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International Women’s Day: We have many voices
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International Women’s Day: We have many voices

International Women's Day on March 8 celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for gender parity and gender balance in all aspects of life.

The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) this year, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030.

To mark International Women's Day The Peace Gong and Pen News are putting together a bouquet of articles from different parts of the world

Beyond Rhetorics: Enhancing Women and Girls in Africa’s Peace Building

Ajadi Anuoluwapo, South Africa

“If we had women around the table, there would have been no war; women think long and hard before they send their children out to kill other people’s children” (Silajdzic, 2014)

Peace building is an all-inclusive effort required or taken in creating a peaceable zone. They are initiatives that foster and support sustainable structures and processes that strengthen the prospects for peaceful co-existence and decrease the likelihood of outbreak, reoccurrence or continuation of violent conflict (Reycheller and Paffenholz, 2011). However, most approaches towards peacebuilding have either ignored or marginalized issues of women.

While women are generally referred to as “mediators, peace seekers and peace makers” in the world, there still remains the empirical, social and political nexus of women and peace which continue to demand great attention from scholars and gender experts.

Socially and politically, women had remained a minority of participants in peace building initiatives receiving less attention (mostly just as mere beneficiaries or victims of conflict) than men in policies. This is in spite of the fact that there have been various global and regional policies such as the Resolution 1325, the Millennium Development Goals and now Sustainable Development Goals that had called for gender inclusiveness in all segments including policies relating to peace and conflict; as well as promoted women’s involvement in peace and security.

Empirically, women’s central role as pertinent stakeholders for peace building are often side-lined or even ignored. For many years, women’s active role in the pre-colonial era, war and other types of violent conflicts were quite invisible. What was mostly portrayed through media, government propaganda, etc. casted men as “doers” putting their courage and bravery forward; and women were seen as passive innocent victims eclipsing the active role women played.

Based on this credence, we would examine how women enhance peace building in the society especially in Africa.

Women: Tools for Peace in Africa

Historically, women have played significant socio-political and economical role across the world. In Africa, women traditionally play critical roles especially in the areas of peace. Peace building, flourished in ancient lands where African women occupied positions of responsibility. For instance, literatures evidenced the impactful role played by women like Makeda, the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia, Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Empire, Buktu of Mali and Didon, Queen of Carthage (now Tunisia). Likewise during the colonial era, women like Albertina Sisulu, FunmilayoRansome-Kutimade made frantic efforts in the liberation of their countries from foreign domination.

Generally, women are protectors, caring, mediators and fighters when it comes to those they love. They are highly involved in preventing, stopping and recovering from conflict (Munuve, 2017). A social science research indicates that women generally are more collaborative and more inclined towards consensus and compromise than men. Women often use their role as mothers to cut across international borders and internal divides. Without women’s participation, peace agreements are more fragile, peace keeping less credible and safe, and economies less prosperous.

Recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) laid emphasis on the impact of women’s full participation towards peace. In an interview with Global observatory, Ayodele Olusola, UNDP’s chief economist for Africa, reiterated that there exists a link between gender, development and peace. This relatively implies that increasing women’s participation and representation in leadership or decision making positions leads to higher levels of peacefulness and better development outcomes for the society.

This year’s international women’s day will be marked by declaration of good intents and statements, including mine. What should count though is not the number of commitment we make but the true progress we achieve on ground as women. In as much as both men and women have the potential for peace making and the responsibility to build and keep peace, women seem more creative and effective in waging peace. Giving the women a viable and formidable platform to exercise their right and develop themselves will assist the society in peace building. Also, there is still work to be done on the full inclusion of girls and women in the society especially towards security i.e., peace processes must include women. It is not enough to put this gender perspective framework in place but we need to ensure their practical, tangible and effective implementation.

Importance of Women Empowerment

Ramatou Ali Aboubacar, Niger

As part of the theme of involving women and girls in peace building, I would say that you have really touched on something that is dear to my heart.

My interest, we should say my passion, how to consolidate peace and unity among us, breaking down the barriers to be one people, peace without difference of race, ethnicity or religion, a people united around their sons and daughters who struggle to contribute to its development and which is a haven of peace.

So in general, Africa is ravaged by conflicts of all kinds and all these have real repercussions on us, on our societies, especially on the economy which can be a barrier for the development of our nations.

To remedy this and to solve this problem, we need women and girls because they play a crucial role in the development of our countries as mediators in conflict resolution.

It is therefore necessary to involve them in the process of negotiation, reconciliation, mediation and peace building.

Peace and development are closely linked; there is no peace and development without women, just as there is no development without peace and no peace can be lasting unless it is supported by the support of women and girls who must live in a calm climate, healthy and conducive, favourable to their development and their empowerment.

