Category Archives: WOMEN’S EQUALITY

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the United Nations

Afghan women have “paid a high price” during their country’s nearly four decades of conflict, the United Nations deputy chief said on Friday, addressing the Security Council a day after Kabul had been hit with a fresh round of “horrific” bomb attacks.

As she opened her briefing, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed offered her “deepest condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan”, saying that “indiscriminate attacks that kill women and children are an affront to our humanity and a crime under international humanitarian law”.

Before updating Council members on her recent visit to the country, she affirmed that the UN “stands with Afghans as they work for lasting peace and security”.


Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefs the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan and her recent visit to the country. (26 July 2019), by UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Afghan women on the rise  

Under the Taliban government, “women and girls were denied access to education, health services and protection from extreme violence, and could not participate in political or public life”, said Ms. Mohammed.

Her briefing comes just days after returning from her third visit to the country to explore UN support for the ‘ women, peace and security’ agenda. She was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

While there, Ms. Mohammed held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, the Chief Executive, the First Lady, as well as senior leaders and religious scholars; and made a field visit to Bamiyan Province and spoke to women leaders, decision-makers and health care workers.

“In the past 18 years, there has been significant progress”, the UN deputy chief reported, pointing out that women encumber senior roles in the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries; 27 per cent of the civil service is female; and women are serving as mayors and provincial governors.

Moreover, elections are scheduled for 28 September and both the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission heads are women.

Since the fall of the Taliban, nine out of 11 million Afghan children are now enrolled in school; investments in reducing maternal mortality are saving thousands of lives; and improved infrastructure and power supplies are connecting remote areas to national economic opportunities.

Afghanistan has “done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are “rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society”, Ms. Mohammed spotlighted.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  holds great promise for the lives of Afghans across the country,” she said highlighting that 24 UN agencies are partnering with the government on issues ranging from food security to clean water and the rule of law, “often risking their lives”.

Global Goals

On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she conveyed that SDG 5, on gender equality, is “essential to ensure that women have access to education, health care and decent work, and that women are represented in all areas of society and in all political and economic decision-making processes, including in government and in peace negotiations”.

“SDG16 on peace, justice and strong institutions will also be essential to hold free, fair and credible elections, to build trust in state institutions, and to facilitate reconciliation and the reintegration of former combatants after the signing of any peace agreement”, added the UN deputy chief.

She brought to light that in the short-term, 6.3 million Afghans need humanitarian aid across the country, adding that “the Humanitarian Response Plan is just 27 per cent funded”.

“We must increase that level urgently, to provide immediate support and protection to displaced people and those in greatest need”, explained Ms. Mohammed. 

Peace needed ‘urgently’

“As we witnessed again yesterday, conflict continues in Afghanistan”, Ms. Mohammed said, noting that in the first five months of this year, conflict displaced more than 100,000 people, which “increases the risk of gender-based violence”.

(Continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

(Continued from left column)

And in areas where the Taliban has reclaimed control, “there are reports of honor killings, stoning and other attacks on women’s rights”, she lamented, adding that “peace, security and economic stability are urgently needed”.

All the women she spoke to “wanted an inclusive peace centred on women, as well as victims and survivors”, she told the Council.

“Afghan women, like women everywhere, must play a part in decisions that will affect their future”, she spelled out. “Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do for women and girls, it is the only way to make durable peace”.

Sustainable peace will take time and must address violations and divisions of the past for the country to achieve closure.

“Inclusion and consensus are also essential to creating the greatest possible peace dividend, benefitting all parts of the economy and all sections of society…to address stigma and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or regional differences”, she elaborated.

With women playing “a central role” in creating peaceful, inclusive communities with opportunities for all, she said, “Afghanistan is at an important crossroads” and needs the support of the entire UN system and international community “to invest in building on the gains, while sustaining peace”.

“I urge this Council to do all in its power to support all Afghans in realizing their hopes and aspirations for lasting peace, stability and prosperity”, concluded the Deputy Secretary-General.

Gearing up to vote

Taking the podium after Ms. Mohammed, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo recalled that Afghanistan is marking the centennial of its independence, saying that it is at “a pivotal juncture with an unprecedented opportunity for peace”.

She underscored the need that the upcoming presidential elections are “credible and held on time”, adding that the UN is providing technical assistance and that the Independent Electoral Commission has “made steady progress” in its preparations – with two non-voting UN members embedded in each Commission.

A $149 million election budget has been finalized, with the Government covering $90 million and the international community the rest.

“Over half a million more Afghans have registered, of which some 36 per cent are women”, she updated the Council. “This is the first time that citizens were given an opportunity to review and make corrections to the 2018 voters list”.

Despite this progress, challenges remain, including the recruitment and training of thousands of polling staff.

“With only nine weeks remaining to the polling and the Commissions working against the clock”, she underscored that there is no room for technical or political delays, adding also that “a level playing field amongst all candidates is key for credible elections”.

Credible elections are “vital” to give the newly-elected president “the authority needed to bring the country together in the peace process”, she maintained.

Finding a political solution

Meanwhile, direct talks between the United States and the Taliban continue.

And while this is “an important step forward” towards formal negotiations between the Government and the Taliban to reach a sustainable peace agreement, Ms. DiCarlo affirmed that additional intra-Afghan conferences are planned.

“A political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan remains more relevant than ever, as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict” she stressed, calling on all conflict parties “to respect international humanitarian law, to ensure access for humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance and to distinguish between combatants and civilian targets to protect civilians from hostilities”.

In closing, Ms. DiCarlo underscored that “Afghans deserve peace and the right to choose their representatives”.

We urge this Council to do the same”, she concluded.

A view from the ground

Addressing the Council via videoconference from Kabul, Jamila Afghani of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Afghanistan, underscored the impact of the conflict on ordinary Afghans, who live in constant insecurity yet find themselves on the side lines of peace talks. 

Since September 2018, the US and other countries had facilitated efforts towards a negotiated peace, but she stressed that there has been a clear absence of meaningful participation by women and other actors, notably the direct victims of war. 

“Afghan women must be able to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them,” she said, and urged the Council to ensure clear procedures for engaging Afghan women from diverse backgrounds in peace negotiations and conflict resolution efforts, especially as negotiators and religious leaders who can bridge political gaps on the path to peace. 

She added that the Council should ensure that this year’s elections include enhanced security for women voters and candidates, and for networks involving the Government, civil society and other stakeholders to promote women’s participation. 

Women Are Critical to Building a Lasting Peace in Afghanistan

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article by Ian J. Lynch in The Diplomat

Women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.


Independent Afghan artists draw a graffiti on a barrier wall of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to mark International Women’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 8, 2019.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, is back in Qatar  for what could be the final round of U.S.-Taliban negotiations. He tweeted  on July 31, “if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on.” While he also  that talks “between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team,” would follow, the Taliban maintain that they will not negotiate directly  with the Afghan government. Even if “inclusive” intra-Afghan talks do materialize it remains likely the role of women will be marginal. 

Afghan women and their advocates  are concerned that their exclusion at the negotiating table will severely undermine the gains they have made over the past 17 years. Moreover, women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities that will be necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.

