestilling og Norges fredsengasjement - en balansekunst, Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning 43(4).
Lorentzen, Jenny (2017) Norm appropriation through policy production: Rwanda’s gender policies, Third World Thematics: a TWQ Journal 2(5): 658–674.
Skjelsbæk, Inger (2016) Interpreting the interpreter: Navigating translation, interpretation, and mediation, Culture and Psychology 22(4): 502–519.
Tryggestad, Torunn L. (2015) FN som normspreder: Kvinner, fred og sikkerhet, Internasjonal Politikk 73(2): 275–284.

GPS Policy Brief

Lorentzen, Jenny (2017) Women and the Peace Process in Mali, GPS Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

PRIO Gender, Peace and Security Update

Lorentzen, Jenny; Julie Marie Hansen & Torunn L. Tryggestad (2015) Somali Women’s Civic Engagement: Past, Present and Future, PRIO Gender, Peace and Security Update, 2015: PRIO.

Book Chapter

Skjelsbæk, Inger (2018) Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, in Perpetrators and Perpetration of Mass Violence: Action, Motivations and Dynamics (Routledge Studies in Genocide and Crimes against Humanity). London: Routledge (151–168).

Master Thesis

Doeland, Elin Martine (2016) From the International to the Local: A qualitative study on how the Women, Peace and Security agenda is adopted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and what norm transformation can mean for social identity constructions. MA thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo.

Report - External Series

Lorentzen, Jenny (2016) Gender and Culture in Transitional Justice: Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts, Gender-Just Peace and Transitional Justice Working Paper Series, 2. Lund University.

Past Events

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