When I was a little girl, I clearly remember my mother reading poems to me about young men travelling to battlefields to fight in the war. I remember listening to how they would travel through the trenches and how their bodies lay dead in the muddy fields.
Now, when I read poems to my grandson about war, there is a stark difference. War has come into our communities and into our homes, both literally and figuratively. For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a nation as peaceful as Canada, war had come into our homes only by way of the Internet and television. However, others are not so fortunate. The Rwandan genocide, the war in Sierra Leone, the conflict in the Congo and the violence presently taking place in Syria, these are no longer wars fought on a battlefield; rather, they are being waged in schools, places of worship and on busy streets, directly affecting innocent men, women, boys and girls.
When we learn about the conflict that is plaguing different nations around the world, when we read about it in the paper, when we see it on the news, we often hear about the violence, fear and political instability that is tearing apart entire communities. However, what is far less publicized is the plight of women living in these conflict-ridden countries and the important role they can play in peace processes.
Common sense dictates that women should be central to peacemaking, but the people who typically negotiate peace settlements are overwhelminglymen. Male negotiators sometimes worry that having women participate in the discussion might change the tone of the meeting. They are right. Women often come to the peace table with more at stake than men. They come as widows, mothers and victims of rape, but they are still carrying hope for the future and the will to survive. This allows women to remain focused on the goal and to remember that the largest victims of this war are people, not politics and geography. This is the reason, among many others, that Security Council Resolution 1325 was created and passed.
It was on October 31st 2000 that the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This resolution specifically addresses the impact armed conflict has on women and girls. It calls for not only for women’s full and equal participation in decision-making but ensures that’s the rights of women and girls are protected. Resolution 1325 is the first of its kind to deal exclusively with issues of women’s peace and security, and results from many years of intense work. As Kofi Annan stated, “Just as your work can promote gender equality, so can gender equality make your work more likely to succeed.”
When we read about the air raids in Syria or the attacks in Afghanistan and we discuss how peace can prevail in these nations, lets us remember the important and vital role women can play in ushering peace into nations that have seen decades of war.