At the heart of the exclusion of women from the peace process in Afghanistan are two pervasive, often unstated, but widely held, notions: 1) Afghan women are not well suited to negotiating an effective peace agreement with the Taliban and 2) women do not need to be present at negotiations so long as negotiators commit to protecting women’s rights. These ideas actually weaken the prospects for a long-term, inclusive peace.

A peace agreement that ends outright hostility and provides a means for reconciliation is essential, but the peace process will not end with an agreement. The everyday actions necessary for peacebuilding will require the participation of civil society, municipal leaders, traditional institutions, and, crucially, women. The participation of women and civil society groups in negotiations greatly increases the likelihood that peace agreements last.

The development of a new culture of peace will be an arduous process, but vital if Afghanistan is to avoid a relapse of civil conflict. The 15,000 women who participated in recent grassroots Afghan Women for Peace  forums in all 34 provinces demonstrate both the capacity and the desire to be effective peacebuilders.

(Continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

(Continued from left column)

Women across the countryside already perform the kind of everyday negotiations with Taliban leaders  necessary for a  new culture of peace to take root beyond an agreement on paper. In the hotly contested Kunduz province, 510 women stated  in March they “have a continuous and active role to play in the maintenance of social peace, and the peace process.” They “have been able to stop youth, and people who are easily influenced by the insurgent groups, from fighting against their own villages and homes.” The same month in Nimroz, 500 women said  they speak to their neighbors “about the importance of peace, especially with families who are suspected to be members of the insurgent groups.”

In April, Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and others to discuss the progress of the talks and “the necessity of an inclusive #Afghan  negotiating team.” Women were not present in this meeting about the “necessity” of an inclusive process and yet Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who until recently led armed opposition to the government – and other former warlords were at the table.

Prior to the U.S.-Taliban talks in June, Khalilzad met with  female Afghan politicians and tweeted, “US policy is that women should be at the table in intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations.” Members of the Afghan Women’s Network were also present  when Khalilzad briefed President Ghani during the same trip to Kabul. This was an improvement compared with earlier diplomacy by the U.S. envoy, but women need to be given more than a consultative role.

For their part, the Taliban know they need to improve  their image on women’s rights to secure a peace agreement. Insurgents and warlords involved in the peace process may even agree to long-term institutional compromises to reach a final peace agreement that ends the war, offers some impunity for their actions, and affords them participation in governance similar to the rehabilitation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami party. 

However, a willingness to agree to laws and institutions on paper should not be interpreted as a willingness to respect and uphold a functioning legal system. Insurgents, warlords, and other entrepreneurs of violence rarely expect future legal structures to affect them, because the law has never applied to them before. In practice, Taliban commanders continue to deliver brutal public punishments  to women who stray from their strict interpretation of Sharia law. 

Power sharing earned via violence produces a fragile peace. As Mary Kaldor argues in Global Security Cultures, such a peace may be better than continued warfare, but the entrenchment and legitimization of violent actors’ power perpetuates crime, human rights abuses, and fails to resolve grievances that can reignite conflict later. 

To avoid a compromised peace, the Afghan process must subordinate violent actors and uplift the moderate, majoritarian sources of political legitimacy that are too often left out of peace talks. Afghan women have consistently practiced the local-level peacebuilding that will be needed to reinforce a national-level political settlement and build a culture of peace over time. The Taliban will resist including women and it will make the process more difficult, but involving a broad set of Afghan actors committed to the everyday reproduction of peace is the only way to build an enduring peace. 

Ian J. Lynch recently graduated with a Masters in Middle East, Caucasus, and Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is the former Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Leadership Afghanistan, the country’s first and only boarding school for girls. He tweets at @Ian_J_Lynch.

Venezuela. The construction of peace must have the quality of feminism

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article by Entrompe de Falopio in Kaosenlared (translation by CPNN)

Within the framework of the “Women and the Construction of a Culture of Peace” project, we present an interview with REBECA MADRIZ, militant Feminist, member of the Gender with Class Foundation created in 2008 and a lawyer by profession

Venezuela has been experiencing confrontation and conflict between political positions that have formed two irreconcilable or seemingly irreconcilable poles. How do you see the current stage of that conflict or polarization?

RM: In the first place, the level of political polarization that exists in Venezuela is unique, even when compared to the rest of Latin America. It is a complex situation with serious effects on the Venezuelan people, aggravated by the interference of factors external to the country.

There are very worrying levels of this polarization as it is expressed in the daily life of the life of Venezuelan women and men. In principle it has to do with the violence and intolerance encouraged by political factors, where the media have a leading role. There are outbreaks of fascism expressed in very radical sectors. They have been repeatedly denounced as a hatred that has no basis or justification, but which is expressed specifically in levels of political violence especially against popular sectors, There are alarming aspects of violence, extreme discrimination , hate speech, physical violence, racism, misogyny. Hate crimes have occurred for political reasons that have taken the lives of Venezuelan women and men, which is an element of deep concern.

In this sense, the call for national dialogue is a priority, because it is precisely the national interest, for the future of the country and the Venezuelan people. Unfortunately there are undemocratic sectors that are blocking this possibility. I have no doubt, that dialogue is a national and patriotic feeling, because it is about putting the Venezuelan people above political differences, and settling differences within our Constitutional and democratic framework.

In Venezuela, the people were historically excluded from politics, but thanks to the context of participatory and leading democracy our voice is heard today today. But there is a non-democratic sector of the country that does not want the people to take part in power. They seem to believe that we are in past centuries and that this is the kind of democracy that gives citizenship only to a privileged sector while denying it to the great majority of the people. It must be denounced that one of the political sectors in our conflict has a very serious level of anti-national bias, which is expressed in their refusal to dialogue. This does not support the democratic spirit of the country, but rather it is detrimental. And to this we must add – because it is impossible to talk about Venezuela without putting this in context – the interference of foreign factors, an entire international coalition that aims to overturn the route validated by the Venezuelan people with the Constitution since 1999.

Now, polarization is also expressed in everyday life, we see families, work, circles of friendships torn apart by that polarization. However, I still believe that polarization passes to a second level of importance when we evaluate that this is the most complex situation we have experienced, due to the international threats and military intervention that have been made against the country. It is our position as feminist militants that every scenario of war conflict, every scenario of conventional warfare, is a threat to women and a violation of human rights. We have made significant gains, and we do not want to sacrifice them and much less to turn our bodies into the spoils of war.

This international threat exacerbates our polarization, aided by the violence expressed by the most radical undemocratic sectors. This international pressure is not a small thing, because it is led by the US that it is the world’s first military power, that has shown its criminal side in interventions in sister countries. In our case, we hope that internal conflicts can be resolved by Venezuelan women and men without foreign intervention.

Here is the challenge in everyday life for the social and popular movement. We call first the feminists who militate in the Venezuelan opposition, who also fight for a life free of violence, to locate a common agenda, always within the framework of respect for the country’s sovereignty, human rights, and democracy. These are the key points, determinants of what we cannot be willing as a people to yield or sacrifice. We are obliged to work together to understand and overcome what is at risk in Venezuela today.

