UN library Talks in Geneva with leading women


On photo: From left to right: 1. Sigrun Habermann: UNOG Library Team 2. Elif Eda Tibet: film maker 3. Anda Filip: International Parliament Union 4. Mr Jacob Von Uexkull: Founder of World Future Council 5. Thais Corral (Co-Founder of Women’s Environment and Development Organization) 6. Ambassador Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcès of Ecuador 7. Zahira Kamal (General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union Party) 8. Dr. Rama Mani (Senior Advisor of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Co-Founder of RWRW) 9. Dr. Scilla Elworthy (Founder of Oxford Research Group and of Peace Direct, and Co-Founder of RWRW) 10. Maria Theresa Castenada, UNOG library team.

WOMEN’S STRATEGIES FOR PEACE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS BY: Yamrote Alemu Hailesalassie

On the special occasion of the International Day of Peace, the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) Library brought together eminent women speakers to discuss «Women's Strategies for Peace for Future Generations ». The event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the UN, the World Future Council (WFC) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Through an intense performance on «Women’s Voices and Visions for a Peaceful Future», Dr. Rama Mani (Senior Advisor of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Co-Founder of RWRW) showed how women in conflict zones around the world are redefining leadership and shaping a new paradigm of power to build peace. Her testimonies focused on four women survivors from the Holocaust, Palestine, DR Congo and Syria to illustrate four paradigm shifts: from the old paradigm of ‘avoiding pain to cling to power’ to the new paradigm of ‘confronting pain to find power’; from ‘crushing the enemy with force’ to ‘facing the enemy with humanity’; from ‘the love of power justifying anything’ to ‘the power of love enabling everything’ and from ‘divide and conquer’ to ‘unite and protect’. Their stories showed the resilience and courage of ordinary women in the face of extraordinary crises and that “every darkness contains a point of light”.

Zahira Kamal (General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union Party) on “Reimagining Political Leadership for Troubled Times”. She shared her powerful first-hand experience as a woman politician and activist who became the first ever Minister of Women’s Affairs of Palestine and first female Secretary General of a political party. After touching on the crisis in the Middle East and the current challenges faced by the Occupied Palestinian Territories, she exposed women's roles in the struggle for peace and reconstruction. She mentioned several key initiatives she has led: identifying qualified women suited for leadership; encouraging women to pursue different studies and convincing conservative families to allow women to pursue higher education; empowering women by raising awareness on their rights, and supporting victims or so called 'losers' (those who lost their homes, family members or even hope) to get their voices heard in policy debates. She finished her intervention by sensitizing the audience that under the Occupation “going to school is an act of resistance, going to the hospital is an act of resistance, whatever you are doing in life is an act of resistance!”

Next to share her views, was Thais Corral (Co-Founder of Women’s Environment and Development Organization), who started by paying tribute to Wangari Maathai for her invaluable work in the Green Belt Movement, which showed the interconnectedness between peace and the environment. She focused on “Securing Environmental and Food Security for Future Generations” by presenting a vital initiative that empowered women in the semi-arid region of Brazil. This movement led by women revolves around the licuri palm tree, a tree that is part of the identity of the women and the communities, and also a source of livelihood. This initiative not only gives a key role to women, but also fights against deforestation, protects the environment, addresses food scarcity, and contributes to the livelihood of the communities and peace. It is an initiative that deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, according to Ms. Corral as it showcases the interconnection between development, gender equality, peace, food and environment. “We live in a world where everything is separated - Democracy, Peace, Environment, etc. - So we get confused and fail to see how everything is interconnected.”

Dr. Scilla Elworthy (Founder of Oxford Research Group and of Peace Direct, and Co-Founder of RWRW) delivered a passionate and compelling speech presenting first RWRW and then outlining four strategies for peace. She highlighted the unique approach of RWRW to co-create a world that works for all through 12 ‘Constellations’ of women experts who propose clear visions and tested strategies for transformation in each of the key sectors. She then explained four key strategies for peace: first, enabling more qualified women in countries in conflict to occupy key positions in peace agreements; second, building infrastructures for peace, as in Kenya; third, teaching children the skills of non-violence starting at nursery schools; and fourth, getting the media to give recognition to heroes and heroines of war prevention. Such heroines and heroes are the ones who, for instance, mediate between warlords in Sudan, rescue child soldiers in DRC, persuade young people to not become suicide bombers in Pakistan, or build bridges between people who hate each other in Sri Lanka. She stressed the importance of having their stories told on the front pages of all newspapers. She invited the audience to “imagine a world where peace builders, in every part of the planet, were systematically trained in the skills of Gandhi, Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. Imagine if graduating from such a course became a basic qualification for standing election to any public office.”

These interventions were followed by an interactive discussion with the audience during which several speakers from diverse UN agencies, permanent Missions and non-governmental and academic organisations shared their perspectives and asked pertinent questions on the topics raised in the panel. Amongst them was Jakob von Uexkull (founder of WFC and the Right Livelihood Award) who delivered a powerful statement on the WFC’s Global Policy Action Plan, which comprises concrete and tested policy solutions responding to the most urgent peace-threatening challenges we face. He also highlighted the annual Future Policy Award, which his organisation, in partnership with the IPU and UN agencies, annually celebrates policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations.. In 2014, the award recognized best policies to end violence against women, and its 2015 edition will celebrate, on 20th of October 2015 in Geneva, the world’s best policies strengthening children’s rights, in partnership with UNICEF and IPU.

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