And as for women seeking peace in their countries......
Women cite utility in peace efforts
By Elizabeth Eldridge
January 25, 2008
The men were supposed to be ending the war in Liberia, but they were getting nowhere. Talks were deadlocked; fighting was still raging in the countryside.
A group of women, frustrated by years of war and the loss of husbands and children, finally took matters into their own hands by surrounding the building and threatening to take off their clothes.
It worked. By embarrassing the men and threatening to break a taboo on female nudity, the "sex for peace" campaign, waged by activists such as Asatu Bah-Kenneth, forced the men to settle their differences.
Mrs. Bah-Kenneth, now the deputy inspector-general of police for administration in Liberia, told the story this week to 400 participants at a Washington forum on the role of women in national and regional security.
Women account for only 5 percent of the jobs in the security sector worldwide, and in some countries are totally excluded, the delegates were told. Yet several speakers argued that women can make a vital contribution to sustainable peace because of their skills in reconciliation.
It is of primary importance that leaders in troubled regions listen to their citizens and learn to see threats in their broader social context, said U.S. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute in a keynote speech Tuesday. He said there can be "no reconciliation without civil participation."
Amal Jadou, the director general of international affairs for the Palestinian Authority, even suggested the United States could advance the cause of peace by refusing to meet with any foreign delegation that did not include women.
Delegates from Afghanistan, Colombia, Liberia, Haiti, Israel and Palestinian territories participated in round-table discussions with the State Department, U.S. armed forces, police and advocacy organizations at the forum, sponsored by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Hunt Alternatives Fund, run by former U.S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt.
Shukria Barakzai, a member of Afghanistan's parliament, said she found the forum useful for three reasons.
"Firstly, we recognize we are not the only women suffering from war and violence; secondly, we can try to find similar ways to deal with the same problems; and thirdly, we see how women are united themselves, and that this solidarity means something," she said.
Orzala Ashraf, the founder of a group called Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, said, "The most important thing is introducing the definition of security from a woman's perspective.
"It is not a man in a uniform standing next to a tank armed with a gun. Women have a broader term, human security, the ability to go to school, receive health care, work and have access to justice," she said.
"Only by improving these areas can the threats of insurgents, Taliban, druglords and warlords be countered."
The delegates devised policy initiatives on how to place more women in senior roles in their countries' police and armed forces, with the goal of making them more responsive to their people and winning public trust.
Mrs. Barakzai was asked whether the highly conservative men who run her country would ever accept an increased security role for women.
"Yes, it is difficult, but it is my right to raise my voice," she said. "They ignore me. They hate me. But it is my right to represent the people."
In Afghanistan, 28 percent of parliament is female, even more than the 25 percent required by the country's 2004 constitution. Mrs. Barakzai said she is sure the number will rise in the next election to 30 percent.
"It is difficult," said the self-described anti-drug, antiwar, liberal democrat. "Warlords and the Taliban have the same view of women — that they should be at home with babie
Further reading: Liberian Women Demand Full Inclusion Into Security Sector Structures
“We share a common goal, which is that security isn’t about tanks and soldiers, it’s about the ability to go to school, to get help, to get food,” said Wazhma Frogh, a gender and development specialist in Afghanistan.
The panel, titled “Engendering Peace: Security Through an Inclusive Lens,” featured four women from Afghanistan, Israel, Colombia, and Palestine at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Wednesday night. Other participants included reporters, human rights lawyers, and grassroots organizers.
The talk was part of the annual Women and Security Executive Program, which explores the ability of women to seek out compromise during times of intense conflict.
“I think that men are more willing to take risks with war than with peace,” said retired Israeli general Israela Oron. “Peace is very risky, you know, but women are better at taking risks for peace.”
The panelists compared their efforts to improve security, which included the experiences of the first female Colombian minister of defense and a young Afghan’s social activism beginning at age 17.
The proper role of the international community in protecting women during conflicts was also discussed.
Amal Jadou, the director general of international affairs for the Palestinian president, said that arriving at security is more complex than ending violence.
“To talk about the security issue is not an easy issue for the Palestinian woman because there are different layers of insecurity,” she said, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its effects on Palestinian society.
Jadou and Oron both said that although it was hard for them to accept one another’s positions, they could relate to each other because they are women.
But program participant Maria-Emma Wills said their gender was not the key to holding a dialogue.
“I do not think that women, per se, are more peaceful than men,” said Wills, who works to educate Colombians about their country’s decades-long conflict between leftist guerillas, paramilitaries, and the government.
She added, however, that taking gender into account may facilitate negotiations.
In addition to the panel, the Women and Security Executive Program hosts other sessions about security and public policy in conjunction with Harvard faculty.
Read more about Amal Jadou HERE in an interview at the website If Americans Only Knew titled "
Hope for the Future:Learn more about Israela Oron, the highest ever ranking female in the IOF who is a member of the committee tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Winograd Report in an article she penned, "Terms of Peace"
An Interview with Amal Jadou