In particular, the political conflict how it has affected women and dissident sexualities

RM: The level of polarization in the country today is not neutral, of course; it is about the rise to political power of sectors of the Venezuelan people that were historically excluded. This polarization produced a reaction that has manifested itself over twenty years of political process in several very serious events for the country: the oil strike, coup d’etats, sabotages in different instances, among others. Scenarios that have demonstrated a claim to return to the political power of the elites of the right, regardless of the effects. This has had very serious consequences in the Venezuelan people. The unconventional war, the economic and financial blockade, has very serious consequences on the human rights of the Venezuelan people. In the specific case of women, we have become the center of economic warfare and unconventional warfare that has been unleashed against the Venezuelan people.

First, one of the fundamental strengths of the Bolivarian Revolution has been its social policy, in which women are placed as a priority, because we continue to be the majority of the poor in the country. As a result of this process and the developed democratic context, we, as women, have experienced a significant expansion of citizenship. And besides, feminism has managed to shed some of the burden of prejudices that weighed on it. There has been an organizational explosion of women fighting in the community, in the workplace, against violence, for sexual and reproductive rights. This has produced a significant empowerment, which added to the history of the feminist and women’s movement in Venezuela, and the political will of President Hugo Chávez and his declaration as a feminist, also allowed us to popularize and demystify feminism. Today the popular organizational expression of women in Venezuela is absolutely overflowing after twenty years of political process.

This explosion has led women to assume a key role in the voluntary community day, which is above 80% female participation. That is why the women’s movement is central to thestructuring of the social force that accompanies the Bolivarian Revolution. We are the majority in social missions, in communal councils, in CLAP, that is, in front of all the forms of popular organization that have been changing and developing,. The combative face of Venezuelan women is a fortress, no doubt, very big.

The economic war, especially since 2013, with a very high peak in 2015, and then in 2018 and 2019, when it began to be expressed in hoarding, speculation, bachaqueo and attack to the currency was intended to demobilize to a large extent the popular movement that was the social support of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The intention of removing women from the community political day is beginning to be expressed with the disappearance of fundamental products for women and mothers: sanitary napkins, absence of contraceptives, diapers, milk for the kids. That is, a series of products that were especially linked to women, the head of household, the housewife, the working woman. They took us out of the community political activity, voluntarily, to get us in an 8-hour queue. Recall 2015 where there were queues of 8 and 12 hours to access a package of diapers, a package of milk. There I think there is a very key element that has to do with the objectives and effects of that war in the lives of women.

If in conventional wars, our bodies are used as spoils of war, I believe that this unconventional war is meant to take us out of the political, public sphere. It is related to detriment of the material conditions of the Venezuelan people, of violation of fundamental human rights, of the right to access to food, to health As a direct consequence of the situation of international blockade, this had and has a heartbreaking impact on the daily life of Venezuelan women.

The effects on the lives of women is alarming. We are forced to defend the human rights that we believed were already assured. We consider that the systematic attack that the country is experiencing today can be classified as a crime against humanity. The context today shows us that then we have to be on the street fighting to have access to food, for light, water, food and medicine, which for us are fundamental human rights, already acquired, and guaranteed.

To speak today of our historical struggle, might seem out of context elements in a scenario in which we have to fight to have food every day, to have access to drinking water; however, it is obviously part of our political agenda.

The scenario of war in the country makes the situation more complex. The health system is vulnerable due to lack of vital materials. Deaths from clandestine abortions and unwanted pregnancies are increased due to the fact that we do not have access to contraceptive methods. The violation of specific rights becomes more complex. The health system is forced to give priority to antibiotics, and contraceptives may not be a priority in a scenario in which we are fighting for the most basic elements of subsistence.

Finally, the scenario of war and all that frustration that has produced the change in our daily lives, in the level of life achieved, all the psychological pressure to which we are subjected daily, have expressions in the home. This is the place that should be the safest, but which is sometimes the most dangerous for women. To the burden of structural machismo that we already had, we must add the frustration scenario of a frustrated male supplier, who discharges his violence, on those whom he continues to believe are his property: the body and life of women.

We have made progress in women’s rights in Venezuela with legal framework, institutional framework, a movement in full swing and in full demand, in full tension with the institutional framework, a tension for progress. However, war has indeed been attacking this agenda, as I was saying to you as our agenda for the strategic objective of equality, has had to adjust to this basic struggle for survival, for the subsistence of the most elementary things. I do believe that women are at the center of this war which is intended to demobilize the main social force of the historical project of the Bolivarian Revolution.

There are those who believe that violence can be increased either by an invasion or by open civil war, what impacts would this have on the lives of women and dissident sexualities?

RM: Either scenario, of course, would have a negative effect on the entire Venezuelan people. In the case of women, a foreign military intervention as history has told us, and as the testimonies of the women victims confirm it – the presence of foreign military increases sexual violence and physical violence against women. An intervention in our country would mean an invasion not only to our territory but also to our body. The use of women in these scenarios, to undermine the dignity of peoples, has been a recurring practice that has been used by all these international military coalitions when they arrive in a country. It is not only the physical annihilation, but it is the moral annihilation of that population, that is done on the body of women, to degrade, to undermine dignity, to vex, humiliate, such as the use of systematic rape, the use of girls for sexual purposes, physical violence. Of course, all of this constitutes a very serious risk to the lives of Venezuelan women. Likewise, in the case of a civil war in the country. That is why we strongly reject the intention of putting war as part of the political options as an undemocratic sector of the Venezuelan opposition has claimed.

There is an element that is the profound patriarchal characteristic of wars: the use of weapons is a structural part of the patriarchy, that model of masculinity in which wars and confrontation are the way to the solution of any difference. Within the framework of a society that has begun the 21st century with very large elements of progressivity, our people cannot and does not deserve it. Despite our polarization, there is not even the slightest will of the great majority for either one of these two scenarios, precisely because of the democratic tradition we have as a people. Venezuelan women refuse both of these two scenarios, both deeply patriarchal, of reaffirmation of power, force, hierarchies and supremacy, because we understand that the dead and dead of that war are the children of the people. The great majority of Venezuelan women refuse to give up on the peaceful route, because finally the casualties of any warlike scenario, of armed conflict, are the men and women of the people.

We view with great concern any scenario of military intervention by foreign armies in Venezuela, to solve a problem of Venezuelans. We have the democratic and constitutional mechanisms to solve our problems. Indeed the consequences on the lives of women, would be to return to another century. I have confidence in the maturity, level of awareness and politicization of a people that is capable of being above those who invoke any kind of confrontation in the country. The path of dialogue is the first scenario for us. We reject any option that involves the sacrifice of human lives of Venezuelan wmen and men in an armed and military intervention.

We look towards the future, without giving up our rights, or losing human lives in our country. We seek solutions and alternatives that allow us to get out of the situation we are going through. I believe that ours is a people with a democratic culture and, above all, a peaceful one that can survive and provide a promising future that allows us to continue the progress and progressivity of our fundamental human rights.

In both halls similar stories are heard. The armed conflict affected the lives of all and left Do you see the impact of geopolitics on the Venezuelan conflict, what and how would it be?

RM: I am convinced that today in the geopolitical scenario, the conservative forces have advanced and there is a recolonization project especially in Latin America that has already produced some regression in the continent. The return of some right-wing governments in Latin America show how that agenda is being imposed. In the case of Brazil and Argentina, unlike the line headed by Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chávez, the democratization and social progress of the people has been sacrificed to neoliberal policies.

