Research (WPS)


The Earth Institute established Columbia University’s first program dedicated to research and education explicitly focused on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The WPS Program is designed fill conceptual, methodological, and empirical gaps by centering its research agenda on the direct learning and innovations of local grassroots women change makers currently working on peace building across the Global North and South. Through interdisciplinary, applied, and participatory methods, the WPS program explores grassroots activists’ intersectional work on pressing issues like physical and community security, environmental management and climate change adaptation, urban and rural development, health, and peace and conflict resolution.

Through collaborative partnerships with grassroots women, the WPS program has begun to formalize a robust research and education agenda that advances knowledge in the field and provides unique and innovative educational opportunities for Columbia University faculty and students. 

How do we understand peace and security?

Through an integrated academic, policy and practice-based understanding, the WPS program believes that:

  • Grassroots women peace builders and frontline activists around the globe employ a diverse range of strategies and practices to forward and sustain peace, justice and security in their communities. Often, such work is not recognized or named as peace work.

  • Security is more than armed conflict and war. It includes issues of everyday safety like access to clean water, affordable housing, and bodily autonomy.

  • Expanded recognition of peace and security requires that we must not look only to war zones, but also to a range of contexts, places and spaces – including the United States.

  • New analytical tools are needed to understand what “counts” as women’s participation in advancing peace efforts across the globe.

Our hypothesis is that work done by grassroots women change makers is critical to strengthening and expanding democracy and reducing structural violence, and therefore also to creating and maintaining peace and security for all.

Until now, we have not been able to clearly recognize the specific techniques, strategies and mobilizations grassroots women employ as central to the field of peace and security; understood the role of the University and academia to support and uplift such work; or have such knowledges built into or integrated adequately into existing policies.

To that end, the WPS program forms direct partnerships with women changemakers around the globe addressing various endemic and external conflicts and threats to peace and security in their homes, workplaces, schools, and other public and private spaces, in the following ways:

  • By building a Grassroots Women Changemakers Expert Network

  • By carrying out PAR (participatory action research) projects and educational exchanges among grassroots women change makers in the Global North and Global South

  • By documenting generalizable insights for academia and policy makers