Beyond Victims: Re-Representation of Women in Conflict

Jackie Ojiambo



The intransigent nature of war in parts of Eastern Africa continues to be a grave concern to the world. Periods of violence within the region have invoked memories of conflict by both men and women. Drawing on feminist studies of women’s autobiographical writings, this paper examines the experience of women during conflict. The memoirs highlight the special concerns of women, such as: malnutrition; shelter; reproductive health including childbirth and family planning; rape and sexual abuse; relocation stress; role strains and role change; family separation and perceived helplessness. Of specific interest is the manner in which female memoirs of conflict contest stereotypical images of women as passive victims of war. I argue that stereotypic images of women as apathetic victims of conflict overshadow their agency and contribution to peace building. The memoirs examined from Uganda, Sudan and Somali disprove the portrayal and treatment of women solely as victims. The writers under study help to institute a female role in national conflict and female literature of conflict. They provide concrete examples of how women demonstrate resilience in overcoming despair, participating in conflict prevention, management and resolution. This paper aims to contribute to the discourses on the inclusion of women in the different phases of conflict and peace building processes.

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