Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and female leaders from 45 nations came together in India this week to discuss their role as women in conflict resolution. It’s often been said that if women ran the world there would be no wars and I’ve pondered over this myself.
The woman’s burden during conflict defies belief and it’s a sorry fact that women bear the brunt of these conflicts. Despite the fact that they have had no influence or involvement in the cause of them, they often find themselves having to pick up the pieces. Their children and elderly relatives become totally dependent on them for their food, shelter and care. Add to that the sexual violence that women often have to endure in conflict and you get a pretty grim picture.
The Geneva Convention was/is meant to protect the most vulnerable people caught up in conflict and women and children have rightly been identified as particularly vulnerable. But in spite of this protocol, as we are all too well aware, the violations continue.
But actually, I don’t want to dwell on the victim status of such women. This is in no way meant as a feminist rant of any kind and I certainly wouldn’t wish to disregard the part that men play in peace-keeping/post-conflict rebuilding and indeed, the fight to defend our freedoms and values. But it’s International Women’s Day tomorrow and I am simply recognising and celebrating the courage of women in times of conflict and in the face of adversity.
We should never under-estimate or ignore the resilience of women and their active part in rebuilding society after conflict. I’ve been reading some staggering stories of the plights of women in conflict and it’s both admirable and inspirational to hear of so many women who, after being humiliated and degraded by sexual violence, find the courage to stand-back-up with dignity. It’s amazing to hear about so many women who have experienced traumatic losses that we can only imagine finding the strength to rebuild their lives and the lives of their community.
I’m no expert. I’ve never researched peace studies but it seems to me that women are by nature, peace-makers. They can, and will, help build bridges. Surely they could be much more effective if they are more widely accepted and empowered by their male counterparts and given the chance to participate at high levels in the negotiation processes.
Who knows what could be achieved by women – in equal partnership with men?