Women and girls are able and can do it if we feel it, if we support them; they have a lot of values and potentialities both in the education and protection of children, but also in the family environment where they can contribute to empower them.

Despite the marginalization and discrimination against women and girls, there was a change from previous years; much has evolved since it is now women who actively participate in their society in politics, also in the formal or informal sector, especially in entrepreneurship.

Nothing is easily acquired especially when one is a woman. That is why we must campaign loudly for the commitment of women and defend our causes, fight for female leadership, defend the position of women in a masculinised Africa in particular and the entire black continent in general.

My favourite quote does not derogate from least. Indeed, for me: "The woman whether educated or not, is not only made to keep the house; serve as an object of ornament or decoration in a house, but she must also fight for her empowerment. ".

# Together, let's consolidate PEACE

Women as Harbingers of Peace

Sthiti Dasgupta, Research Scholar, Banaras Hindu University, India

As ex-secretary General Kofi Annan had once said “from rape and displacement to the denial of the right to food and health care, women bore more than their fair share of the suffering.” It is estimated that close to 90% of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children. The platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference held in Beijing in 1995, identified the effects of armed conflict on women as one of twelve critical areas of concern requiring action by governments and the international community, and stressed the need to promote the equal participation of women in conflict resolution at decision – making levels. During its forty-second session in 1998, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women discussed the issue of women and armed conflict and proposed further action to be taken by member states and the international community to accelerate the implementation of the Platform's strategic objectives in this area, including the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all relevant policies and programmes. Among the agreed conclusions of the session were measures to ensure gender sensitive justice, address the specific needs and concerns of women refugees and displaced persons, and increase the participation of women in peacekeeping, peace-building, pre- and post-conflict decision-making and conflict prevention.Obviously in the year 2000,the UNSC implemented a new resolution 1325 concerning women, peace and security which is grounded upon four pillars called prevention, participation, protection and peace building and recovery. This resolution followed after the recognition that women are to a large extent often excluded from the peace process in the aftermath of any conflict. This exclusion in itself is actually a threat to peace.

According to a recent study of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR,2017),women are rarely included in peace negotiations. In the peace negotiations from 1990-2017 women represented 2% of the mediators,5%of the witnesses and signatories and 8% of the negotiators. Of the 1.187 peace agreements during the same period,19% mentioned and made references to women,5% made references to gender based violence. Experts in the area of creating lasting peace stress the need to include women in the peace negotiations since women’s needs are different from those of the men and they are often more vulnerable which is overlooked or forgotten in the negotiation process. This in turn leads to the peace agreements being less effective and less likely to be sustainable since the humanitarian responses are limited.

The national action plans[NAPs] which were supposed to be made in response to the UNSCR resolution has still not been made by all the nations. India has drafted one recently. As of November 2018,WILPF analysis 40% of UN member states have NAPs.Of this 79 NAPs adopted till date, only 34(43%) include a budget for implementation in the NAP upon its release.

With this discrepancy in view; we have to understand that the role ‘she’ can play is pivotal and when the world has faced severe violent disruptions and India being a state with internal armed conflict situation in various territories. It is of massive importance that women get the desired position to play in developing and maintain peace. Indian women have actually contributed to peace in the North- East; they mobilized for peace in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Tripura. The kind of change they can actually bring up because of their role as the nucleus of family, the smallest unit of any society, actually pushes up the cause. Her peace initiatives are marked by comprehensive issues ranging from food security to care, education and health. She is the harbinger of reconstruction; can create confidence and new relationships. But this requires faith in gender equality and mainstreaming it all along. Women can significantly contribute, provided she receives the value as resource managers in crisis situations and peace times. As it is said, “when women are concerned unexpected always happen.”

Some women are lost in the fire while others are built from it

Shazaf Masood Sidhu

The Peace Gong Global Coordinator

There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard justly and women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives; where there is an open opportunity for women to picture the words, definitely a wide change can be appreciated through women who are the ultimate peace makers.

In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.

In the developing world, it’s about time that women are on the agenda. For instance, 80 percent of small-subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, and yet all the programs in the past were predominantly focused on men. And it shows empowerment which leads towards success and success to the happiness and happiness brings peace eventually for its nothing less than a vicious cycle.

It is absolutely no accident that the peace and reconciliation, and indeed the economic progress, that eluded us generation after generation for hundreds of years, has at last come to pass in an island where the talents of women are now flooding every aspect of life as never before.

Inclusion in decision-making, particularly in political spheres critically contributes to the consolidation of peace and the construction of cohesive societies, be it in conflict-affected regions or elsewhere in the world young girls and women should be encouraged to take part in decision-making at all levels.

In today’s world where women are taking lead in maximum fields we shall work on more programs for their training, counselling, and helping them groom and build their self-confidence.