In the case of Brazil, a democratic process was sacrificed in the case of Dilma Rousseff. One of the first actions after her departure was to eliminate the ministry of women. Bolsonaro represents a religious fundamentalist attack on human rights, dismantling the advances of a feminist approach. In the Argentina of Mauricio Macri the conditions of the population have deteriorated.

(Continued in right column)

(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

What is really happening in Venezuela?

(Continued from left column)

We have also seen with alarm, the murder of emblematic leaders of the popular and feminist movement, such Marielle Franco in Brazil and Berta Cáceres in Honduras, who embodied feminism in the struggles of the villages. We fear, of course, that this is the same script that is intended to be applied in Venezuela to quell popular struggles. There are other complexities on the continent, such as the case of Ecuador, where there was a reconfiguration of internal politics with a radical turn to the right.

On the other hand, the international integration mechanisms that had been promoted by Venezuelahave been sabotaged and dismantled, and a coalition of right-wing countries has embarked on a crusade to isolate Venezuela diplomatically and internationally, They have attacked CELAC and against UNASUR they have created their own coalition called PROSUR. An official of the Venezuelan government has said that it would be more accurate to name it PRONORTE because it is finally the application of the imperialist script and the recolonizing process of the continent, in which these governments act as guard dogs of foreign interests.

For those promoting that scenario, Venezuela is still deeply problematic and it continues to be a bad example, because the people fight and resist, who are not going to support a neoliberal reform. In this country despite the media, economic, unconventional warfare and – in the midst of the toughest circumstances we have had – we see a deeply conscious people, a people on the street, a people defending their sovereignty, their natural resources and defending the rights we have conquered. That is why they see us as a bad example, because we continue to insist that despite the circumstances there is a constructive alternative for the peoples of the world. Now, we must undoubtedly strive to repair the mistakes we have made as popular and progressive governments in recent years.

Another key factor in Venezuela is oil as the main energy resource. We are still flooded with the largest oil reserves in the world, and it is obvious that due to its proximity to the US, they have great interest to regain control over them.

There are also historical reasons that make us a bad example for imperialism, including the heroism of our people, the capacity for resistance and our certainty that we can move forward. Our history, our economic energy with oil and the political will of Venezuelan democracy means we are a bad example for the pretensions of recolonizing the continent; These are the fundamental scenarios of this geopolitical reconfiguration, of this new chess game that seeks to isolate Venezuela economically, militarily, diplomatically and politically.

Fortunately, in the face of the threat of foreign intervention, the response has been the solidarity of the great majority of the world’s people who refuse to let Latin America be used again as a war scenario in order to meet the designs of the government of the USA. In the context of their internal electoral elections scenario, they always need a trophy, but we are not willing to have that trophy be based on the sovereignty and life of Venezuelan women and men.

For the dialogue between the opposing poles, what elements are needed?

RM: The dialogue scenario has always been present. On the international stage there is a political will to accompany the dialogue. We insist that this is the way to settle our differences and although it seems obvious, we have to insist because every day we hear radical anti-democratic sectors rejecting dialogue, and asking for a foreign intervention. And specifically, every time a dialogue process has begun, the table is quickly left. That said, the scenario of dialogue in the country must put the welfare of the Venezuelan people at the center of the debate.

Now it is true that the Venezuelan economy has a deep structural problem. This should undoubtedly be a central element of the dialogue. The issue of the country’s recovery necessarily goes through a review of the economic structure in Venezuela. Economic actors have to play a specific role, it cannot be the State playing alone, swimming against the current, it has to be with economic actors, looking for alternatives and solutions. In any case the superior interest should be the future of the country. There are some sectors that have received financing from the State for production, but that have capitulated to sabotage, speculation, hoarding. For that, the people demand exemplary sanctions. It is one thing not to sympathize with a political option, but another one very different to play with the people’s right to food, to force a political option. That is a crime, and it must be addressed. Especially important is the transfer of powers to popular power, especially through the Communes, which is key to shielding access to food as a priority aspect. So I believe that the dialogue must transcend polarization and also consider the sectors that defend this country and are willing to work for its recovery.

Another aspect is the reparation of the victims. There are emblematic cases, such as those who have been victimized by their skin color in this country. I see it as a fundamental scenario to address the irresponsible actions of the most radicalized sectors of the right in the country. If there is no justice and recognition of the victims it is difficult to move forward. These victims must not remain invisible and mute, to the eyes and ears of the international community.

Politically, it is a very complex situation. If you ask me personally what the political exit is, I would say that the will of the majority of the Venezuelan people must be respected. We have gone through a series of elections that took place from the municipal councils, to the Presidency of the Republic, in which millions expressed our will. We have exercised the right to vote, our duty as Venezuelan women and men and we hope that this will be respected. and recognized, for its legitimacy, for its constitutionality. It is an afront to Venezuelan democracy to say that, if an electoral result does not favor me then the Constitution is not valid, the election is not worth it. It is a violation of Venezuelan democracy to insist that when a political factor does not agree with an electoral result then the elections must simply be repeated. Any decisions must be in the context of democratic commitment with respect to the Venezuelan institutions and our Venezuelan constitutional framework.

I propose this because it has been said that the opposition does not want dialogue but free elections. And I worry about that, because I voted, freely, consciously, autonomously, with full freedom of conscience, and I think that one of the greatest strengths we have is the participatory democratic model. If we weaken it, we run serious risks. So it is not clear what are “free elections” according to that sector. However, I would understand if, given the complexity of international encirclement, that part of the dialogue must debate a scenario that allows a democratic reaffirmation that avoids a violent exit to the situation in the country.

I insist that our route must follow the Venezuelan democratic system. That does not happen if you and I are candidates and if you are elected, then I can ignore you and demand new elections. Such a scenario would be a risk for Venezuelan democracy and that risk has to be the last resort used, so as not to violate our democratic system. However, I also understand that the peace of the Venezuelan people is the superior objective to which we owe ourselves at this time.

Finally, the reform of the State, must be on the agenda. The polarization that the country has today has brought about a situation of state destruction and weakening of the institutional framework, so I think that we must seek a revision of that old institutionality, expired, bureaucratic and dehumanized. We need an institution that adjusts to these times, to the new needs, with a legal framework that makes the State’s action much more effective.

We are challenged to overcome a bourgeois state and its capitalist and patriarchal logic. The situation today makes it imminent that this is an element of the technical and political debate that concerns all the core issues for the country including the economy, agriculture, education, public administration, health, human rights. I believe that this issue is key to making viable and feasible the possibility of building a much more solid route on the peaceful and democratic path that we take as a people.

The University Institute of Peace and Conflicts of Granada argues that “There is negative peace (there is peace when there is no violence), positive peace (there is peace when there is justice) and imperfect peace” How would you apply this statement to Venezuela?

RM: The Bolivarian project has peace with social justice on its route. It has been a recurring element in all the scenarios we have gone through, and it is a central agenda today. If you take away social justice from the Bolivarian Revolution, it is an unfeasible project that would have no reason to exist and you would not have people in the street defending what we have, fighting in CLAP, fighting for water, going out in the streets, rejecting a military intervention in the country. Social justice is necessary to ensure that peace is not that “negative peace” formalism where there is no scenario of violence, but where social inequalities open a gap between privileged and excluded sectors.

