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Archive for the ‘Maggie Baxter’ Category

by Maggie Baxter, Green Belt Movement International

I came to the conference as a trustee of Green Belt Movement International whose founding director received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 – Wangari Maathai. Having been the Executive Director of WOMANKIND Worldwide, a UK international women’s rights and development agency, and now working on stopping the trafficking of women into the UK, developing a women’s resource and fund in the UK and supporting a small agency called Women for refugee women, the opportunity of attending the conference was an opportunity to listen and reflect. To listen to women who were tackling the complexities of peace building both as academics and practitioners, to test my knowledge and assumptions on women’s rights around the world, and begin to see where and how my experience could be used in the future.

I was particularly interested in hearing how outside agencies, whether individuals or organisations, could assist in other people’s crises. After all I had spent nearly 20 years working for funding organisations. What was appropriate? What was legitimate? What was asked for?

It would also throw light on how the women Nobel Laureates could collectively bring their influence to bear in changing things on the ground for communities suffering as a result of conflict. Conflicts which were often not of their making and deeply rooted in a number of conflicting arenas: global power-mongering; corporate supremacy; the market economy; international and national government policies – and the victims of most conflicts being women and children.

Day 1 –

The day was one of setting the scene with insights of the role the USA played on the world stage both politically and economically and how their instability and fear had set the world on a possible path to a third world war. By the end of the day my head was spinning from the many concepts that had been thrown out and chewed over: fundamentalism; identity politics; power mapping; the ‘weaponisation of women’s bodies’, capitalism and market economy and many more.

But what of the role of outsiders to the situations? It was mentioned that we need to think of what kind of interventions were appropriate for donor agencies, governments, civil society activists acknowledging that support and resources are needed – but support needs to be sure that it is not doing more damage or harm than the help it brings.

The messages: be careful who you partner with, there may be conflicting agendas; through these partners continue to make the connections and linkages and a collective movement and strength can be achieved; always use the media with individual powerful stories – each story should add strength to the other.

But beware! International not for profits are feeding on women in areas of conflict – they take a third of the budget back to their own countries, they don’t listen to local voices who know what needs doing, they are arrogant thinking they know better. This message came across loud and clear on the second day… (more…)

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