A few obstacles for women’s participating in peace building are as follows:

.Patriarchal socio-cultural stereotypes of women as victims and uncritical advocates for peace, combined with a strict division of labour in the public and private spheres, prevent women from entering official peace processes.

• There is a high level of insecurity and personal threat for women participating in official peace negotiations.

• There has been a lack of political will in international, regional and national organisations and mediation teams to promote and include women as local, informal mediators for peace.

The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place, just as we make it a safer place.

Women today are creating wonders and how! Leading examples of women ruling the world include Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Nadia Murad, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey and many others who truly are the symbol of women empowerment.

More women speaking up and seizing the helm of power can create its own momentum. It can change the culture that helps perpetuate those external forces.

“Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country – this is my dream.”

- Malala Yousafzai

For it’s the voice of every woman on earth.

And nothing is as powerful as a woman who is bold with a strong mind, firm and steady with her decisions and knows the path to walk.

The significant role women and girls play towards peace

Patricia Humura, Uganda

I have always campaigned for a better world where girls and women can live, love and lead without fear of discrimination. I have seen women and girls spearhead programmes and campaigns which consequently changes the status quo. I have also witnessed situations where women and girls’ efforts have been underestimated and disregarded, and they have been denied opportunities to speak up for themselves.

As we celebrate the International Women’s day focusing upon the innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and empowerment of women particularly in areas of social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure. This day should as well elicit our minds about the great task of achieving gender parity and a harmonious society where women and girls can lead change. Allow me to remember the famous quote: “A culture of peace requires participation of women” by the UN entity for gender equality and empowerment of women during the 2014 high level forum on the culture of peace. At the same time, I can assure you I have often heard some men and a few women lament that women cannot do much and there is no need to include them.

Today we have seen successful women in leadership positions supporting fellow women and communities politically, socially and economically. For example, Eunice Musiime, the executive director of Akina Mama Wafrika has supported communities to transform themselves. She was recently recognised as a gender equality star by She Decides Uganda Movement.

Women lead by applying peaceful leadership styles which are transformational. For instance, Africa has many a dictator but you will not see a woman dictator in power oppressing her people. Today we see women advocating and lobbying for gender-based violence shelters, courts and rescue homes in order to resolve conflicts in a better manner, and prevent worrying situations that affect children the most. Let us recognize these efforts by women as we would want to recognize the men. We can further empower the girl child with accessible, affordable and friendly education or skill empowerment.

The collective movements in Uganda have inspired and motivated young people to adapt violence free campaigns which are safe for a better world. For example, the women’s protest in Uganda was organized by the country’s Feminist Forum after many women lost their lives and the government hardly responded. The efforts have called for change in the state policy without causing war or violence. We must amplify such voices focusing on gender parity.

Let us negotiate, participate, mentor and approach young women and girls and engage them as men in mainstreaming programmes in order to achieve long-term agenda. Gender inequality and discrimination of women and girls are obstacles to innovations and sustainable development. We must unlock their power now.

Enhancing Participation of Women and Girls in Peace building

Mariya Suleiman Suabu, The Peace Gong Nigeria

Women and girls can play a very vital role in peace building if given an opportunity. Many of them have shown their desire and passion to contribute to peace building process just as the saying: “Women or preferably, females are the backbone of any lively society”.

In Nigeria, about 60 per cent of women have been taking steps to build peace across the country and even beyond it. If you look back at the recent crisis in parts of the country, it has served as the driving force that keeps motivating everyone including the women.

In Jos – the capital of Plateau – many women established their own peace initiative and NGOs to resolve conflicts. They also joined in successfully agitating against the government at the state level for a 'Plateau State Peace Building Agency'.

Women have also initiated peace and skill acquisition programmes that bring people of different religions under the same umbrella to learn about peace. NGOs such as 'Apurimac Onlus', 'Simji Girls Initiative', Displaced Women and Children Foundation, etc in Jos, Nigeria teach women and girls skill in others to promote peace.

Girls thus played vital role in their own little ways in ensuring peaceful co-existence and conflict resolution. Fifty per cent of girls in Nigeria, have been participating in peace building process through peace competitions, debates, workshops and seminars, and established their own peace clubs in their schools and communities.

Women are seen as great tools to build peace everywhere without a border because they are mothers, wives, sisters, housekeepers, teachers, preachers, advisers and makers of all families. With women in charge, everything seems to move faster.

In Nigeria, about 65 per cent of women and girls are professional peace builders and about 40 per cent are engaged voluntarily in peace process because they believe in it and want it to last forever.

Women and girls can do better to serve the humanity. Ema Miroslava Billings, an American lady and a national peace adviser here in Nigeria, inspired many women and girls to come out and voice their right to peace and unity. She serves as a tool of changing lives. She has touched many lives especially, the victims of crisis. She persuaded them to let go of their past and embrace their future rather than becoming the “victims of peace”.

