Senator Jaffer and the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway in 2019.
“Don’t help us kill each other, help us talk to each other,” she said.
This, in a nutshell, is what peacebuilders are all about.
Peacebuilders choose the most difficult task of dealing with the destruction left by wars. This destruction is never limited to building homes or paving roads, it often involves reweaving the fabric of their societies and healing their sisters and brothers.
Women peacebuilders have long been the unsung heroes of this tough endeavour, to which I personally was witness.
True to the words of former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali who was the first to make the concept of peacebuilding popular in 1992:
“The concept of peacebuilding as the construction of a new environment should be viewed as the counterpart of preventive diplomacy, which sought to avoid the breakdown of peaceful conditions. Preventive diplomacy was to avoid a crisis; post-conflict peacebuilding was to prevent a recurrence.”
For decades, on the frontlines, women peacebuilders have been “constructing new environments” on the ground in their communities with the smallest of resources and the absence of global recognition.
They have been relentlessly working to change beliefs as well as behaviors, to transform ailing societies into havens of peace and coexistence. They often do that at great risk to their own safety.
I have worked with countless women peacebuilders over the years, and their courage and resilience always fascinates me.
I worked with a woman who was able to prevent students from joining jihad.
I worked with a woman who dismantled an operation producing suicide vests and deradicalizing 30 women in the process.
I worked with a woman who saved hundreds of children from joining violent extremist groups and put them back in schools.
I worked with a woman who defied extreme religious groups and convinced her community to educate the girls.
I worked with a woman who negotiated with tribal leaders to stop the practice of using women as peace offerings in deals and transactions.
I worked with women peacebuilders and I know that they are not given their dues.