WOMEN AND THE PEACE PROCESSAs female musicians, it is difficult for us to imagine having our voices silenced, dismissed or ignored simply because of our gender – especially when the message we are trying to spread is one of peace.
Yet this is the reality for thousands of women living in conflict zones, whose wisdom and opinions are often simply not considered during peace negotiations, despite these women’s unique insights into the root causes of the conflict, its consequences for civilians, and the potential for achieving a sustainable peace.
The irony of the situation is that the leadership role that women have taken at an informal, grassroots level of peace building, and at the formal, national and international level when their input has been valued, has shown their enormous capacity for community peace building.
Can you picture the frustration of wanting to use your knowledge and experiences to end a conflict that has devastated your community and your country, and not being given the option? For us, the thought of our message being lost because gender discrimination prevents us from being involved in the peace process is unimaginable.
Despite the barriers to women’s formal involvement in peace negotiations, we can still see the presence of women in the peace process and in post-conflict reconstruction efforts across the globe. Take Afghanistan, for instance, where women have faced decades of discrimination, poverty, conflict and marginalization in all sectors of society. The ongoing climate of insecurity has not prevented Afghan women from seizing the opportunity for involvement in education, political life, economics, community leadership and countless other sectors.
These women share with there peers across the globe the desire and the capacity to be empowered, engaged citizens who carry a reservoir of knowledge that is indispensable to the stability of their country. If we listen closely enough, we can hear the revolutionary words and work of millions of women across the world, advocating a better world for themselves and their communities. They refuse to wait for the world to realize the value of their wisdom; they are creating change now, leading their communities on the road to equality and peace.
It is an uphill road; in many parts of the world, women are still fighting to have their rights enshrined in their national constitution and bill of rights, one of the most fundamental structural changes towards achieving gender equality. If women are involved in the peace process, their capacity to represent their interests and to keep gender equality at the forefront of political and social developments will make the prospects for a lasting, sustainable and positive peace infinitely stronger.