I believe in women and girls because I know they have more to offer to make the world a better place.

Enhancing the Participation of Women and Girls In Peace Building

Lalo Bajo, The Peace Gong Gambia

As the clock turns exactly *00:00* today, Friday 8th March 2019, I wish to use the speciality of this day to appreciate and celebrate the most beautiful creation of God on the planet earth, *women*. Your immense contribution in making this world a better place is evident in all spheres of life. Lots of work have been done to increase women’s participation in social, economic and even political sector which have had positive impact around the globe today. In this article, substantial path is drawn to dilate on critical ways that can be used in enhancing the participation of women and girls in Peace building. A survey was carried out to assess the problems women encounter in peace building and the possible ways of increasing their participation in the peace arena.

_"Awareness should be made to enable women and girls know who they are, what they are and what they can do to promote peace "_-Adama Faye (Student, University of The Gambia)

Although the word "Peace" is one of the commonest words used today, its perfect understanding, objectives and targets are to be effectively taught at various levels especially amongst girls. A lot of women lack the substantial knowledge and methods of promoting peace. As such, the door should be open for them to join organizations promoting peace.

*Conducive Environment should be Ensured for Women Promoting Peace*

_"Women should participate without fear or favour"_- Isatu M. Bokum

Promoting peace seeks to address issues such as corruption, intolerance, illicit financial and arm flows etc. It is therefore inevitable that women and girls seeking to promote peace will face threats from the purveyors of war and violence. Freedom of expression should therefore be at the door step of every girl child. Safer environment will enhance increase in women and girls promoting peace.

*WOMEN AND GIRLS TO OCCUPY KEY POSITIONS*

_"The doors should be open for women, they should get opportunities but not opportunities like benefits but recognizing them "_ were the words of Isatu M. Bokum a reporter at Gambia Radio and Television Services.

Organizations promoting peace need to engage women and more importantly allow qualified women to occupy substantial positions. Women are the bedrocks of our communities today.

Their voice should be recognized in the fight for sustainable peace.

Women are not mere followers, they cannot be used in making up numbers only should be changed to take the lead.

*Motivational Factors*

It is not only money that satisfy humans but a lot of other factors beyond liquid cash. During my one-to-one with some girls from *Taf Leadership Academy*, most of them highlighted that enough motivation should be there to encourage potential females in promoting peace, justice and string institutions.

*Engaging Girls in Peace Building at Grass root Level*

One of the things that hinders female participation in Peace building is the lack of substantial knowledge about the subject matter; its goals as well as the objectives. More so, the need to make young girls develop interest in peace building is therefore imperative and necessary. The girl child needs to grow up with the mentality of promoting peace around the globe.

In summary, girls should be involved in peace building at grass root level; safe environment should be created for girls to promote peace; their voice should be recognized during decision makings relating to global peace; and women should be given front roles in peace building.

Empowering the Girl Child

Ijasini Ijani, The Peace Gong Nigeria

Women are the most important section of the society and equally participate in the life existence on the Earth, So, it is very necessary to save girl child in order to maintain the ratio of women.

It has been a most important topic as a social awareness in the Borno society which youths of the country must know about.

Girls are equally as important as boys in the society to maintain the social equilibrium. Few years ago, there was huge reduction in the number of women in comparison to men. It was so because of the increasing crimes against women such as #rape, #poverty, #illiteracy, #gender discrimination and many more. To equalize the number of women in the society, it is very necessary to effectively make people aware about the girl child.

Girl child is a most important social awareness topic now-a-days regarding the saving of girl child all through the country. There are various effective measures following which girl child can be saved to a great extent. There is rampant poverty in the society which is the big reason for illiteracy and gender inequality in the Borno State. So, education is the vital element to reduce poverty and gender discrimination as well as improve the status of girl child and woman in the Borno State. According to my statistics, it is found that female literacy is decreasing continuously in Borno State where girl child do not have equal access to the education and other activities.

The girl child should not be killed, hated or disrespected. She should be saved, loved and be respected for the betterment of society and the country at large. She is as equal participant in the development of country as boys.

Spread the love not hate

Tope Templer Olaiya, Features Editor, The Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria

In nearly my four decades on earth, I have gone full cycle in all mood swings – happy, glum, loud, reticent, an extensive dose of laughing yoga, and moments the tears couldn’t be held back.  Perhaps, our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again.

Of all the emotions, nothing can equate the place of happiness and that has been my lifelong pursuit.  The journey to this realization began when I was young.  I remember my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to elementary school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘Happy’.  My teachers told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.  As I became older, happiness became my guidepost and compass to navigate through a world full of unhappy people.

