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.”

Elisha Bano

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.”

Margarita Akhvlediani

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.
As the first female Chairperson of the Philippines’ Government peace panel for negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014 Miriam signed a comprehensive peace agreement ending four-decades of armed conflict. The panels now work towards implementation of the agreement and creation of a new autonomous ‘Bangsamoro’ region. Miriam is keen to ensure that the views and rights of different groups – different ethnicities, different political groups, men and women and traditional leaders – are all represented.
She feels her current role as official peace negotiator makes it easier for local women to approach her with their concerns, as well as offer their ideas on how to create a stable and peaceful community. 

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.
Madame Rosalie, the Mayor of Zemio in south-eastern Central African Republic (CAR), plays a key role in reducing tensions in her community, which is affected by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) conflict.  She works hard to prevent violence and ensure her community’s resilience, and her personality, confidence and strong convictions have earned her great respect and credibility. An advocate and spokesperson for women and their rights, she has been involved for several years with the work of Conciliation Resources and local partner organisation Femme Homme Action Plus, which seeks to empower women and supports LRA returnees.
At the end of 2014, when violence was breaking out between the local Muslim population and groups of young people, her courageous actions diffused the situation.  With her persuasive speech and commitment to peacebuilding, she succeeded in convincing the feuding groups to lay down their arms.

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.

Ezabir Ali

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.