Women find innovative ways to address violence and contribute to building sustainable peace. In our various programmes, we explore how particular conflicts affect women and work on initiatives to amplify women’s voices for peace. In the run-up to International Women’s Day 2015, we share the stories of some of the dedicated and inspiring women we support in their peacebuilding efforts.
Day 0: Elisha Bano - Fiji
© Conciliation Resources/Clare Richards
Somebody is looking up to me - I have to make sure that I do good stuff, that I don't disappoint them.
Elisha is a member of both the Emerging Young Leaders Forum Alumni and the Fiji Young Women’s Forum, spaces for young people to articulate their needs and perspectives. She has also worked as a Youth Coordinator at the Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF), a Conciliation Resources partner.
Inspired by local advocates and activists, Elisha aims to empower young people in Fiji as they face the challenges of high unemployment and marginalisation. Having grown up with political instability, she is also committed to motivating people of her generation to engage in politics in the hope that it will help to consolidate Fiji’s recent move to democracy. The Fiji Young Women’s Forum was particularly active in the run-up to the September 2014 election, encouraging participation by young women with its handbook, My Guide to Voting.
Women are key – unrest affects them very deeply and if they are included in peace processes things that affect them specifically can be tabled as well … It’s time for a change; it’s time to include women and innovative young voices in peace processes. We need new ideas and fresh perspectives.”
Day 1: Veronica Anni Michael - South Sudan
First of all I was fearing how I can go and approach the Government and talk to them about women’s rights – the rights of the abducted women – but now I have got the courage: we women, we must advocate.
In the vast territory affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), channels of communication among women are limited. Anni became actively involved in peacebuilding in 2011 when she took part in a civil society visit to northern Uganda – where the LRA originated – organised by Conciliation Resources. The trip brought together women from various grassroots organisations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. In her role at the Self Help Women’s Development Association, in South Sudan, she trains local women leaders in counselling, advocacy, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (on women’s participation in peace and conflict) and the reintegration of LRA returnees. She has opened six dialogue centres for LRA returnees, enabling former abductees to get the support they need when they come out of the bush.
My vision is of a world in which women are economically, socially and politically empowered and able to advocate with government and NGOs on behalf of other women in conflict.
Veronica Anni Michael
Day 2: Margarita Akhvlediani - South Caucasus
Our aim is to bring people closer together. It’s important to give conflict a face. We want to provide people with a platform where they can talk and learn.
Margarita has been a reporter, editor and producer for more than 20 years, covering war and the consequences of conflict. She worked as the Caucasus Programme Director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and co-founded and leads Go Group Media, a Conciliation Resources partner. Go Group Media works across the Caucasus to voice local concerns and facilitate a deeper and more informed dialogue within society, by providing opportunities for ordinary people from different communities to share ideas, knowledge and understanding. An expert in conflict analysis, Margarita teaches and lectures on conflict resolution for students and working journalists.
Through short documentary films, Margarita and her colleagues give people the opportunity to tell their story, aiming to help them influence their own lives, and the lives of their communities. With ‘Girls Have Their Say’, she explored the oppression of women through the eyes of teenage girls, talking to them over the course of a year about how they see themselves in society.
“Many women are brave, and they are having an influence, but they are often excluded. The potential is huge; but before the potential becomes a reality we need to work more on supporting women to speak out.”
Day 3: Miriam Coronel Ferrer - The Philippines
Working for peaceful solutions requires a lot of patience ... It's difficult but there is always that desire to be able to see the fruition of this process, so that we will be able to come closer to a society where everybody can coexist and peacefully compete with each other. The competition will always be there, but a competition that is founded on just principles and processes.
Because I am a woman, like them, they have found it much easier to share their burden with me.
Miriam Coronel Ferrer
Day 4: Madame Rosalie - Central African Republic
Conciliation Resources … [has] supported us to raise the awareness of the population on the need to encourage the return and reintegration of LRA combatants, as well as mobilising women on how to confront these issues.
Day 5: Ezabir Ali - Kashmir
I believe if we dream peace we can achieve it, but what is most important is the will… the commitment.
Ezabir started her work as a voluntary health worker and counsellor in rural areas of Kashmir in 1991, shortly after the start of the armed resistance. Involved in the dynamic Athwaas Women’s Initiative, Ezabir has sought to rebuild trust in Jammu and Kashmir, and helped to initiate conversations about the important role women can play in building peace in the region. Recently, she was also instrumental in the breakthrough consensus agreed by Islamic scholars, allowing Kashmir’s ‘half-widows’ – women whose husbands have disappeared but are not yet declared deceased – to remarry after four years. This ruling will have an enormous impact on hundreds of women, many from rural communities, who often live impoverished lives after their husbands’ disappearance.
Conflict had its own consequences, but mostly it led to the silent suffering of women … We brought women across community lines to a common platform. They shared their pain and voiced hopes for the future. It is our attempt to promote coexistence between communities, for it is important to focus on what the problem is, rather than who the problem is.
Day 6: Rosa Emilia Salamanca - Colombia
There is no peace without development, and no development without peace – and neither peace, nor sustainable development without the active participation of women in both processes.
Rosa Emilia believes in the transformative, healing power of female peacebuilders. She has dedicated herself to strengthening the participation of women and civil society in decision-making and peace processes in Colombia, the only country in the Western hemisphere still suffering a major internal armed conflict. She is Executive Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), one of Conciliation Resources’ partners, and also part of the Women, Peace and Security Collective, a group of women in Colombia who have launched a new initiative, called the Ethical Pact for a Country in Peace. The Pact seeks to galvanize Colombian society to work towards sustainable peace beyond the negotiating table.
In conflict situations, [women] are not only passive victims but ... key players in peacebuilding efforts and in decision-making. Their participation is essential ... in order to replace the legacy of conflict and violence with a legacy of peace.
Rosa Emilia Salamanca speaking at the UN General Assembly in 2014.