Not too long ago, I was reading about Mother Theresa and how in 1979, when she was in Stockholm to receive the Nobel Peace Prize , newspaper reporters swarmed around her to know what she would recommend for world peace.  Without giving the question a second thought, she replied: “Go home and love your family, because he is the happiest, be it king or peasant who finds peace in his home.”  I didn’t think at the time Mother Theresa did justice to the reporters’ question.  As a journalist, it would have been hard pitching that to my editor as a lead story, unless I was writing for a soft sell magazine.  But her response struck a chord with me because of how well she related it to happiness.

But as the days go by, the message behind that answer began to sink and makes more sense. It further strengthened the old saying that 'Charity begins at home'. And the home, not the society is the bedrock of development.

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, it is safe to say the pillars and building blocks of a peaceful society begin from the home and rest solely on the shoulders of women. As such, the critical mass of the womenfolk has a crucial role to play in building a violence free society.

Many African societies are patriarchal in nature. Women should be seen and not heard but that worldview is being consigned to the dustbin of history. The women are rising and taking charge, asserting themselves daily that, it is no longer a man's world. With such development comes an added responsibility of the significant roles women play or can play towards a culture of peace in nonviolent conflict resolution.

First is breaking the culture of silence. By speaking out rather than attempting to suppress conflict situations in the homes and communities, we have the first step towards resolving it.

Second is taking action. Taking action is not taking the laws into one's hand but abiding by nonviolent measures to resolving conflicts.

Third is being the ambassador of peace in words and actions beginning from the home. As peacemakers, women take the front role in instilling and propagating the gospel of peace to their immediate environment.

Fourth is coming together as a body of women to stand against acts of violence and conflicts in one voice. This is to force concerned authorities to take action and ensure not only justice is served but peace is achieved.

In conclusion, the simple step model suggested by Mother Theresa should be the watchword of every woman: “Going home to love your family.”

You can’t love your family and hate your neighbours because they are the closest to your family.  And again, one cannot love humanity, one can only love people and the closest person to you is your family.

My parting shot: When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

SIGNIFICANCE OF ENHANCING WOMEN’s PARTICIPATION IN PEACE BUILDING

Yankuba Camara, Gambia

Women and children are most affected when peace is absent in any society. The victimization of women through rape, trafficking, early marriage and maltreatments etc has affected the productivity of our nations. Involving women to participate in peace building is significant for the betterment of our children and sustaining the achieved world peace.

Firstly, empowering women in conflict setting will reduce the risk of the violence to grow and will help in reducing the burden of war. A report by UN Women also strengthened the call for more female peacemakers by revealing that only 4% of participants in peace processes were women. The call for women leadership is very vital for gender equality to give a balanced system of involvement and participation to attain and achieve world peace. Empowering women to move past victimization and into leadership positions can provide the keys to establishing a more peaceful society over time.

Secondly, Current cases like South Sudan illustrate how local women desperately want to become more involved in the peace process but are side lined by the warring parties. How might South Sudan's recent recurrence to violence be resolved if women are granted greater access to the negotiating table and in developing peace plan? Identifying these barriers will be critical for increasing the participation of women in peacemaking and therefore increasing the probability of lasting peace

Moreover, Initiating projects to build and enhance local women's capacity towards peace building will be an important area of investment for the international community in order to encourage female leadership, by creating more penetrating policies, inviting the participation of women in peace building  and for  the UN and governments to understand the vital role of women. Building quality representation in local female leadership may be the key ingredient to a peaceful society as women are empowered to transform conflict.

Great powers alone no longer control the world’s most lethal weapons. Example is the case of the use of chemical gas and weapons in the Syrian civil war where women and children are the most vulnerable to extermination and this factor of injustice has increased famine, economic instability, political harassment and presence of existing rebellions. Fragmentations are what weaken our love for humanity and our sense of patriotism.

In sum, I thank Peace Gong Gambia of a remarkable move to attaining world peace and equal opportunities for women in participating to peace building. The blessing will go to our honourable leader Lalo Bajo for making the organization home and school for all of us who want to grow to become a non-violent youth communicator to ensure equal rights with no hard feeling. I worked with Lalo for quite some time now and I remember in our project management class, the lecturer Mr Jumu Wally recommend our group for being innovative by coming up with an initiative like a proposal for a new red cross branch at the provinces to help provide first aid and sensitize the communities with critical health issues. I never doubted he took a step to unite Gambian youths and vital stakeholders for a great adventure in maintaining and attaining world peace.

Women have always been degraded and maltreated in the Gambian society and some killed by their husbands like we saw in the time of Yahya Jammeh. They should be give chance to stand for themselves and also contribute to national development and peace building.

Islam and Christianity both agrees to protect the pride of women and respect them to bring unity and peace in ones place. The average Gambian woman is maltreated and degraded by their husbands who vow to protect them forever.

