Archive for the ‘Nobel Women’s Initiative’ Category

The NWI/openDemocracy blog is a diary of the event written by four rapporteurs, NWI participants and openDemocracy’s program director Jane Gabriel. Our poDcast was directed by Siobhan O’Connell, openDemocracy’s podcast producer. If you wish to e-mail us about this blog, please see the contact page.


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openDemocracy published four articles as part of our NWI coverage. You can read them by following the links below.

The meaning of Peace in the 21st century, by Shirin Ebadi

Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn, by Isabel Hilton

Nothing is impossible, the difficult takes longer, by Nadwa Sarandah

A Nothern Ireland lesson, by Anne Carr

You can now read the transcripts of the poDcast here in .pdf format:poDcast transcripts 1, 2 and 3.

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Closing statement to participants at the first international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative: Women redefining peace in the Middle East and Beyond

We would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come to Galway to participate in our first international conference. We have come together here out of our shared concern for the state of the world today – the spiralling violence, terrorism and anti-terrorism begetting more violence, always and increasingly borne by women and children.

We have been here together to share our experiences and the lessons learned in our various responses to violence against women. We know that our ability to confront this violence depends upon our ability to understand the causes and linkages as well as learn from the hope, the positive responses of resilience and non violent creativity of women in the Middle East and beyond.

We have talked about the continuum of violence – at the local, regional, national and international levels – and that we respond to that continuum of violence on local, regional, national and international levels as well. We know that all of our work is linked, whether we acknowledge the linkages or not, and that all of our work is contributing to building cultures of peace.

Listening to you all, sharing together, we have heard many not liking to word “peace”. We have discussed how “peace” has been high jacked as a meaningful word and has become synonymous with “weak”. We know that working for peace is anything but “weak” – it is hard work every single day.

We have heard women from throughout the Middle East that conflict will not end without dialogue – dialogue built on inclusions, human rights, justice and inequality – and we heard of the dialogue that you are engaged in daily, proving that it is not only possible but necessary. Indeed it is impossible for countries under occupation – Palestine, Iraq – to meaningfully participate in that kind of dialogue. As one participant said, “In order to co-exist, we must first exist”.

We have heard you ask the people of the United States to work on real democracy at home. Even when the people of that country vote the party of invasion out of the control of Congress, the Democratic Party has stepped back from legislation to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq.

We would also like to thank all of the women here for sharing with us your ideas as to how the Nobel Women’s Initiative can use our combined visibility and access to power to advance the issues addressed here. We will take these suggestions with us, so that the NWI can asses how we can respond to the broad array of action we might take.

We would also like to ask all of you who have shared this experience together to think, perhaps, about “peace” in terms of human security. Human security is a world where people recognize that sustainable peace, human rights, and sustainable development are indivisible parts of global security – security based on the needs of the peoples of the world and meeting their needs with justice and equality.

More weapons will only make us less secure, meeting the needs of the peoples inhabiting this tiny planet is what will make us more secure. Human security not National security.

We also ask that when we talk about violence we recognise that violence is not “just part of human nature”. Violence is a choice. Whether it is the violent choice of a man to beat a woman he supposedly loves, or the violent choice of a community to ghettoize people who are “different” racially or ethnically, or the violent choice of illegal invasion, or the violent choice of occupation. Building a culture of peace is learning and teaching that there are different choices. We as individuals do not have to choose violence. We as societies do not have to either support violent choices or participate in making them.

We as women can and must redefine peace – in the Middle East and beyond.

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How can peace be built? openDemocracy.net was at the conference trying to find clues from the Nobel Laureates and the NWI participants. We now present three poDcasts from the Nobel Women’s Initiative in Galway. Listen now.

  • Part One: Women and conflict in the middle east
  • Part Two: Redefining peace
  • Part Three: What makes the difference
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    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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    by Roja Bandari, NWI rapporteur and PhD student in electrical engineering

    I have had a chance to watch a movie with Shirin Ebadi, have dinner at the same table with Miread Corrigan, sing the “peel banana” song with Betty Williams, envy Wangari Masthai’s outfit, plan for an NPR interview with Jody Williams and sing, dance and learn from women many of which deserve to be laureates. Do you think I will ever wish to meet a president or celebrity in my life?

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    by Jameen Kaur, NWI rapporteur, Amnesty International Ireland

    At 9.30 this morning we were again reminded of the humanity and inner resilience of Dau Aung San Suu Kyi and her continued struggle against an illegal military dictatorship as her presence overflowed from the giant screen. Her unjust absence from the conference is a cruel reminder of her long persecution by the dictatorship of Burma. How is it that the fourth largest army in South East Asia, a dictatorship that spends at least 40% of its budget on militarization and a mere 1% on health and education, can fear one woman who preaches non violence? Suu Kyi’s message to the international community is loud and clear. She urges us not to feed the dictatorship of Burma. Calling us to cut off all economic ties with Burma. End tourism and all other forms of engagement with Burma, which feed and nurture the dictatorship. As we note her forthcoming 62nd birthday: 19 June, and rush to scribble her address to send greeting cards, we were all conscious that this was our last and final day as a group.

    The main question that stood before us like a majestic elephant, was how do we continue to most effectively voice our struggle and our resistance to the continual denial of our basic human rights? Our final moments were about magnifying the courage, the strength and the rights and needs of all the women in the room, and all those that they represented in each and every corner across the world. Ideas initially discussed on the first day were again given weight and focus: A mainstream media for women, by women was a vital and essential tool. It would make the invisible visible. Connections between advocacy and activism conducted at the local, regional, national and international level must be reinforced and developed. Women must be represented at every political level of society for real change to be negotiated and implemented.

    Many hands were going up for comments and questions; a sense of urgency had taken over- that what had been so vibrantly and passionately discussed did not remain merely in the room, but effectively infiltrated through every level of society. Each statement was again re-enhanced by a woman’s human story of suffering. That at the core of all our discussions, our work was an over whelming unity of pain and resistance which was endured every minute of every hour of every day by women worldwide. The Laureates listened and took notes. They made a commitment that they would support the expertise that was being conducted on the ground. We were reminded again by Mairead Corrigan Maguire that we must all ‘live in the minute. That we must continue to celebrate life.’

    As I walk away from the hotel, from the laughter and the electric vibrancy of 80 beautiful, strong women dancing and celebrating the essence and joy of life. I feel like a child that has just returned from a magical fun fair. I carry a huge bouquet of balloons in my hand, each one representing all the emotions I felt over the last three days, from anger to horror to joy and pain. I have been privileged to hear so much, see so much and be touched by so much. And I know within me that a window has opened in my heart, and I will never be the same. I know that I have a voice. That my voice with the voice of so many other men, women and children around the world will continue to fight for real change. I am reminded of what Suu Kyi said. That ‘freedom is giving joy to others. Freedom is understanding what is right within you, and exposing it without endangering yourself and others.’

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