Today there are indeed great weaknesses in the entire state network especially in the justice system, which have generated an alarming situation of impunity. Structural changes are needed, because justice remains deeply patriarchal and classist.

In the situation that Venezuela is going through today, of blockade, of economic and financial siege, if we did not have a social protection policy, especially for the most vulnerable sectors, whose economic conditions are increasingly precarious, we would no doubt have a mass mobilization of the people against the government. But that is not the case. Indeed, there is a polarization in the country, but a good part of the Venezuelan population is resisting and defending our social gains. The other pole is also suffering and with a deep discontent but without mass action in the street.

A good part of the mobilization in Venezuela is popular, consisting of sectors of the people that historically have been the most excluded and the most vulnerable. Where those sectors have manifested themselves, the majority decisions have resulted which should be recognized by the internal and international political actors. People defend because there is a political, historical, loving reason, and there is a material reason that also moves people. While we have some sectors trying to eradicate the rights we had acquired, there is also a sector that is trying to protect what we have achieved as a people. So, we have an imperfect peace. It does not ignore the existence of conflict, contradiction, and even violence, but it values ​​the resistance and solidarity of the people to preserve the conditions of life and peace; while understanding the need for structural transformations.

What should be the role of social organizations in the construction and sustainability of a culture of peace for Venezuela?

RM: After the experience we have and have had collectively, in the feminist and women’s movement, I believe that we can set an example of what a route can be for the country. It involves principles and points that are essential, such as respect and defense of democracy and human rights. It is possible to articulate a concrete agenda of political action, of collective action. We in particular as a movement have elements that are sensitive to the whole society, one of them is violence against women. It is a route in which the popular movement can contribute to national understanding, dialogue and articulation of the poles in deep contradiction.

The contribution of the popular movement must be more than words. It must continue to be expressed in action so that the country sees the feminist movement in a common cause. For example, I believe that the reform of the organic law on the right of women to a life free of violence, should be pursued. It is a message that says a lot.

The pacifist tradition of the feminist movement is a tradition closely linked to the fight against war, to eradicate the forms of patriarchal, warlike, hegemonic and hierarchical power. This gives us a moral authority as a movement, as the main promoters of a culture of peace in the country. We women practice this every day as an example. I think this may be the best way to give a message to the country of what is possible, and I am sure we can do it.

Peace is not a specific area of ​​the female gender, nor do women have a natural predisposition for it, but its construction is a task that concerns both sexes equally. However, the fact that women’s mobilizations have often included peace among their demands, as evidenced by the alliance between suffragism and pacifism first, and the recurring unions between feminism and pacifism later, is undeniable. In conflicts that have occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, women’s groups have played an important role for peace. Do you think that in Venezuela it would be possible to replicate those experiences? Who would be the subjects of these initiatives? What conditions should be met?

RM: As I told you, peace is part of the daily contribution of women. However, there is a very specific agenda, although women are not the “subjects of peace” we are fundamental agents for it and there are examples. In this context of conflict, many efforts have been made for peace and life. We have seen this in neighborhoods of Caracas where there were clashes between violent gangs. Direct intervention by the mothers of young people who are part of these bands, has allowed the community to be pacified through their their maternal authority.

The vision of peace with social justice necessarily comes from women because they are free from violence. To ensure peace in the country, and to ensure sovereignty, justice and peace, we must overcome the patriarchal hegemonic model of sexist violence, of criminal, social, political and imperial violence. To avoid a scenario of negative peace, we must insist that this agenda has to have the structural elements that aim at overcoming class, gender and ethnic inequalities.

I believe that women have a leading role to play for the peace of the country, and for this all women must be the key subjects, with conditions of respect, equality, non-discrimination, plurality, multiculturality, respect for the National Constitution, defense of democracy, and of human rights.

We must start from the most pressing issue, which concerns the common defense of the right to life and dignity. We must avoid a fratricidal confrontation between sisters and brothers and ensure that no foreign army comes to threaten the dignity of Venezuelan women and the sovereignty of the Homeland.

I believe that peace building must have the feminist quality. It is the quality thatfeminism brings from its praxis, and from the accumulated historical and theoretical experience to the conception of peace and justice, against violence, against the warlike model that is intended to impose, which is a culture of dominance, a culture of power, a deeply patriarchal culture. The alternative to that hegemonic vision is that of feminism, is that of women. That is why I believe that what we have a lot to contribute. What we have to give for this construction of peace with social justice requires that society as a whole reconsiders its vision of women and feminizes peace as a strategic route framed in the ethics of care.

Peace through Tourism: Celebrating Her Awards

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT)

H.E. Eliza Reid, First Lady of Iceland, was the Guest of Honour at the 4th edition of the Celebrating Her awards on 7th March at ITB Berlin [ Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair] where five inspiring women were presented awards by H.E. Eliza Reid, Dr. Taleb Rifai – former Secretary General UNWTO and Chairman IIPT International Advisory Board, Rika Jean-Francois – CSR Commissioner for ITB Berlin, Kiran Yadav – VP IIPT India and Ajay Prakash – President IIPT India. The event was conducted by Anita Mendiratta – author, tourism thought leader and Special Advisor to the Secretary General of UNWTO [United Nations World Tourism Organization].

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The Celebrating Her award winners for 2019 are:

* H.E. Rania al Mashat – Minister of Tourism for Egypt for Tourism Policy and Leadership

* H.E Elena Kountoura – Minister of Tourism for Greece for Tourism Strategy and Resilience

* Helen Marano – Founder & President, Maranao Perspectives for Building Global Alliances that promote Tourism as a Force for Good

* Mechtild Maurer – General Director, ECPAT Germany for promoting Socially Responsible Tourism & the Prevention of Exploitation of Children

* Jane Madden – Managing Partner, Global Sustainability & Social Impact, FINN Partners for Sustainability and promoting Corporate Social Responsibility

Speaking of the awards, Ajay Prakash – President IIPT India said, ”the Awards are being held on the eve of International Women’s Day but our champions need to be felicitated every day of the year and each one of our award winners today is a champion. Gender equality, which is a critical part of the United Nations SDGs, is intrinsic to IIPT’s global aims and objectives and integral to fostering peace. It is also our intention, through these awards to create a network of powerful women across the world in the tourism sphere who could work with each other and serve as role models and mentors while representing IIPT as our Global Ambassadors of Peace and sustainable development. The IIPT India ‘Celebrating Her’ Awards, has at its heart this principle – the prioritisation of women as champions of the power of global tourism to uplift lives and livelihoods.”

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

How can tourism promote a culture of peace?

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In her opening address the First Lady of Iceland H.E. Eliza Reid congratulated all the winners, commended IIPT and ITB for their initiative in instituting the Awards and said that today there are considerable energies in the tourism industry to create a more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous industry and thereby help in creating a more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous world.

In his address, Dr. Rifai lauded the consistency and steadfastness of IIPT India in holding the awards every year since, he said, it is abundantly clear that humanity cannot achieve peace, development and sustainability by ignoring half the world’s population. He concluded by saying the awards were a very timely and necessary initiative and that Celebrating Her in essence was Celebrating Us.

Anita Mendiratta introduced the award winners through personal stories and anecdotes and each was invited to give a short acceptance speech.