Women role models like Dr Isatou Njie Saidy, vice president under the former regime is an epitome of a responsible, peace maker and role model to a lot of women in Gambia. She ruled this nation and empowered a lot of women but she was not alone in this since the likes of old Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay who is a woman leader and has spent all her life fighting to give equal opportunities for women especially their contribution to peace building.

In conclusion, May our efforts not go in vain and may we achieve world peace with freedom to all races and end to tribal fragmentation. The discrimination directed against women will make me conclude that THE WORLD IS EMPTY WITHOUT WOMEN AND TO ACHIEVE WORLD PEACE, WOMEN NEED TO INVOLVE IN THE PROCESS. Post conflict reconstruction needs calculation to balance the social life.

ENHANCING WOMEN AND GIRLS 'SO PARTICIPATION IN PEACE BUILDING

Fabakary Jammeh alian Junior Mandela, Gambia

Women and girls are very important factors that always play a very crucial role to any development. Women are very influential in anything they engage in. As far as peace is concerned, the women and girls have very crucial role to bring about peace.

As women and girls are very influential, they can play a significant role by serving as advisers to children and their partners. As now we live in as partners, girls can be used for sensitising their partners both men and their partner girls about the importance of peace in human life. As absence of peace is not only about war but the instability of mind which brings about action. Women who are close to their children and husbands can be used to sensitize them about the importance of peace.

In addition,  women and girls are very persuasive in their action and criminal acts are very rampant in our societies, they can be used as secret agents between or among the victims. With the quality of being persuasive, they can talk to one of the victims by giving sound words and teaching the person about the importance of peace and the time being waste on criminalising and maligning in human life. As words are power than any other thing in human life and words ignite the heart.

The innovative effort taken up by women and girls in our local communities in peace building is by forming an association commonly known as "SUSUWO" in the local language. This association’s aim is to help each other in terms of financial difficulties. Every member pay certain amount and lots are taken like a raffle among themselves in which the winner takes the money to support herself. This is done in  periodically as agreed by the members until every member has a share of the money contributed. This eradicates hatred among themselves and promoted love for each other by sacrificing for each others’ happiness.

In conclusion, the significance of women and girls in peace building is immeasurable. So without women and girls in peace building, the aim will never be achieved, no matter what efforts the world take. So women and girls cannot be left behind in this journey. I look towards to the day when women’s and girls’ talent shall be recognised towards peace building and the people of the world shall live peacefully.

Women and Peace

Javed Noorani, Kabul, Afghanistan

In contemporary times, when women have broken so many glass ceilings both in pursuit of their own development and that of their nations, it is outrageous to ignore or deny them a front seat in any peace process or negotiation. Gender blind decisions have never worked and those who proceed ignoring it have not achieved much.

Women were considered weaker in traditional societies wrongly. Women have a stronger sense of love and forgiveness even if it entails personal sacrifice. A society involved in a peace process and post conflict reconstruction needs love among human beings, a sense of forgiveness, inclination to engage, empathy to restore truth, justice and create social capital; and women are unparalleled in achieving all of these.

In Afghan conflict, women suffered and made innumerable sacrifices to keep their family and nation safe and alive. Their role in peace is necessary to restore truth, justice, respect, freedom and fairness.

Conflict, be it overt or covert, carries huge emotional, social and financial costs, and the resultant disruptions often leads to creating the “other” out of fellow human being. It may result into hatred and violence against civilians, based on lies. In Afghanistan, women have been subjected to violence for centuries. Telling truth in case of Afghanistan can create space for empathy among all sides to resolve their conflicts. A shared truth about the outright denial of a role for women or their subjugation will build an environment of justice. This will also facilitate bringing a sense of belonging and ensure an active role for them in state building, governance and building of a values-based society that respects rights, fairness, respect, tolerance and freedom for all.

Afghanistan is right in the middle of peace process and men are negotiating with men for a country half of whose citizens are women who have suffered no less over the centuries. The only people who can be part of peace building in Afghanistan are women and their representatives. There can be no peace which is not gender inclusive.

However, in reality, society and politics have universally kept women tied to the fantasies of men. Freedom is an essential component of women empowerment and it must be institutionalized in decision making, property entitlement /ownership and the liberty to choose what is best for them.

Role of Women in Peacebuilding

Zannat Ara Ghani, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Ayesha Bibi is a school teacher in a small village for 30 years. Ten years ago, she was promoted as a Head Mistress. She likes her profession and enjoys being with young children. But sometimes it hurts her that even after 30 years of teaching the environment has not changed much. The government tries to provide proper education to young children but it is not sufficient to meet the needs of a growing population. For years, there is no bench in several classes of her school. During winter season, the situation worsens as students suffer from cold because of sitting on the cold floor.

