Women-Led Peace a Reality in Sudan, Bonn, Oslo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Imagine a world where women living directly with the realities of war help build the peace. Jacqueline O'Neill says three major events this month show that vision--and the ideals of "inclusive security"--gaining hold.

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Broadening the Solutions

Research has shown that when women are at the table in the peace-building process, they broaden the set of issues addressed. They expand the debate beyond military action and power to incorporate social and humanitarian issues that improve the lives of people in their countries. For example, in Darfur women played an expansive role in the Darfur Peace Agreement by raising previously neglected issues such as food security and gaining consensus so there was a clear path forward.

Who are these women waging peace? Many of them are members of The Women Waging Peace Network, part of The Institute of Inclusive Security. They are 1,000 strong individuals in over 40 conflict zones.

In Oslo, two of our members, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and activist Leymah Gbowee, were honored as Nobel Peace Prize laureates. All our members share in the victory, knowing that they are making an impact, while simultaneously looking ahead to the work that remains.

A U.N. study has found that since 1992 only 2 percent of signatories to peace agreements have been women. No women have been appointed chief or lead peace mediator in U.N.-sponsored peace talks. Just this year, women have been kept out of new governments being formed across the Middle East and North Africa, despite their contributions to the democratic uprisings.

To turn these sobering statistics around, we have to keep constructing the new face of peace. We can't be satisfied with catching just a glimpse of it on the margins.

Envision a world where peace is built instead of bartered, built by women who are on the ground living daily with the realities of war.

A decade ago, this vision seemed futuristic as women were often completely left out of the peace making process. Today, though it still needs to be sharpened, the role of women is coming into focus.


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Jacqueline O'Neill is the director of The Institute for Inclusive Security. The institute uses research, training and advocacy to promote the inclusion of all stakeholders, particularly women, in peace processes. Previously, she worked at the UN Mission in Sudan and at Sudan's Ahfad University for Women.

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