Dr. Rania al Mashat stated that tourism was not a profession, but a passion. She accepted the award on behalf of “all Egyptian women” and expressed the hope that soon every Egyptian household would have at least one person working in the tourism industry so that the benefits could flow to all citizens.

Elena Kountoura commented on the “driving force of tourism” and its power to generate employment and improve living standards. Greece, she said, had come through many years of economic crisis and was expecting 35 million visitors this year. While thanking IIPT for the award she wryly remarked that the awards seemed to have been organised mostly by men.

Jane Madden said she had always been a champion of women and was grateful to receive an award in recognition of her work. She stated that travel had given her the opportunity to learn about other places and cultures and to educate herself and others.

Mechtild Maurer spoke of the need to sensitise everyone in the industry to the issue of the exploitation of women and children. She spoke of the need to engage with the youth, including in human rights groups, bring them to the issue and to create new leaders.

Helen Marano could not be present to receive her award but sent in a warm and personal video message expressing her happiness at being one of the recipients of a “Celebrating Her” award. She also said that the award would spur her enthusiasm. Dr. Taleb Rifai accepted the award on her behalf.

In his Vote of Thanks, Kiran Yadav – VP IIPT India congratulated all the winners, thanked the partners, especially ITB Berlin and the media partners and a special note of thanks to Anita Mendiratta who had always supported IIPT in every way.

Liberia: Feminist Voices for Peace

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

Articles from the Nobel Women’s Initiative and Peace People

From April 30 – May 3, emerging leaders from more than twenty countries came together in Monrovia, Liberia for Claiming Our Space: Emerging Feminist Voices for Peace—a groundbreaking summit co-hosted with Nobel peace laureate, Leymah Gbowee, and the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. And — spoiler alert — it was awesome!


(Click on image to enlarge).

For a detailed recap of the event, read this blog post from one of the participating emerging leaders, Louise McGowan, who reflects on her experience in Liberia!

Just last week, the Nobel Women’s Initiative along with the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa brought 50 women from over 20 countries together in Monrovia, Liberia to discuss feminism, power, activism and peace. The title of the conference was “Claiming Our Space: Emerging Feminist Voices for Peace” and over three days of multigenerational talking, engaging and sharing, women from North, South, East and West learned from and inspired one another.

On day one of three, the five Nobel Peace Laureates present (Leymah Gbowee, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Wiliams, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Tawakkol Karman) shared some of their experience and offered advice for young, ‘emerging’ feminist leaders. The overarching theme to kick off the convening was that we (women) are powerful and worthy; that we must claim our space, we must use our voice and we must not ask for permission to do so.

“No one will give you space, you have to claim it yourself.” Leymah Gbowee

Tawakkol raised the important issue of women’s roles in a post-conflict setting. “As you lead the revolution, as you lead the struggle against war, women should be there to fight corruption, to fight injustice and to fight for equality.” Our space is not temporary or negotiable.

“My message for young people is to go forward, raise your voice, say what you want to say and we laureates will support you.”  Shirin Ebadi

Through speeches, panel discussions and youth-led conversations, a number of important topics were broached over the course of the day such as: The Liberian Feminist Peace Movement; Conflict, Migration and the Diaspora; and Gun Violence and Militarisation. One might be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking that this was not the gentlest of introductions, however it should be noted that the group of women attending this conference are the embodiment of power and boldness. This is a group who will not and does not wish to shy away from difficult questions. This space provided an opportunity to explore “what is grounding us, inspiring us, what feminist leadership looks like now and what could it look like in the future?” Mikaela Luttrell-Rowland

As Rigoberta Munchú Tum stated, we must “give ideas to ignite passions of other people so that they can solve problems as well” and this day was about reminding ourselves of the importance of walking your talk (Leymah Gbowee). Many words uttered during these discussions were inspiring but more than that- feeling the strength emanating from the speakers was overwhelming. When Shroq Abdulqader Al-Qasemi spoke of turning pain into power, as a participant I felt the true value of this exchange in my soul.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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On the second day, the convening opened with eloquent spoken word from Neuteyshe Felizor and a mighty key note address from Shirin Ebadi. Following this, a panel tackled ‘decolonising feminist leadership’, unpacking cultural origins of both feminism and leadership in the process and arriving at the conclusion that power is in and of itself a colonial concept. Sometimes we have to look back to move forward. This fed directly into the subsequent youth-led discussions with two of our laureates, addressing Gender-based Violence with Leymah Gbowee and Conflict and Natural Land Resources with Rigoberta Menchú Tum. Both conversations highlighted the importance of alliance-building; tapping into different networks on a local and global scale. This emphasised to me the power of both the global feminist movement and of the individual embracing their strengths and using available resources.

After a well-earned break, the collective reconvened for breakout sessions with young feminists given space to reveal their experiences. Case studies from countries such as South Sudan, Cameroon, Colombia and Northern Ireland were discussed, and lessons learned shared. This afternoon offered an opportunity for comparison, empathy and understanding alongside ideas for strategising in a diverse range of settings. As the day drew to a close, the feeling in the (very well air-conditioned) room was that we were building important alliances in this moment.

The third day was one of joy. The plenary to start was on ‘caring for ourselves and the movement: is it even possible?’ and Felogene Anumo opened the day appropriately: “It’s said you can’t pour from an empty cup. How full are you?”.

The first session’s aim was to deepen our reflection and share knowledge of self and collective care, wellbeing and healing as critical components in our struggles for rights, justice and peace. We heard from Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchú Tum on how they look after themselves and how they continue to do the work that they do. Jody mentioned how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by urgency and righteous indignation, however with time she has learned the value of granting herself personal time and space. By exposing their own humanity and vulnerability, these powerhouse women let the young people in the room know that it’s ok to not feel strong sometimes.

Rigoberta raised the issue of our own agency; that we manage our “own energy and strength” and that “none of us can survive on goodwill alone”. This struck a chord with many of the feminists in the room who have at times felt the weight of external expectations as well as self-inflicted pressure. We were reminded that we have control over some of our pressures. Yah Parwon also spoke of finding ‘what is relevant’, leading us to think about what serves the individual; yoga might not work for everyone.

After starting the engine with the introductory panel, we shifted into gear with interactive sessions. These offered insight into Reimagining Women, Power and Movement-building; Radical Self-Care; and Intergenerational Trauma. The latter involved a moving exercise for understanding intergenerational trauma in a tangible way. All participants felt the physical weight of previous generation’s experience and hardship. The group discussed practices and rituals for addressing and letting go of trauma as well as welcoming knowledge, heritage and positive energy into our daily lives.

The Final plenary entitled ‘What’s the point of the Revolution if We Can’t Dance’ was a joyful and poignant close to our conference. Aptly, the session began with actual dancing and laughter. The panelists shared ways to centre happiness and pleasure in our movements. A crucial part of ‘claiming our space’ is finding ways to enjoy our space. With little detail spared, this open and honest discussion reaffirmed why each person exists and why each participant was present. Acknowledging that pursuing peace can be painful and hard, Leymah stated: “A brand-new sponge absorbs water and all the dirt that comes with it. We are the sponges and we need to find space to squeeze out.”