Korimon is a very enthusiastic teenaged girl from Ayesha's village. She used to study in the primary school where Ayesha teaches. Now she is in class seven in a nearby high school. Most of her friends were married off early, though the govt. bars early marriage. Her father encouraged her to study. After being very upset about the issue of bench, she gathered around 10 girls of her village and went to the village chairman. To their surprise, he agreed to fund buying some benches for the school. This encouraged the young girls to work for the community, and solve their problems. Korimon formed a self-help group with her friends who help the community solve its problems.

Like Korimon, there are thousands of women in our community who are engaged in building peace. But these women are neglected in real life and their contribution entirely ignored. So, women from all the society should come forward to change this perception. If we want to empower women, they need to be united. A network of women working in various fields needs to be created with the help of technology and social media to help the disadvantaged women in urban and rural areas to boost their enthusiasm and provide them opportunities.

Innovative peacebuilding efforts by women for local communities

Building peace, one piece at a time

Ufra Mir, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Despite difficult circumstances, continuous struggles, and being at the forefront of pain and conflict, women in Kashmir and other conflict zones are trying to change things. They are taking charge, narrating, creating, protesting, writing, advocating, innovating and providing care with extraordinary resilience and courage. They are the real change makers and catalysts of peace because they choose to create that inner pillar of strength and equanimity, changing things around themselves even when the situation seems hopeless. They survive but with dignity rather than just being victims.

Born and brought up in a conflict prone region of Jammu and Kashmir, I always yearned for peace building, peaceful co-existence and respect for human rights, especially for youth. When I first decided to walk on the unconventional path of peace-psychology; I knew that as a girl, it would be challenging. My vulnerabilities, as a woman peace builder have made me empathetic and sensitive towards others’ sufferings. I am comfortable with ambiguity and, remain creative and reflective even in difficult times. I see my profession as my passion and purpose. This belief and curiosity about dynamics of peace and conflict at different levels, and the context of a conflict-zone like Kashmir led me to formally identify myself as a peace-psychologist and establish a peace non profit, Paigaam: A Message for Peace.

We may not be able to impact things directly at the political level but we cannot sit and wait for a miracle to happen. People have lost their sons. There are women who are still waiting for their husbands and children who are used to accepting abnormal as normal. They need constant support to cope up with what is happening to them, to deal with life in a conflict zone.

Conflict is complex. Hence, I devised a simple multidimensional model, based upon my experience. My basic idea was to combine philosophical understanding, critical-creative thinking, arts and spirituality with psychology and some techniques of peace and conflict reconciliation.

Peace-psychology requires being mindful about critical issues, with a lens of empathy, empowerment, critical thinking and imagination. Most people I work with keep looking for peace in future. They have conflict inside them and are suffering with stress all the time.

The fact is, peace cannot be found, it can only be created. It requires a deeper understanding of the essence of peace at the fundamental level because it helps you understand it consciously. If you can maintain your strength amidst chaos, if you can deal with conflicts in a healthy way, if you can be mindful of what is happening to you at the present moment…that to me is real peace. This awareness helps change the psyche that makes people take charge of their own narratives and overcome helplessness in a conflict-zone. It helps them become reflective, empathetic and mindful, and transform their thinking and feeling empowered. That is how I believe I am building peace as Kashmir’s first and only peace-psychologist.

In Kashmir, I am working with youth involved in protests, with orphans of militancy, with young children living in risky areas, with ‘half-widows’ still awaiting their disappeared husbands, with women entrepreneurs trying to make a livelihood, with people who have mental-health issues, and with teachers, students and other professionals. Most of my work is in the form of workshop and free counselling. I use my experiences, activities, simulations, scenarios and exercises to conduct peace-education programmes – particularly targeting children and youth - in schools and communities of Kashmir.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world

W S Kumari, Trincomalee Campus, Eastern University, Sri Lanka.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” -Malcolm X-

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. No matter who, a man or a women, education is important to everyone. But, it is sad that some communities still discriminate against the education of the women. About fifty seven million children across the world do not go to school for many reasons.

Why it is important to educate women? An African proverb says “if we educate a boy, we educate one person, if we educate one girl; we educate a family and whole nation”. One of the best examples to prove this statement is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education. As the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, the role Malala played to open the doors for female education is incomparable.

There are many other enough reasons to justify the above African proverb on women education. When the women get equipped with knowledge, that will help to decrease infant mortality, maternal mortality, population explosion, child marriages, domestic and sexual violence; not only that, but also to increase the female participation in political arena and the decision making process of the country.

Hence it is obvious that, paying considerable attention towards creating opportunities for women to have education should be the foremost responsibility in any community. Selecting the better means for giving them education is essential. Women education refers to every form of education that aims at improving the knowledge and skills of women and girls. It includes general education at schools, collages, vocational and technical education, professional trainings, health education etc. Education for women encompasses both literary and non literary education.

