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Citizens of the World Advocate for Women, Peace, and Security at the CCUN

By Mary Beth Coudal

This week, to celebrate ten years since UNSCR 1325's passage, hundreds of global citizens gathered with United Methodist Women at the Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN) to strategize on new and creative ways to hold governments accountable for the resolution's implementation.

On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, dubbed "Women, Peace, and Security." This week, to celebrate ten years since the resolution's passage, hundreds of global citizens gathered with United Methodist Women at the Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN) to strategize on new and creative ways to hold governments accountable for the resolution's implementation.

Resolution 1325 addresses women’s rights during and after armed conflicts. While women are frequently identified as victims, particularly through gender-based violence during wars, world leaders and global citizens, men and women alike, are encouraged to empower women, beyond symbolism and victimhood, into their capacity as initiators and leaders of peace processes.

Resolution 1325 addresses the reality that women are consistently overlooked as peacekeepers and rebuilders of civil society. The resolution calls on governments and agencies to increase the number and power of women at tables for peace across the globe.

Former Bangladeshi Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, who is called the father of 1325, joined many of the peace advocates at the CCUN sessions. The ambassador called on all people to educate for peace, nationally and personally.

"Peace education makes peace a permanent part of your personality. We have to have that spirit: 'I want to be personally peaceful and nonviolent. I want to resolve my challenges through that kind of approach.' That is [how we are] inculcating a culture of peace in the next generation. That is how we can retain their [short] attention," said Ambassador Chowdhury, under-secretary general and high representative for the United Nations. The ambassador was part of the panel, "Enhancing Participation for Prevention," with Dr. Nighat Said Khan, founder of Women's Action Forum and dean of the Institute of Women's Studies in Lahore, Pakistan.

“It's not that soldiers go berserk, the whole army will rape,” Dr. Khan said. To counter this, women in the midst of civil conflict and post-conflict society must move from the position of symbols of national identity into a real-world domain as decision-makers and protectors of peace.

One way to move women into more empowered roles in peacemaking processes is the stated goal by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to have women comprise 20 percent of the United Nations peacekeeping force by the year 2014. At present, in the United Nations and in most countries, women make up less than five percent of all peacekeepers, military personnel, and police officers. Women are consistently less abusive and violent than men in their work as peacekeepers and security personnel. Women's participation as peacekeepers is especially significant in countries where wars persist.

Dr. Khan discussed women's pursuit of their own empowerment. Like Ambassador Chowdhury, Khan emphasized the importance of educating girls.

“The Taliban does not care about 1325. And girls have been targeted by the Taliban," Dr. Khan said. "So we [South Asian Women for Peace] have these posters [for public schools] that say 'No Peace Without Women.’ The girl child is looking to the future." Another women's peace group poster placed in public schools in India and Pakistan shows "a girl in a suicide jacket who still dreams of spring and yellow flowers in the spring…. You’re not saying 'No peace without 1325,' but you're creating awareness within the police force on the positive impact of women in the military."

Women from around the world addressed the issues of women, militarism, and violence , "As women, we need to eradicate gender-based violence. One woman violated is one woman too many…. Prevention of violence is better than cure," said Audrey Chihota-Charamba, representing a peace group from Zimbabwe.

Dr. Khan stated that the impact of militarism around the world has consequences for people everywhere. “As in the airports, we’re all guilty until proven innocent. Every moment of our life we have to prove we are innocent…. Every time a bomb goes off in Islamabad, your [US airport] security gets worse for you."

Yet the moderator of Wednesday's session, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, a Fijian peace activist, pointed to the reality and complicated attitudes of women towards peace during wartime. "Feeding, clothing, relocating during war becomes primary. Asking women whether they want peace, if their husbands or brothers or sons are among the disappeared, they don’t want peace; it brings out the militancy….Yet the women want to be living in peace. How should that peace be defined? While the oppressors are there, the women do not want peace."

To continue the discussion on the challenge for humanity to create a peaceful world, an afternoon session was led by United Methodist Women entitled "Building Peace: Exploring the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women."

As an international advocate for justice, United Methodist Women led individuals representing civil societies and non-governmental organizations with their reviews and plans for a global effort to fully realize Resolution 1325.

" Which common thread runs through all of us? The culture of peace has to be the core of the next generation," said Ambassador Chowdhury.

Many NGOs and ecumenical networks partnered to celebrate the 10 th Anniversary at CCUN. Taking the lead on the sessions for Monday, October 25, and Wednesday, October 27, United Methodist Women partnered with the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Community to organize panels and a Peace Fair.

Learn more about United Methodist Women and their role in the 10th Anniversary Celebration.

See video clips from the powerful United Methodist Women international peace partners who were the "Voices from the Front Lines," on Monday, October 25, 2010:

Along with the National Council of Churches and in partnership with advocates around the world, the General Board of Global Ministries joins the world community in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence from November 25 to December 10, 2010.


Mary Beth Coudal is staff writer for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. This article was reprinted with permission from its original source at gbgm-umc.org.

Last Updated: 11/01/2010

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