In the spirit of self-reflection, learning and solidarity participants were invited to make a commitment to themselves in relation to their own feminist leadership, to multigenerational organising and/or building communities of care. The conference was closed with intentions set and mood high. I for one felt more ‘full’ than I had when it had opened.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Colombia: Scars that build peace

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from Kienyke Historias

Coming from different places in the south of Colombia, they arrive in groups, dressed in coats, hats and gloves, since many of them are not used to the cold. In their eyes you see a mixture of emotion, expectation and some fear. From different parts of the country, these women have experienced the harshness of violence in the armed conflict.

They are organized in two groups. They greet each other and embrace each other. Some are old acquaintances. They are on the road to rebuilding their lives after having survived different forms of violence. Each story is a world, but all these worlds intersect with common elements.

Those who do not yet know each other present themselves and talk about their hopes, struggles and expectations. Little by little they gain confidence and gather the courage to experience an encounter never before possible. At the end of the afternoon, spontaneously, the group of members of the Departmental Table of Victims decide to go to the room where the other group is assembled, composed of women who were part of the FARC guerrillas in the past.

With songs performed by themselves, they still meet to dance without speaking. Music works as a balm for pains and fears. Finally, they relax and take turns interpreting music from their regions. This is the start of a 3-day meeting in which 40 women, all affected in one way or another by violence, will carry out a process of healing, encounter and forgiveness.

The second day passes and all are working in detail on a drawing of themselves. They portray in each silhouette their feelings, wounds, hopes. Then, around the fire, they talk and share their stories of pain and resilience. Crying is difficult to contain, but it serves to cleanse the soul. Talking about what happened, being heard by others in solidary silence is a way of letting go of the past. Knowing that other women went through the same thing helps relieve the burden. Finally, they are not alone.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

(Continued from left column)

In both halls similar stories are heard. The armed conflict affected the lives of all and left scars, in some physical, in other more emotional.

It’s time to meet again. All the drawn silhouettes are displayed on the wall of the room, without names or faces, all with similar pains. Each woman can see and read the pain of the others and in a symbolic act, all are prepared to write messages of encouragement about the silhouettes they are seeing: “Better days will come, trust in God.

Here are some of the messages that are now seen on the wounds drawn on the silhouettes: “You are a very strong woman”; “Smile at life, since we have life, there is still much to be done”; “Perseverance and resilience”; “Change the pain for gratitude, the world wants to discover all your potential”; “Do not let the bad moments steal your peace, smile”; “There will always be a reason to be happy, women are more than just a face”; “Light to follow, to live, to have hope” … “that those scars are used to build peace”.

There are also hugs of consolation and they lend each other handkerchiefs to dry their tears.

At the end, the participants share some reflections. “Looking at the other drawings make merealize that we share many pains,” says one of them. “The body helps tell our story,” says another.

Now each one paints a clay pot. Landscapes, positive messages, many colors and details are seen in each piece. They work with great dedication and great detail. They leave a part of each craft. Another day has passed and they leave their vessels drying during the night.

The third day arrives and the time of the meeting is over. In a mandala, each group makes an offering. They exchange flowers, vessels, messages of forgiveness and solidarity and reconciliation hugs. Enthusiastic, they express their gratitude for the space and commit to promoting more similar encounters.

Between hugs, music and smiles culminates this first “Meeting of Women, My body, Territory of Peace”, a scenario of recognition among groups of women who have been affected by the conflict. They have gone through a process of psychosocial care enabling to turn the reunion into a true process of reconciliation. A first step has been taken in their joint work, recognizing their transforming role and promoter of a culture of peace. It is no longer two groups that you see in the room. Now they are a single group of women united by solidarity and determined to work together to write a new history.

Emerging Feminist Leaders Are Claiming Their Space: Follow Us to Liberia!

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the Nobel Womens Initiative

Emerging feminist leaders from more than twenty countries are coming together in Monrovia, Liberia for Claiming Our Space: Emerging Feminist Voices for Peace—a groundbreaking summit co-hosted by Nobel peace laureate, Leymah Gbowee, and the .

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Can the women of Africa lead the continent to peace?

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These inspiring activists are leading communities to build peace and break gender barriers. Whether in the news, online, or in the streets, these young peacebuilders are making sure that their voices are heard!

And we know that the greater the voices, the louder the cry. These young women will strategize alongside five trailblazing Nobel peace laureates – Leymah Gbowee, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Tawakkol Karman and Rigoberta Menchú Tum – to build a global multi-generational feminist peace movement. Phew! No big deal. Because #HerPlace is at the head of the peace table.

Follow us on this exciting journey from April 30 – May 3, and hear first-hand from our amazing participants about their experiences on the ground. We can’t wait to introduce you to these bold young women!

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Meet the Trailblazing Maasai Women Protecting Amboseli’s Wildlife

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article by Erin Powell from International Fund for Animal Welfare

Surrounding Kenya’s Amboseli National Park lies nearly 150,000 acres of community lands shared by both people and wildlife. The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) is within the country’s richest area of biodiversity, making it particularly vulnerable to threats including poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and wildlife trafficking.

Now, a team of eight young Maasai women is at the forefront of championing the protection and safety of the region’s wildlife, while simultaneously helping to bridge the gender gap in conservation. Around the world, women are often less involved than men in the conservation and management of protected areas.

Team Lioness is one of Kenya’s first all-female ranger units. They join the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers (OCWR) who protect wildlife across six bases and one mobile unit in OOGR through IFAW’s tenBoma, an innovative wildlife security initiative.

“In the larger Amboseli region, out of almost 300 wildlife rangers, to my knowledge there was only one woman,” says Lt. Col. Faye Cuevas, IFAW Senior Vice President. “The need was apparent.”

Assessed through an intensive leadership and peer-review process by a panel of tenBoma representatives and the OCWR Director of Security, the women of team Lioness were selected based on their academic achievements and physical strength, as well as their demonstration of trustworthiness, discipline, and integrity.

“As the first women joining the OCWR Rangers, each of the team Lioness recruits brings a new perspective and a different experience with wildlife than her male counterparts,” says Cuevas. “They are important voices in protecting wildlife and reconnecting communities to the benefits of sharing land with the magnificent big cats and other wildlife that call OOGR home.”

The recruits range in age from 19 to 26 years old, and all are the first women in the history of their families to secure employment. For many, the opportunity to join team Lioness has been life-changing — on average, Maasai girls typically leave school around the age of 10. Even among Maasai women who achieve a higher education, many lack opportunities to seek jobs or financial independence.

“It’s very rare that Maasai women achieve a secondary education,” says Cuevas. “But all of team Lioness have the equivalent of a US high school education, and none of them have had a paying job before this. It’s breaking barriers.”

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Questions for this article

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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Positioned on the Kenya-Tanzania border, OOGR is an expansive area of traditional Maasai community lands and it almost completely encompasses Amboseli National Park. Within Amboseli’s ecosystem, OOGR alone is home to 90% of habitats and corridors for migratory wildlife, including the park’s 2,000 elephants. Forming a horseshoe around Amboseli, it is an essential passage for elephant migration — every elephant that leaves the national park travels through this area, whether on a southern or northern migration route.

“Because we’re conserving our environment, animals are here,” says Loise, a team Lioness ranger. “Through wild animals, there is foreign exchange. As a ranger, now I know I have to teach other women about it. I would like to help others in our community and be a good example. I’m working and happy about that.”