Educated women are capable of bringing socio- economic changes in the society. Empowering more women and girls to receive education is a major focus of the United Nations Goals for sustainable Development. Then there will be no girls who worry on others’ unkind statement about their delayed marriages, delayed conceiving, dependency on somebody else for everything etc. There was a concept in the society that woman’s place is there in the kitchen. But this statement is no longer a valid one. Women are the better home makers while holding the highest offices in the society. For an example in the Sri Lankan context, recently, Ms. Jayanthi Kuruuthumpola scaled the Mount Everest, Ms. Hasini Jayathilaka invented how cancer cells get spread, and Ms. Asha De Vose has been identified as an outstanding scientist in the world. These heroines are the evidences to prove that if they are given the freedom to find their path, they are unstoppable.

The poem “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” by William Ross Wallace summarizes the strength and the capability a woman has to make a better world if she is given the opportunity. Being educated is the only option a woman has to break her frame where she is locked and to broaden her potentials in order to empower thousands of hands that rocks the cradle.

What are the rights of women?

Rana Abdalla Eisa Altooum, Sudan

Women mirror society, which reflect the progress and evolution of the kite, and as far as observance of their rights and community support and interest in her education is living up to his generations; women's rights is not just a humanitarian issue but a national issue are associated in various fields, Political and economic.

Sudanese women: -

Marked by Sudanese women at all levels regional, African and Arabic was a pioneer and forerunner in scientific and literary process, and since the 1960s have had a right to receive a pension and a salary equal work with men.

Women's rights in accordance with international organizations: -

Recognized global organizations like the United Nations and the other through several conventions set of rights for women,

1/ Women's personal rights.

2/ Women's political rights

3/ Family rights of women

4/ Women's educational rights

5/ Women rights field work.

6/ Some religions also ensured women's rights

Enhancing Women's Participation in Peace Building

Samantha Sheoprasad, Guyana

International Women's Day on March 8 celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for gender parity and gender balance in all aspects of life.

The big question is women’s participation in government and governance. Women continue to be under-represented in social, economic, cultural and political organs. This remains the case despite priority being given to developing women's individual and collective capacity to address these conflicts and build stable, peaceful and democratic institutions.

I see each of you as an important stakeholder in peace and peacebuilding. Here, I focus on how we can utilize our women and girls as key stakeholders in peacebuilding.

If we truly want to empower women, the most important thing to do is to eliminate male superiority and patriarchal mentality. There is a need to provide equal opportunity to women in education and employment.

When you suppress a woman, you oppress humanity. Despite her contribution to societies and nations, we do not see her as important to improve mankind. It is ironic, if a woman feeds our children, then why we cannot give her equal education and opportunities? Thus, there can be no doubt that when you beat a woman, you beat humanity and defeat an opportunity.

A woman is considered the womb of the universe with the potential to procreate. However, last year’s UNICEF figures show that about 32 million girls in primary school age and 29 million in lower secondary school age are not getting any education. Some other studies put the number of such girls at 130 million.

Should not above figure ring an alarm? I believe, we must work at all levels, from grassroots to global leaders, to ensure equity and inclusion, so that all girls, whatever their circumstances might be, get to go to school and become empowered citizens.

Family is an important institution and women often play critical roles in a family’s development. Women are agents to create stability in their families and to promote reconciliation and peace even under difficult circumstances. As a mother, women play a critical role in educating values to children. Thus, women can play a critical role in instilling sense of peace and awareness as well.

However, women's peacebuilding potential have no impact on policies because of their absence from decision-making processes.

We, therefore, must strive to:

  1. Make it a priority to include peace-building and peace resolution in school curriculum.
  2. Raise awareness of social, economic, cultural and political peace.
  3. Promote inclusion of women at all levels of decision-making in governments, as well as regional and international organizations.
  4. Promote participation of women in conflict prevention, and peace-building and resolution processes.
  5. Promote active networking between women peace organizations, and other stakeholders.

In modern societies around the world, major political, social and economic development are underway – several of them in an unbalanced way. This causes gender disparity and increased suffering for women. This situation adversely affects women empowerment. Therefore, we need a complete change in our approach towards women. I believe we need to create an impactful society in which women are given equal opportunities to develop so that they can contribute as much as their male counterparts in building our society.

International Women’s Day: Write essay on peacebuilding

The International Women's Day on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

International Women’s Day: We have many voices

To mark International Women's Day, The Peace Gong and Pen New call for articles on the topic: 'Enhancing Participation of Women and Girls in Peacebuilding'. The articles could focus on :

1. The significant role women and girls can play towards a culture of peace and in nonviolent conflict resolution.

2. Innovative peacebuilding efforts taken up by women and girls in their local communities.

The article should be between 500-700 words. Please send the article before March 2 to thepeacegong@gmail.com