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Women combatants and the promotion of humanitarian rules - round tables held in Geneva

02-09-2004 News Release 04/104

A series of round-table meetings was held in Geneva last week to discuss how women combatants can help promote humanitarian rules. At the invitation of the organization Geneva Call, women belonging to non-State armed groups from some 20 war-torn countries exchanged views and compared notes on their experiences.

The program for the study of international organization(s) at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International Studies co-hosted the meetings.

Two members of the Women and War unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) took part in one of the exchanges as moderator and facilitator respectively. They opened the session with a talk on international humanitarian law and its application to women in armed conflicts. For some years now the ICRC has been endeavouring to gain a better insight into the many ways in which women experience war as either victims or participants. The organization attaches great importance to discussion of the issue as a means of promoting compliance with humanitarian law.

Last week's round tables dealt with the following questions: Why do women become involved in armed struggle? What specific role do they play within armed groups? What problems do women and girls face in the process of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating into society? What specific difficulties arise for girls involved in armed groups?

The participants exchanged views on knowledge and understanding of humanitarian rules, implementing those rules within armed groups, and their ability, as women, to influence the conduct of the other members of their group. They also discussed the usefulness and judiciousness of promoting humanitarian rules within these groups. The common aim of all the round tables was to better understand how women experience war and how this differs from the experience of men.

The report on the exchanges, along with the participants'recommendations, should be pub lished by the end of the year.

 For further information on Geneva Call, and to access the report when it is published, please consult the following website:  


 For more information on women and war, please consult "Focus"  


 For further information, please contact:  

 Florence Tercier Holst-Roness, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 34 51  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 58