Sarah Smith
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Gendered identities in peacebuilding
An analysis of post-2006 Timor-Leste
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In 2006 and 2007, Timor-Leste experienced a violent political crisis, mostly centred in the capital Dili, which led to a renewed UN peacekeeping presence. While the catalyst for the crisis was the spill-over of tensions within and between Timor-Leste’s security institutions – the national police force (PNTL) and the national defence force (F-FDTL) – there was significant impact on the broader population, resulting in over 100,000 internally displaced and the widespread destruction of property. However, the subsequent UN peacebuilding activities and policy outcomes all took on a male-centric focus, especially via the focus given to Timor-Leste’s security institutions. Although a number of women worked to alleviate the societal tensions that had been exposed as a result of the crisis, they were excluded from high-level negotiations. Several theorists have suggested that despite women’s complex and highly differentiated roles in conflict and peacebuilding, they are often essentialized as victims, limiting the remit of their recognised contributions. The approach to gender work undertaken in Timor-Leste from 2006 can be understood through two theoretical frameworks: the connection between the ‘gendering’ of women, or assigning essentialist roles to women as part of being ‘gender aware’; and the victim-narrative that dominated institutional policy discussions on gender and women in post-crisis Timor-Leste.

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The politics of identity

Place, space and discourse

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