In today’s discussion, we will focus on the benefits of women as peace builders and what we can do to support more women as peace builders.
I like to start off by clarifying exactly what we are talking about so that everyone has the same understanding of definitions, so if you already are familiar with this terminology, you’re welcome to add anything I may miss!
For a clear understanding of peace building, I am referring to the prevention of conflict. Some people like to focus on looking at peace building right after a conflict, so say like the Iraq war for the USA. Peace building would be how to build a good relationship between Iraq and the USA, how to promote and maintain good relationships between Iraqis and how to promote and maintain good relationships between Iraq and the international community.
Peace building is also using the same type of concepts that I just mentioned about good relationships to replicate from community to community. This means the responsibility lies with each person to build peace.
Bar none, there is rampant inequality throughout the world. Inequality, whether it be social or economic, makes it complicated to build peace. Peace will probably look different to each type of person, particularly if he or she has always held privilege that others have not.
I believe that an important strategy to peace building would have to include how to incorporate, value and honor the ideas of populations of people that have been oppressed WITHOUT tipping the scales again to then create another class of privileged people. In other words, you don’t want to get so caught up in leveling the playing field that you wind up making the formerly oppressed the new oppressors.
Here’s a question for you to think about: Do any examples of the oppressed becoming an oppressor come to mind?
I encourage you to think about whether or not it matters if there is oppression that is perceived verses what is closer to reality? How would that affect relations?
Your example does not have to be political, it could be a personal example in your life. If someone feels you have wronged them and you feel you have not, how do you build peace at that point? Each person’s opinion is valuable and their feelings are certainly real.
Try and keep your example handy to respond to as you move through these discussions.
In thinking about peace building and some things that are challenging,
Q: Can you guess why we are focusing on women peacebuilders?
One of the major inequalities in the world today has to do with the huge gaps of treatment of men verses women.
A: We are focusing on women because the field of peacebuilding has overwhelmingly highlighted male contributions. We know that poverty has a way of affecting women around the world as well as war, so to exclude women in major decision making processes that build and maintain peace means that the peace that is built is only half as strong as it could be.
I’d like to pause and break down how poverty and war particularly affect women for those that may not be familiar with how there are specific consequences for women.
Let us be clear, poverty and war affects all genders. I’m going to speak from one angle. It does not mean that another angle that is different is not important, it just means that we have to factor in this angle because without it, we can never fully reach lasting solutions to the suffering that poverty and war causes.
- According to FAO, which is an international organization that has a mandate to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy: If we look at developing countries around the world, almost 70 percent of women work in agriculture.
What is interesting about this information is that the type of work women do around the world typically involves hard labor like agriculture, which is the biggest source, if not one of the biggest, that women make money to provide for their families.
For peacebuilding, think about if access to land and resources were not taken from a perspective of women. Having men articulate what comes intuitive to women is not only not necessary, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will slow down the whole process toward peace.
- Women (and also girls, but we are sticking to women here so that we can cover the gamut of females) have been used as a tool to advance war and terrorize communities for decades. War is a very messy ordeal for anyone, but there are specific ways women are used as weapons in war:
1. Women have been raped as a way to shame their husbands. Around the world, rape is still highly regarded as shameful on the victim and her family. The remedy that some families can choose to take to cope with the stigma they face is to disown the woman. When a woman is disowned, it is most likely that she will not be re-married, which the idea then is that she will not conceive and therefore stop the bloodline of the ethnicity she is tied to.
2. Aside from rape, women have also been forcibly made to have babies by the opposing side in a war. The mentality there is that she will ruin the community she comes from because they will always have to face and fear their attacker.
3. Women are often kidnapped to provide services for rebels that include household chores, sex and birthing their children.
4. Women are also victims of mutilations, particularly to their sexual organs. Things like cutting the breasts and forcing objects inside her are meant to humiliate her, her family and community, isolate her from re-building a quality life, and destroy her ability to care for children.
Since there are a number of ways women are specifically affected and are the nucleus of the family, which is at the center of the community, clearly women must be included at all levels of peace building.
I would even go as far as to say that I think women should especially be given a greater voice at the higher levels where the final decisions are made. How can there be peace otherwise?
BENEFITS OF WOMEN AS PEACE BUILDERS
I like to look at women as a way to understand how to build peace. If you have ever seen the Girl Effect video, then this will be easy for you to understand. To give a gist of the video, which is in English, the video is pinpointing that a solution to eradicate poverty lies within empowering girls because girls invest in their families and then the family also gets lifted out of poverty.
I think that as the girls become women, they have a greater opportunity to move from primarily influencing their family to influencing their nation, if they are further invested in as women. That means that peace building would have to incorporate females from the start!