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5 Seton Hall J. Dipl. & Int'l Rel. 5 (2004)
Women and Children: Deconstructing a Paradigm

handle is hein.journals/whith5 and id is 5 raw text is: Women and Children: Deconstructing a
by Nadine Puechguirbal
When do women gain from being treated as 'mother,' 'dependents,'or 'vulnerable,'
and when from being seen as autonomous individuals?
Cynthia Cockburn'
Women and children are the main victims of modern warfare, and they account
for an estimated 80 percent of refugees and displaced persons worldwide.2 Women
and children bear the brunt of armed conflicts when they lose protection, shelter,
access to food, and medical care. Wars also upset gender roles and increase the
responsibilities and exposure of women when they have to strive to feed their children
and extended families in the absence of the male breadwinner. In the existing literature
on the subject of conflict and post-conflict situations, women are often associated
with children. In international instruments, UN resolutions or documentations,
women are always part of the vulnerable groups together with old people, children
and the handicapped; they are always dependent on a family unit or a male individual,
either father, brother or husband. It is as if women did not have an identity of their
own. It is as if they could not play an accepted and recognized role in society when
they are not associated with children.
A new category of human beings is produced, called women-and-children,
with children just being an extension of women's own body and soul. This way of
thinking perpetuates the stereotypes of women as caring and nurturing mothers,
locked in the private realm, unable to cross boundaries and move to the public
arena, where men are designing policies, taking decisions and running the world. In
the framework of changes brought about by armed conflicts, this article will challenge
the paradigm that associates women with children; it will demonstrate that it prevents
women from being seen as active agents of change for peace, or actors of their own
lives, thus limiting their participation in the reconstruction or rehabilitation of
Because women are caught in productive, reproductive and community works,
they have less time available for participating in development programmes or capacity-
building training that can lead to their empowerment. And all over the world, women
Nadine Puechguirbal is a Humanitarian Affairs Officer at the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs at the United Nations.
Seton HallJournal ofDiplo macyand Interntional Relations

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