The Role of Women in Post-Conflict Recovery

There are many unintended consequences of war……although most illegal activities are associated with men, women have been involved in smuggling and prostitution, activities which they engage in to be able to provide for their dependents.

Case study: The Sahel Region

While the UN is calling for a global ceasefire to focus on fighting COVID-19, most countries in Africa are enduring political violence, with people being killed and others subjected to suffering that comes as a result of war. Conflict is inevitable since people will always have goals that do not match. Women, in particular, develop different strategies to cope with the changing economic environment caused by conflicts. In recent years, the Sahel region has been characterized by violent disputes in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan, which leaves most countries with broken structures in all aspects—politically, socially and economically.

The economy of a country is very important in relation to other states, and different entities play different roles in post-conflict recovery to support countries during or after conflict. Women are among those that play a significant entrepreneurial role in the economic reconstruction of a country, despite being vulnerable and victimized in conflicts. Primarily, the role of women has been focused on domestic chores like taking care of their families, but now they are more involved in society with the rise of the industrial economy, globalization and the development of migrant labor systems. The economic participation of women is so important for the growth of a country. The UN and other international organizations are working together towards the empowerment of women and girls. Women are involved in different activities of economic reconstruction such as formal sector employment, small-scale businesses, business activities in refugee camps and roles in civil society groups, with an aim of economic integration. Lastly, the contribution of women to social media is crucial in post-conflict recovery.

Women’s involvement in small-scale businesses and trade

After or during conflicts, a society struggles with poverty as all systems are failing; this is seen in Burkina Faso and South Sudan. As a result, women may start small businesses to support their families, for instance. As Africa is hot, women often take up roles of selling beverages like packaged water, juices and energy drinks in the streets to earn money to buy food and other basic needs. They also make and sell masks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Eritrea, women have moved from rural areas to urban cities where there are better trade opportunities in which they can sell fruits and vegetables, beer, tea and handicrafts. Some women have even pooled resources to open fish markets in Asmara. In Chad, women have crossed borders and are able to trade in Nigerian cloth, cosmetics and alcohol. These small businesses help women earn money to sustain their families, especially because most of them are single mothers after their husbands died or ran 8way due to conflict.

Refugee business operations

Women are survivors in conflicts. After conflict, a number of the people affected find themselves in new places, some as internally displaced persons, others as refugees and asylum seekers. These people are integrated into new environments with new operations and ways of living. They stay for long amounts of time in the camps before a permanent solution is found. Hence, they are exposed to and afterwards venture into income-generating activities to enhance their socio-economic status and meet their family’s needs. Congolese refugee camps host more than half a million refugees who have been able to integrate with host communities. Due to the large numbers of refugees, donor funds are rapidly depleting, resulting in the important need for refugees to shift into a business environment that provides revenue. National legislations and policies should be formulated to create an enabling business environment in the refugee camps. Nevertheless, refugees face problems when it comes to carrying out their entrepreneurial activities due to encampment policies that limit their freedom of movement, which is very important for a free and competitive business environment with the host community. The refugees also lack adequate financing to support their projects. Humanitarian donor funding is often not enough, hence the need for long-term solutions that enhance sustainable economic productivity. Another problem that refugees face is a lack of information, for example regarding the registration of their businesses as well as information about tax remittances.

Women and social media

Social media is a significant non-state actor that plays a major role in post-conflict recovery. Women use social media platforms for different reasons, such as to air their voices, and this is currently seen in social media posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, among others, in the Nigerian crisis where people are advocating for the end of SARS. Women have emerged as talented content writers, creating social media pages as bloggers and influencers, which is a way of earning money as they let other people know about their ideas. In addition, women are also taking paid roles as brand ambassadors to promote and market products. Women also use social media platforms to market their own products, such as Instagram pages used to market clothes for entrepreneurs who cannot afford to pay for a permanent store. These businesses are known as thrift shops and are important because they help the sellers to raise capital and open a physical store. In addition, women have started online programs that mentor and teach other people how to financially survive within the changing economy. For example, Legacy Hub Kenya is a platform that was started by a young lady with the aim of helping people manage their finances. Social media has supported and empowered many women in post-conflict societies.

Women in agricultural activities

Agriculture is one of the common activities in most regions in Africa, where many people are involved in different agricultural activities for food production, either for consumption or to be sold for profit. Women have not been left behind in these activities as they are either working on their land as a primary source of income to improve their livelihoods or they are employed in farms where they are paid for their services. Most women participate in small-scale farming, for example vegetable or fast growing food farming and cattle farming, to produce products that they can sell in the markets for very low prices.

Women in illegal business activities

There are many unintended consequences of war and women can play a lucrative entrepreneurial role to support the economy of a country after war. Nevertheless, women have been involved in illegal businesses to meet their needs and raise money for consumption. Although most illegal activities are associated with men, women have been involved in smuggling and prostitution, activities which they engage in to be able to provide for their dependents. Conflicts subject women to difficult choices and they can end up endangering their livelihoods in the process of looking for an income.


Women are economic actors and their role in economic recovery after a conflict cannot be ignored. We are living in a new era where gender-based violence should be eliminated and women’s business activities should be supported just as men’s activities are supported. For a long time, the voice of a woman has not been heard because they are not involved in decision-making in most societies in Africa. The support of women’s organizations is crucial as it will help women air their ideas and decisions regarding certain agendas. Women should be involved in decision-making socially, economically and politically. Women have survived conflicts, hence their roles in post-conflict recovery should be recognized and supported.

Women engaging in different entrepreneurial activities. Credit: Erin Johnson.


Sorensen, Birgitte. Women and Post-conflict Reconstruction: Issues and Sources. No. 3. Diane Publishing, 1998.

Musingafi, Maxwell. “Gender Dynamics and Women in Conflict Situations and Post Conflict Recovery: Experiences from Africa.” Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 2013.


A young, hardworking Kenyan lady who is passionate about arising issues in the international system today, one of them being the role of women in post-conflict recovery.

View all posts by joycemwaniki057 →