Other wildlife such as giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, baboons, zebra, buffalo, and vervet monkeys also call OOGR and Amboseli home. Due to Amboseli’s proximity to a porous border with Tanzania, coupled with the scale of threats like poaching, retaliatory killings, and the trafficking of wildlife and animal parts, all wildlife in this area is in potential danger. Team Lioness and the OCWR Rangers form the first line of defense for protecting and securing wildlife in these vast community lands.

“We’re encouraging the community to take care of the animals, because in our community if a lion gets in a boma or in our village, [the community] gets it out of the village and they go to kill it. So we’re encouraging them [to see the] importance of animals and to understand,” says Sharon of team Lioness.

Team Lioness will undergo initial training with the OCWR Rangers, followed by a 21-day basic ranger training course that integrates them into the six bases throughout OOGR. In addition to supporting wildlife security operations throughout the region, a large part of team Lioness’ mission will be engaging with Maasai women and maintaining community buy-in for conservation through school visits and fostering community involvement.

“For me, to be a part of team Lioness, it shows that women have an opportunity,” says Purity, a team Lioness ranger. “I’m gaining skills and knowledge on how to conserve and protect wild animals. I will go back to my community and tell them the importance [of conservation] and show them through my experience. You kill that lion, you kill your future.”

The presence of team Lioness has created a demand in some Maasai communities for more female leadership in conservation initiatives and calls for additional female rangers.

“News of team Lioness is really catching on in the Maasai community,” Cuevas says. “A Maasai woman elder from outside OOGR attended one of the recent community meetings and said, ‘I challenge us as a Maasai people that for every four rangers we hire, one of them is a woman.’ It’s really incredible. Getting the word out means we can continue to leverage tenBoma to enable rangers to act predictively to prevent harm to both wildlife and the communities that share land in the expansive OOGR.”

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

UNCSW63’s positive outcomes for women’s human rights to social protection systems, quality public services, including education, and sustainable infrastructure

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from Education International

The women workers’ delegation, including education unionists, welcomes the Agreed Conclusions of the 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which includes positive language on education and social protection systems.

Key gains on gender and education

The Agreed Conclusions  of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW63), reached on 22 March, have borne satisfying results concerning gender and education:

* There are three strong references to education in the preamble paragraphs

Educational spaces are specifically mentioned among the list of key sites that require action and attention on sexual harassment. There is a specific mention of early childhood education as “crucial in enabling women to enter and remain in the labour market”.  The wide ranging, multi-layered and most pernicious gender-based barriers to the right to education for girls are also highlighted.

* Strong call on governments to strengthen normative, legal and policy frameworks,

There is explicit reference to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by disabled women and girls, and indigenous women and girls (including in relation to education), especially for those living in rural areas.

Governments are urged to “adopt national gender-responsive migration policies and legislation, in line with relevant obligations under international law, to protect the human rights of all migrant women and girls, regardless of migration status, and to recognise their skills and education”.

A key gain for women in education is the call on governments to eliminate occupational segregation by addressing “structural barriers, gender stereotypes and negative social norms, promoting women’s equal access to and participation in labour markets and in education and training, supporting women so as to diversify their educational and occupational choices in emerging fields and growing economic sectors, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics and information and communications technology, recognising the value of sectors that have large numbers of women workers”.

* Strengthening public services for women and girls

A key paragraph in the document calls for investment in public education systems and infrastructure, free and compulsory primary and secondary education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. It also stipulates that governments should “address negative social norms and gender stereotypes in education systems, including in curricula and teaching methodologies, that devalue girls’ education and prevent women and girls from having access to, completing and continuing their education”.

Another important explicit reference is made to pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers and single mothers, with a call for governments to adopt policies that would facilitate their successful return to, and completion of, education.

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Key gains on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure

The women unionists’ delegation also successfully lobbied for the inclusion of progressive languageconcerning social protection systems and access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. These included: references to the importance of International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and the decent work agenda; measures to strengthen protections for informal economy workers and promote their formalisation; ensuring that unpaid care work is valued in contributory schemes; guaranteeing access to paid maternity, paternity and parental leave; promoting shared responsibility of care between parents; and acknowledgement that universal access to social protection plays a central role in reducing inequality, as well as emphasis on the need to make progress towards universal health care.

Governments, for the first time, recognised the right to social security—including universal access to social protection—and that women’s access to social protection is often restricted when tied to formal employment. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledge that budget cuts and austerity measures undermine women’s access to social protection, public services, and sustainable infrastructure, particularly in the areas of health and education. They also recognise the link between gender-responsive social protection and the prevention of gender-based violence. And, crucially, committed to providing public sector workers with living wages.

An ongoing struggle

The women workers’ delegation, including the EI delegation, will, however, still have to continue efforts for specific reference to, and inclusion of, LGBTIQ+ women and girls in the UNCSW outcome document in 2020.

Some demands were also not met, such as references to survivors’ benefits, stronger language around the ratification of ILO Conventions,  and an emphasis on the need for contributory and non-contributory social protection systems

Despite significant gains, challenges remain to realise the full human rights of women, in all their diversity, as the press release from the women’s rights caucus at UNCSW  stressed. Of significant concern was the removal of service provisions for survivors of violence—a development that is out of step with the growing awareness and action to reduce and eliminate the prevalence and consequences of gender-based violence against women. Member States also failed to commit to integrating sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression into the design of social protection, public services, and infrastructure systems. The Agreed Conclusions also demonstrated the unwillingness of governments to regulate and hold the private sector accountable for its responsibility to uphold women’s human rights.

At this crucial moment, UNCSW must continue to involve the vital voices of civil society in their deliberations and strengthen the potential of these negotiations to continue the practice of consensus-based advancement of women’s human rights.

A critical occurrence at the end of the first week of UNCSW63 was the thousands, if not millions, of young people across the world who took to the street to march and rally for climate justice, including outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The labour delegation at UNCSW63 marched in solidarity with the students.

(Thank you to the Good News Agency for suggesting this article.)

The women who helped bring down Sudan’s president

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from Vox.com

Sudan’s military has overthrown the country’s longtime president, Omar al-Bashir. It’s a huge win for the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese protesters who have taken to the streets for months calling for his ouster — and for the brave women who have been a driving force in the protest movement.


Image by Lana Haroun
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Questions for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Can the women of Africa lead the continent to peace?

Can peace be achieved in South Sudan?

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Sudan’s Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced Thursday  that al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region, had been taken into military custody. While it’s unclear if the military plans to turn al-Bashir over to the ICC for prosecution, it’s pretty clear that his brutal 30-year reign has come to a definitive end.

Much of the credit for al-Bashir’s removal goes to the women who have played a prominent role  in the uprising that has swept the country and who have become the faces of the largely peaceful movement to topple the regime.

Earlier this week, an iconic photo of a woman named Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old engineering and architecture student, addressing protesters from atop a car went viral.

The image, captured by local photographer Lana Haroun, shows Salah standing on a white car surrounded by a sea of people outside the presidential compound and army headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Wrapped in layers of shimmery white fabric styled as a “toub” — a traditional Sudanese style of dress for women — and gold moon earrings, Salah towers over the crowd of protesters, her finger raised defiantly in the air.