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Let There Be Peace on Earth

A woman works at an agricultural school in Kaminsamba, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A woman pauses during her work in the fields at an agricultural school sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Kaminsamba, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Participants, some of whom stay at the center for several weeks, learn sustainable agricultural practices, animal traction, and beekeeping. Photo by Paul Jeffrey.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

Much more work remains to ensure that women have a voice in times of conflict and in implementing UNSCR 1325 worldwide. We must all join the efforts of women throughout the world who are saying, “Let there be peace on earth.”

In a debate about demilitarization and peace at the 2010 World March of Women, Michelle Spieler of Switzerland stated, “Women’s bodies must not be utilized as a war weapon. The peace [we seek] does not mean the absence of war but to respect everybody’s rights, including women’s.” This idea is embodied in the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security adopted on October 31, 2000. The resolution called on the U.N. secretary-general, the U.N. Security Council, U.N. member states, all parties to armed conflict and other civil society actors to ensure the following:

  • A gender perspective in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace building.
  • Protection of women’s human rights.
  • Women’s equal and full participation in all peace processes.
  • More women in senior decision-making positions.
  • Protection of women and girls from gender-based violence.
  • Attention to the special needs of women and girls in postconflict recovery.
  • An end of impunity for those who commit crimes against humanity, including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls.

Women are affected by wars and ethnic conflicts in many ways: they are targets of gender-based violence in conflict and postconflict situations, their education and livelihoods are disrupted, and they often lose spouses, sons and daughters. For an effective peace process, women must be included in all stages of decision making in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 can be used to initiate and sustain harmony in personal relations in the community, the country and the world.

At the community level, you can model the work of organizations such as the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, which is working to reduce tension between law enforcement and the citizens of Detroit and build community with economic development projects.

The Columbia River Fellowship for Peace in rural Oregon also works to promotes peace and justice for the self, family, school, workplace, and community. The fellowship works with two rural high schools in Northern Oregon and Southern Washington to bring in military veterans to talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and inform students about conscientious objection.

The Service Woman’s Action Network (SWAN) was created by a group of returning women soldiers to provide a safe space for women to process the effects of war, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, sexual abuse and rape by fellow soldiers, and to educate young women on the realities of war.

To assist women veterans in the United States, in May 2010 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. It is currently being considered by the Senate as S. 3454. This bill will include a $3 million pilot program that would establish a Women Veterans and Service Members Joint Health Resource Center in southern New Jersey. The center would provide “navigators” to connect women in the military and female veterans to health care, including gynecological, obstetric and breast exams available through the Department of Veterans Affairs and civilian facilities. It would also provide information and referrals for treatment of traumatic brain injuries and behavioral health programs for issues ranging from stress to trauma from sexual assault.

At the global level, women in Kenya came together in the face of violence in 2007 to form the Women’s Coalition for Sustainable Peace. They influenced the two major political parties to sign an “Agreement on the Principles of Partnership of the Coalition Government” in an effort to end the crisis and work toward building permanent solutions.

In April 2009, United Methodist Women’s regional missionary, other Christian women, and faith based human rights activists gathered in the city of Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country continuing to struggle out of years of war that claimed five million lives and wore down the nation. In the city of Bukavu many rape survivors were shunned by their families or were not welcomed back into their communities after being raped. Women infected with HIV/AIDS through rape were expelled from their homes by their husbands. The women gathered together for an event titled “Afflicted but Not Crushed.” The objective was to train women leaders to advocate for women’s rights, heal trauma and combat HIV/AIDS in their own communities. The closing witnessed the collective voices of all women articulating strategies to investigate, legislate and mobilize communities and initiate trauma healing to the DRC government.

Despite the efforts taken in the DRC, in August 2010 almost 200 women were gang raped in the remote village of North Kivu in DRC. Two months later, 700 reports of gang rape were made by Congolese women along the DRC-Angola border. At least 30 women reported being imprisoned, gang raped and left in remote lands along the border without clothes.

Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary-General, referenced the August rapes when addressing the U.N. Security Council on October 26, 2010: “The recent horrifying mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are just the latest reminder of the challenges we face—and of the vital importance of fully implementing Resolution 1325.” He added, “Resolution 1325 will never be implemented successfully until we end sexual violence in conflict.”

In an effort to halt this type of violence and cut off the funding of those responsible, the United States passed provisions in the Dodd Frank Act (July 2010) that prohibited purchasing conflict materials originating from the DRC. The effect of this provision could be seen this holiday season, as many of the minerals found in jewelry are produced in the DRC and will no longer be used to fund arms groups there. The Eastern Congo Initiative has urged Congress to make sure these provisions are implemented.

While these atrocities are occurring, the U.N. has seen a positive impact due to its all-female peacekeeping units. On a mission in 2007, an all female unit in Liberia inspired local women to join the police forces. The country saw a 15 percent rise in the women in its police officers. In Darfur, the local women saw the U.N. female officers driving and they sought the same privilege. These U.N. women officers not only serve as positive role models but they have enhanced the effectiveness of investigations into gender violence, as it is discouraged in some places to discuss sexual matters with males.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while speaking at the U.N. on the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 stated, “President Obama’s National Security Strategy recognizes that ‘countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.’”

While women are making strides in countries such as Switzerland, Spain, Cape Verde, Finland and Norway, where more women than men have been voted to the Executive Cabinet, much more work remains to ensure that women have a voice in times of conflict and in implementing UNSCR 1325 worldwide. We must all join the efforts of women throughout the world who are saying, “Let there be peace on earth.”


Action 

  • Read UNSCR 1325.
  • Join the UMWOnline “Peacemakers” group at peacemakers.umwonline.net and contribute stories, articles, programs and action ideas. 
  • Plan a program on women and peacemaking. Consider using the program “Globalization, Women and War” by Elmira Nazombe from the 2006 United Methodist Women Program Book.
  • Visit Women Thrive to support the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act.
  • Download the “Women as Peacemakers, Women as Decision Makers” toolkit.
  • Read Resolution ¶6091, “A Call for Peacemaking,” from the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, Tenn.: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2008).

 

United Methodist Women’s Action Network
Women’s Division, General Board of Global Ministries
100 Maryland Avenue, NE Suite 100
Washington, DC 20002
Tel. (202) 488-5660
Fax (202) 488-0162
www.unitedmethodistwomen.org

Last Updated: 12/17/2010
 
 

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